Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dividing NC - Phil Berger

Phil Berger
     This is Phil Berger from Eden, powerful leader of the Republican majority in the NC legislature. From 2006-8, I served as advocacy chair for the Guilford County Council of PTA's. Along with other education leaders from Guilford County, I went to Raleigh to lobby our representatives to protect public schools from looming budget cuts. Because Mr. Berger represented northwest Guilford County, he was included in our delegation meetings.

     At that time, Democrats were in control of our legislature, and representatives like Pricey Harrison, Don Vaughn, Alma Adams, and Maggie Jeffus were quite receptive to our concerns. Republican Laura Wiley was sympathetic, and John Blust was friendly, though wanted mostly to talk about his flat tax idea.

    At the first meeting, Mr. Berger said he couldn’t help us, because Republicans were in the minority and had no power. During our second visit, he left early saying, “We don’t listen to teachers.”

     A couple of years later, the NC Tea Party swept Republicans into control of the NC legislature for “the first time in 100 years.” (Note that Democrats and Republicans switched ideological positions between the FDR presidency and the Civil Rights movement.)

     Not long after coming into power, Mr. Berger helped raise the Charter school cap, in a bill which divides and reduces support for NC's public schools. He didn’t listen to teacher or school system concerns about this bill. (You can read my editorial at:

     A year later, Berger and Thom Tillis brought us Amendment One, cleverly designed to divide our previously peaceful state over a controversial social issue. Again they ignored the concerns of teachers, law school professors, ministers and the public. Of course I wrote editorials…J

     The most recent insult is HB2, passed without listening to opposition from business people or teachers, meeting actual transgender people, or even watching a few seasons of Glee. “We don’t listen to teachers” Berger apparently doesn’t listen to anyone who disagrees with his far-right agenda.

     Unfortunately this deaf legislator seems immune to being voted out of his district. But we could limit his power if we change the majority or vote more moderates into the state legislature. We could also give veto power to a governor who understands constitutional law, and won’t use his office to promote discriminatory legislation. Roy Cooper might even listen to our teachers and school systems.

     The GOP can no longer claim to be the party of Lincoln or the authority on Biblical truth, because they have forgotten a most important sentiment expressed by Matthew, Mark, and Lincoln – “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Republican infighting and lack of support for our president at the national level is reflected at our state level by divisive and unnecessary legislation. NC and the country need to come back together over all we have in common, and stop using our minorities and children as political pawns. Our differences and our children make us stronger if we treat them as resources and build upon their strengths instead of using them to divide and conquer.