Roy Cooper is the boilerplate governor.
He does not deserve re-election because another four years will just be more of the same: a remarkable absence of vision regarding North Carolina’s most pressing issues, as Cooper mouths tired old Democrat talking points and calls them an agenda.
Start with education. As in 2016, raising teacher pay is the centerpiece of his policy. Putting aside the fact that average pay has risen 21.5% since 2013, no serious person believes that fatter paychecks will fix the fact that only 56% of third graders read at grade level. Retired Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr. – who ruled in the landmark 1997 Leandro case that the state was failing to provide students with a sound basic education – pinpointed the problem on these pages, observing that the problem is not a lack of money but “a failure of classroom instruction.”
Instead of demanding more from teachers, principals and administrators, Cooper has worked to reward them while trying to force desperate parents to keep their kids in failing schools by opposing Opportunity Scholarships and blasting charter schools.
Cooper has been MIA as the school system’s failures – especially for poor, vulnerable students – have deepened because teachers refuse to return to the classroom due to COVID-19. His party’s candidate for schools superintendent, Jen Magnum, articulated this teachers first, second and third approach at a recent debate when she defended remote learning by stating, “The state law that describes a teacher’s job description puts welfare as number 1. Academics are No. 4.”
Like Democrat leaders across the country, Cooper has shown little leadership in response to left-wing violence. Downtown Raleigh – where plywood has replaced broken windows – is heartbreaking. Instead of working for peace, he has allowed the anger to fester. In addition, the man who was North Carolina’s chief law enforcement official for 16 years before becoming governor now parrots the left-wing view that our cops and courts are riddled with systemic racism.
His primary healthcare goal is the same today as it was in 2016: expand Medicaid. Cooper has held up budgets and used expansion as a wedge issue, even though it has little impact on health outcomes. A recent academic study found that, “In expansion states, 36% of those in the study reported declines in their physical health compared with 38% in non-expansion states.”
Cooper has identified opioid addiction as prime concern. His effort had little impact before the pandemic – and overdoses have spiked 15 percent since COVID.
He has not distinguished himself in governance. He ignored gross mismanagement at the Department of Transportation until State Treasurer Dale Folwell publicized a pattern of fiscal blunders, culminating in Secretary Jim Trogdon’s retirement.
Above all, is Cooper’s mishandling of COVID-19. Early on, he sensibly locked down much of the state so that a feared explosion of cases wouldn’t overwhelm the health care system. When that didn’t happen, however, he, like so many Democrat leaders, refused to lift his draconian measures.
In fairness, uncertainty abounds regarding the pandemic. But that makes it even more important that he explains why his one-size-fits-all approach is the most effective response to a disease that is far more dangerous to the old and sick then the young and healthy. He has also ignored evidence suggesting that soft lockdowns – you can go here but not there – have little effect on halting outbreaks while creating tremendous economic damage.
Cooper’s supporters acknowledge his lack of accomplishment, but blame it on the GOP legislature. The last four years show the fault lies not with Republicans but the governor’s lack of vision.