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Playing Electoral Chess

Dear North Carolina Voter-

We don’t like to brag, but when a City Council is as brilliant as we are we feel compelled to take a bow every now and then. It’s not often a mere seven people can get an entire state worked up over a non-issue via a campaign led by a convicted sex offender, but we pulled it off.

We’re talking, of course, about the Great Hoodwink of 2016: our city bathroom ordinance and HB2.

Our great ruse was based on the feelings and comfort of our burgeoning transgender population. We could have had this whole feelings-and-comfort thing wrapped up in April but back then we felt the same as we did in March (when we passed our ordinance). We considered revisiting it again in October except our feelings hadn’t changed. But after Dec 5, when Cooper’s victory was certain, uhhhh, our feelings did change.

In fact they changed so dramatically we convened an emergency session to repeal them. Just to make sure those rubes in Raleigh understood, we convened a second emergency session and repealed what we repealed so we could repeal the whole thing over from scratch. Then we gave them an ultimatum they had to kill HB2 by New Years’ or our feelings would change all over again.

So you, Dear Voter, thought you were toiling for some high-minded cause? Your brain was obviously hanging in a coat closet. You bought into our game of Social Justice Checkers while we were really playing Electoral Chess.

Since we feel a little sorry for using you the entire freaking year, we’ll let you in on a few secrets about how the game is really played. Before we clue you in, though, you need to understand the ground rules:

  • The minute you mention “inclusive,” “tolerant” or “equality” people check their brains at the door.
  • You sound really smart and enlightened if you invent a new word. We came up with “trans-phobic.”
  • The flip side is just as important: disagree with the new word and we’ll accuse you of being dim and backward. We might throw “bigoted” and “hateful” into the mix to ensure you understand.
  • Instead of demanding something, create a “right” to it. This gives it a sheen of legitimacy. In our case, we granted an extra right in the name of equality.

Okay, so on to the game. The key to playing Electoral Chess is picking the right topic.  There are some tough criteria, and here’s where our brilliance really shines.

First, you have to come up with a non-solution to a non-issue that will cause people to absolutely lose their minds. After all, you don’t want to pick a topic that would actually involve jobs or education or public safety. We found our topic when we learned the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police logged exactly zero complaints of trans-gendered bathroom harassment. Naturally we felt compelled to address the non-problem.

Next, you need to create a sound bite the media will play over and over. With HB2 we trotted out “it legalizes discrimination against gays and lesbians.” Oh, boy, did that one take hold. We counted on the mainstream media asking non-questions and they really came through. They could have punctured the whole narrative with a couple of simple questions, like “Was sexual orientation a protected class before HB2 passed?” (it was not) or, “How could one bring a discrimination suit in state court if there is no state law on the books?” (you can’t). Fortunately we were dealing with professional journalists.

Speaking of professionals, sustaining outrage for nearly a year doesn’t happen without help, so we enlisted some world-class outrage manufacturers. The Human Rights Council is an amazing organization. Every sentence they write contains a subject, a predicate and the word “hate.”  We even got the ACLU to take a pause from eliminating father-daughter dances long enough to file suit in federal court on our behalf.

Next, you need the local print media to take dictation for you. The Charlotte Observer opined that little girls should get used to seeing grown, naked men standing next to them. It’s all part of progress, equivalent to sharing a drinking fountain with a person of color. You can’t buy publicity like that.

They also ran stories by the hour about our state’s economic disaster after HB2. As you know, North Carolina’s economy is built on college football games and Bruce Springsteen concerts, and when those were cancelled millions hit the streets looking for work. (Okay, during the past year North Carolina’s GDP growth was 10th best in the nation, real income increased a full percentage point higher than the national average and job growth outpaced the national average, but you don’t need to know that. Instead, we managed to keep you ticked about missing Cirque du Soleil.)

Finally, you need to piss off Raleigh. Those simpletons up in Greensboro passed an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance and Raleigh did nothing. We’re so much smarter. We passed an ordinance we knew violated state trespass and indecent exposure laws and then grabbed a bag of popcorn.

As you can see by the above, we really are Electoral Chess Grandmasters.

So to Bruce Springsteen and the rock group Boston, thank you for the non-concerts. (We would thank Demi Lovato for canceling as well, but no one goes her concerts anyway.)

To the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer, thank you for being useful idiots.

And to you, Dear Voter, thank you for playing the game. We hope you’ll play in our next match, scheduled to take place in 2018.

For that one we’re thinking about an ordinance that will legalize lighting bonfires on interstates.

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