Gov. Roy Cooper may not even realize it, but he’s fallen into a weird pattern of announcing priorities.
Cooper issues executive orders — using broad powers granted him under the auspices of the N.C. Emergency Management Act — like a firefighter tossing out candy at a Christmas parade. That power, regardless of protests and lawsuits, continues unchecked.
Along the way, Cooper — again and again —uses a form of the word “priority.”
First, Cooper talked about keeping us safe and flattening the curve, a move toward keeping hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Hospitals, as they relate to the pandemic, are doing well. On Jan. 16, the state says, fewer than 2,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, down more than 1,000 in a month. So, the idea of flattening the curve, from what I can tell, is now a bit old-fashioned.
Let’s try something else.
Later, Cooper said his top priority was getting kids back to school. It’s going on a year since my boys, high school seniors, got anywhere near a Raleigh Charter High School classroom, despite the best efforts of state Republicans.
This was clear: Cooper, who is inherently risk-averse, wouldn’t push the state toward any form of normality until we had a vaccine. So, that happened.
Getting people vaccinated immediately became the new top priority. The rollout and distribution crawled painfully along, and the question became deciding who would get the golden ticket, and when.
Health care workers and the elderly go first, sure. But then, should we prioritize the vulnerable and infirm? People of color or first responders? Front-line workers?
Cooper recently sent educators to the front of the line. We must open our schools, he told us. It’s a priority. The biggest one.
Round and round we go.
The only thing consistent about Cooper’s rhetoric is the laughable inconsistency, a maddening game of multiple choice, delays and obfuscations until he confers with his political base. The questions then change, as do the answers.
Cooper’s so-called priorities are nothing more than excuses. For keeping businesses closed, for keeping children out of the classroom.
The General Assembly has passed a bill to re-open schools for in-person learning. Lawmakers in the Senate introduced the measure about the same time Cooper proclaimed his support for re-opening schools. Not for the bill — he has concerns about that, and it’s unclear whether he’ll sign it — but the general idea of getting kids safely back in the classroom.
Ideas, though, aren’t mandates, and groups such as teachers’ unions are well aware of the fact. So is Cooper.
The governor is adept at looking busy while accomplishing nothing, deflecting blame with both eyes on Democrats and a leftist agenda, i.e., that of the N.C. Association of Educators and the like.
Cooper’s indecision is having major consequences on small businesses, restaurants, and bars, which have been closed since March.
My family and I visited Wilmington on a recent rain-soaked weekend. It’s one of my favorite places in North Carolina, but we viewed most of it from the windows of museums and restaurants, where we waited for a seat at a limited number of tables.
Remember, too, that because of a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, no alcohol can be sold after 9 p.m., last call being around 8:30. A usually booming nightlife along Front Street went silent. Breweries, because of the rain and limited seating, closed early and canceled scheduled food trucks. The plethora of signs advertising empty buildings tell a sad tale, the ending of which only darkens as Cooper’s restrictions linger.
Lawmakers, as of this writing, were working on a couple of bills that would loosen state licensing restrictions on businesses that serve alcohol — waiving certain permit fees and extending payment deadlines —to at least try to stop the bleeding. Important steps to be sure, but businesses are in trouble. Workers are in trouble. Students are in trouble. We, as a state, are in trouble.
Enough with talk of priorities. We’re drowning here, governor. Send us a lifeboat, as opposed to making a “priority” of first deciding what to call it.
John Trump is Carolina Journal interim editor-in-chief.