Playing Chess in the Tar Heel State – McCrory’s Budget

The Sword, the Sheath, and the Road to Reconstruction…


by Chad Nance


“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.”

– Stanley Kubrick

If you look at the democratic process as a game of chess, there have to be many, many moves before you get to checkmate. And simply because you do not make any checkmate in three moves does not mean it’s stalemate. There’s a vast difference between no checkmate and stalemate. This is what the democratic process is like.

– Aung San Suu Kyi

“We ain’t seen no reconstruction here
Just the scorched earth all around
And the high school band played “Dixieland”
While they tore our tattered flags and banners down

I am a renegade
I’ve been a rebel all my days
I am a renegade
I’ve been a rebel all my days…”

– Warren Zevon

Do you hear that? That horrible sound lurking on those weird frequencies that can only be tapped into late at night when the kids are in bed, Zevon is cranked up in the head-phones to full volume, and all of the chickens are quietly cooing on their perches? What you hear is the gnashing of teeth, the tearing of flesh, and the blood dripping on the floor inside of the hen-house. The foxes are running wild in there, y’all. Republicans are drunk on gore and power and the orgy of absolutism has forced the minority into a frenzy of self-flagellation coupled with the kind of blind-swinging haymakers one sees in a boxing match between two over-the-hill fighters. The best thing the Democratic Party can do in North Carolina right now is realize that there is no Hail Mary blow from downtown that will put the Republicans on the mat. If they ever hope to turn the tide and stop the bleeding in North Carolina they are going to have to settle down and start playing a little chess. There is no money in sitting at the table with your arms crossed and there is no upside to blind belligerence.

political reality

Governor McCrory released his budget last week. By any measure the document was a moderate one compared to the roll call of bruising austerity that is the Republican-led legislature’s wish list. Outside of city-boy McCrory’s dismissal of economic development in rural areas, the financial knee-capping of the UNC University system, and the mind-numbingly stupid under-funding of the High Point furniture mart, Governor McCrory’s budget is a prime example of “coulda been worse”.

Thom Tillis seemed supportive on the release of the budget, but he held some reservations. “Gov. McCrory’s recommended budget is a positive first step in a long budgeting process.” Translated into English for those who don’t speak “spin” the statement means: “Good start guys, but he went a little soft on seniors, kids, and working people.” Tillis praised McCrory’s cash allotment for the victims of Eugenics. That is money long overdue, but amounts to little more than trying to score a good headline. Making up for past sins doesn’t count when you are busy committing new ones.

So what do Democrats do? They are trapped in vicious rounds of recriminations and degradations from North Carolina Republicans- much of it earned in the decade after decade that North Carolina Democrats kicked the then minority Republicans around and treated them like punks trapped on a particularly brutal cell block. Now the Republicans have the power and it is payback time. Scorched earth revenge while the air crackles with electricity and the people of North Carolina are being treated like cannon fodder in an ongoing political gang war that has been claiming real victims lately at an alarming rate.

Let us talk strategy.

Embrace McCrory’s budget. Take it in the back seat and make out with it. Know it. Love it, and take it to your bosom as if it were your own. Embrace it! The budget IS fairly moderate. Yes, it is clearly a Republican political calculation engineered to make the Governor look like the good cop next to the all-out assault that the legislature has in mind for the middle-class and working poor of North Carolina. The political truth, however, is that everyone in North Carolina isn’t a political insider. In fact, majorities of Republican voters don’t follow the blogs and read the bones about the goings on in Raleigh… most of them are too busy hoping they don’t lose their jobs or are out there looking for one. One thing is true about Republican voters above all else- They HATE Democrats.

McCrory could be involved in an international baby-finger smuggling ring and eat a puppy raw and alive on Fox News, but he’d still get the vote. Let McCrory be seen as empathetic, willing to compromise, or working with the hated Dems, and shortly, from out there in the ether words like “RINO” will get thrown around. The far-right will rise crazed from the suburbs with flecks of blood and foam on their lips hungry for some McCrory meat.


Democrats are NOT going to cut into the good ‘ol boy camaraderie of the Republican legislature, but they can work hard to underline and re-enforce what the people of Charlotte understand. Pat McCrory isn’t really a fire-breathing ideologue… our Governor is a fairly moderate Corporate Republican who was promoting public transportation projects in Charlotte while the folks in the legislature were back at home sharpening their knives, testing the C-4 by blowing up cast-off toilets, and generally plotting their revenge on Democrats and the people of North Carolina for leaving them so long in the wilderness of political minority status.

My Democratic friends, you’re going to have to find a play-mate, folks. McCrory’s budget is the best bet and the first place you need to draw the red line. Pull the Governor over with you. Practice the grace of forgiveness and acknowledge that he is a MODERATE. It’s time to play chess not checkers, y’all. Get in the room and stop standing in the hallway with your arms crossed and a mean look on your grille. As a good buddy of mine often says- “If you’re not at the table… you are the meal.” Don’t let them stab at you with their steely knives for sport and profit. That’s a losers game no matter how good it makes you feel.


chad nance