Dangerous and deadly Winter Storm Helena has given Gov. Roy Cooper a chance to carry out the duties for which he was elected.
Meaning, Cooper can get to the business of leading North Carolina. To promote the state, to ensure resources are available to keep residents safe, to offer a steady hand in times of turmoil and disaster. To provide a calming presence, so to speak. To manage the government effectively.
Before he took office Cooper spoke incessantly of repealing House Bill 2. In his inaugural address Saturday he again went on and on about H.B. 2. Cooper has gone to court over parts of Senate Bill 4, which, Cooper and his lawyers contend, violates the constitutional separation-of-powers principle and impedes the governor’s duty to enforce state law.
He has defied state law in a move to expand Medicaid, which, John Locke Foundation Chairman John Hood wrote Monday, consequently destroys “the political narrative he and his progressive enablers in the media had created after the 2016 election.”
Cooper — to those outside of his political base — has been more lawyer than leader.
We choose public officials, of which many — if not most — are career lawyers. But in office we don’t expect them to continue as lawyers. Rather, we expect them to be the representatives and statesmen they promised they would be.
Republicans in the General Assembly have been overzealous, as well. A special session to approve recovery money after Hurricane Matthew in many ways devolved into an ugly portrayal of partisanship and political infighting.
Cooper predictably continued this trend.
The winter storm has, for a few days anyway, distracted the governor from the courtroom fights, delaying further legal maneuvers and litigious threats. The storm has wreaked havoc across the United States and especially in the South, which isn’t typically prepared for Midwest-like snow and cold.
Cooper quickly declared a state of emergency and urged residents to stay inside and to be safe. He talked about a fatal crash resulting from the weather and was sincere in his efforts to avoid another such tragedy. He discussed power outages, of which there were thousands, and the hundreds of problems on the roads. Cooper discussed the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from heaters and the importance of proper ventilation.
Snowfall was more significant in the Triad than in the Triangle, which nonetheless is dealing with icy roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways. The temperatures became brutally and dangerously cold, and Cooper admirably praised state transportation and public safety workers.
The governor acted out of consequence and necessity, but it’s times such as these that calm, measured, leadership — however elemental and pedantic — are foremost priorities.
As Pat McCrory made clear after Hurricane Matthew.
In his inaugural address Saturday, Cooper offered a fanciful vision for the future of North Carolina government.
“Now is not the time to point fingers or dwell on recent battles,” he said. “The people of this state are tired of yesterday’s politics. You expect — and deserve — public servants who reject cynicism, who don’t succumb to political paralysis, who negotiate differences in good faith.”
Because of the winter storm, Cooper has shown he can lead. Let’s hope this becomes the rule and not an exception limited to natural disasters and catastrophes that happen outside the scope of daily governance.