"The war is still raging. And [Gene Nichol]’s still fighting." —John Grisham
North Carolina has, since 2013, undergone a greater political sea change than any other state. For the first time, seven years ago, state government became completely captured by a radicalized and aggressive Republican leadership determined to produce the most ultra-conservative political regime in the nation. In a remarkably brief time span, Republican lawmakers have moved successfully toward that goal. The New York Times refers to the project as “North Carolina’s pioneering work in bigotry.” Other states have begun to follow what they expressly deemed the “North Carolina playbook.”
Indecent Assembly lays out in detail, and with no small dose of passion, the agenda, purposes, impacts, and transgressions of the Republican North Carolina General Assembly since it came to dominate life in the Tar Heel State. Nichol outlines, without holding punches, the stoutest war waged against people of color and low-income citizens seen in America for a half-century. All-white Republican caucuses, dominating both houses of the General Assembly, have behaved essentially like a White People’s Party, without the nomenclature. Bold steps have also been taken to diminish the equal dignity of women and an internationally famed crusade against LGBTQ+ Tar Heels has capped off what has become a state-based battle against the Fourteenth Amendment. But the Republican General Assembly has not stopped with substantive legal changes. It has attacked the fundaments of American constitutional government. In 2019, the state of North Carolina, in short, is involved in a brutal battle for its own decency. If the contest is lost here, other states will likely abandon defining cornerstones of American liberty and equality as well. North Carolina today is not presented with the mere give and take of normal politics. It struggles over its meaning as a commonwealth and its future as a democracy.
The book is introduced with a foreword by Rev. William Barber, leader of the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina and the Poor People’s Campaign nationally, and Timothy Tyson, Duke University civil rights historian, activist, and author of The Blood of Emmett Till and Blood Done Sign My Name.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1 – Introduction – North Carolina: a “Laboratory for Extremism”
- Chapter 2 – Re-Embracing Race Discrimination: Governing as a White People’s Party
- Chapter 3 – A War on Poor People
- Chapter 4 – Denying the Equal Dignity of Women
- Chapter 5 – State-Proclaimed Disdain for Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Tar Heels
- Chapter 6 – Taking the “Public” Out of Public Education
- Chapter 7 – Trashing the Natural World
- Chapter 8 – Attacking the Independence of the Courts
- Chapter 9 – An Assault on Democracy
- Chapter 10 – Abandoning Truth
- Chapter 11 – Conclusion
“The radical right chose the once-moderate state of North Carolina as a test site for its project of remaking the nation by rigging the rules of governance and misinforming the people. What will it mean for your life and our country if they succeed nationally? To read this searing survey from the front lines by democracy champion Gene Nichol is to be forearmed.” —Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
“If you read this eloquent and deeply-informed book, you will see that Gene Nichol’s insights into the mercenary politics of our time resonate far beyond the North Carolina state line. Readers across America will find themes, schemes and real human beings wedged in struggles that rage in many corners of this nation." —from the foreword by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Dr. Timothy B. Tyson
Gene Nichol has long been a clarion voice on issues of race and poverty in North Carolina. Unbeloved by the powerful and beloved by disadvantaged, his latest book unsparingly sets forth the politics of what he calls the State legislature’s ‘Blueprint for the War on Democracy and Equality.’ Without fear or favor, Nichol tells the story of what has happened in a state once thought to have a reputation for moderation on issues of race, but that has become ground zero in the resurgence of America’s racial recidivism.” —Ted Shaw, Julius Chambers Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina, former Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“Gene Nichol has long won admiration for his courage and eloquence in forthrightly championing the interests of the oppressed and the neglected. In this electrifying new book, he demonstrates that the assault of the Republican-dominated North Carolina legislature on the poor is more than ultra-conservative; it represents nothing less than a war of annihilation against our most revered, most fundamental constitutional rights. This is a must-read book — not only for Tar Heels, but for all who abhor injustice and who cherish our republic.” —William E. Leuchtenburg, past president of the American Historical Association, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at UNC-Chapel Hill, author of The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton
"Back in the 1980s, I had the privilege of serving two terms in the Mississippi House of Representatives. I was inspired to seek office because I was embarrassed that my state still had no kindergarten system. My state was in dire need of many progressive reforms. I took the oath, swore to uphold the seriously outdated constitution, and started filing bills to shake up things. None of them passed.
In those days, and for decades before, the State of North Carolina was the unquestioned leader of modern reforms in The South. It was viewed by us and by legislators from other states as the model of a sensible, workable, state government that got things done and tried to take care of its more vulnerable citizens.
Many times, in the middle of a debate, someone said, 'This is what they’re doing in North Carolina and it’s working.' Or, 'North Carolina passed this law twenty years ago.' These were powerful statements because the state’s legislature was serious about education and equality.
Those days are gone. In 2013, hardcore conservative Republicans won big and put together super majorities in both the House and Senate. With a likeminded leader in the Governor’s office, they immediately waged war against teachers and schools, the poor, women, elections, the courts, the environment, and those with darker skin.
The changes in North Carolina are shocking and depressing. Gene Nichol was either in the ring or agitating from a front row seat. He knows this sad story because he was there.
The war is still raging. And he’s still fighting." —John Grisham