The Lighthouse Christian Foundation in Garner is located in what was, back in the day, a big-box store. Now it's the home of the Lighthouse Gospel Music Association, which holds forth each Friday night in the Faith Auditorium. On Saturday, though, the stage belonged to the 10 Republicans running for Congress in three Triangle districts. What an old-timey show they put on.
If you closed your eyes, you could almost hear the wagon train arrivin' with the bags of gold. Don't need no Federal Reserve, the candidates said. Don't need no paper money. (The Fed's "money-printing apparatus," 4th District front-runner B.J. Lawson avowed, is "an experiment in legalized counterfeiting.")
Needless to say, these 10—who are competing in primaries for the seats held by Democrats Bob Etheridge (District 2), David Price (4) and Brad Miller (13)—saw no need for the Internal Revenue Service or the United Nations either. They're dubious about Social Security, and several would get rid of Medicare. Health care reform? Don't get them started.
It may tell you what you need to know that the voice of reason, relatively speaking, belonged to publisher Bernie Reeves, the Indy's antagonist when he owned the weekly Spectator and penned its fire-breathing conservative column. Reeves' rivals for the 13th District GOP nomination were debating whether the states could invoke their 10th Amendment rights—the old states-rights doctrine—to get out of health care reform. Nullify it, in other words.
"We are a federation of states," candidate Dan Huffman declared.
Actually, Reeves answered gently, the Civil War Amendments, the ones that abolished slavery and guaranteed the rights of United States citizens, nullified that federation of states idea.
But I come not to bury the Republicans; rather, I note the rebirth of the Democrats—in Washington and in Wake County. Different issues, same phenomenon. For months, while Republicans were wishing for a simpler world without immigrant students or pre-existing medical conditions, Democrats have grappled with the complexities of modern health care and public education. Could they have looked worse? The party of "no" was running all over them. Until this week, when the Democrats broke through in Washington and, in Raleigh, began to do likewise by tackling the tough issues of abortion and diverse schools.
HEALTH CARE REFORM: There's no public option. It doesn't cut costs. Yet it's arguably the best legislation that could be gotten from Congress after the Republicans decided that health care isn't a right that America can afford.
When I think about the pluses and minuses, I think of Rhonda Robinson, the Durham woman with epilepsy whose life was in peril after she lost her job and, with it, her health insurance. I saw her again last week at a forum in Durham when she introduced the Democratic candidates running for U.S. Senate. She's battled seizures and a spinal injury. She's hung in there and is maintaining a 3.25 grade average, she said, as a full-time business administration major at N.C. Central.
If there were just one Rhonda Robinson in this country who'd be covered by the new legislation, it would be a victory. There are millions. When it passed, I called her, and she couldn't say enough about Project Access, a program that helped her to find good care at Duke. "I thank God for charity care," she said, trying not to cry, "but now I don't have to feel like a second-class citizen."
Under the health care law, she'll soon be able to purchase affordable health insurance, thanks to the high-risk pool it provides until its long-term reforms are in place. "It's lifted the pain that I've had in my heart," she said. She was crying now. "I'm just so grateful."
DIVERSITY IN THE WAKE SCHOOLS: In a simpler world, Apex would have its own school district, as would Zebulon and Wake Forest. Wake School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta, leader of the 5-4 majority, said so at a meeting with his fellow Republicans last week before hedging a bit. Oh, for the days before the Wake and Raleigh school systems were merged and, yes, integrated.
In the past week, the Great Schools in Wake Coalition—diversity supporters—put 450 people in a room at the McKimmon Center on a beautiful Saturday morning and 500 more at Martin Street Baptist Church Monday night. They wrestled with the research and the morality of why schools should be integrated. They called on Margiotta to initiate "a civil study and discussion process" about his goal of neighborhood schools and their goals of maintaining diversity and educating every student to succeed in a modern, i.e., diverse world.
The Margiotta Five were expected to finalize their elimination of diversity from student assignments on Tuesday. And not just as a goal. The word itself should no longer be used, said Fiver John Tedesco, who's been tasked by the majority with drawing up school assignment zones.
But even as the Five were saying no to diversity and closing their ears to the discussion, the ranks of those grappling with what it takes to create excellent schools in the 21st century were growing.
Sound like what happened with health care reform?
ABORTION RIGHTS: It's a hard issue. It almost sank HCR. But finally, it's a personal issue, and if a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy, she has a right to do so, under a doctor's care. Wake County's insurance benefits package included a full range of reproductive health services, until County Manager David Cooke, egged on by the Republican county commissioners, said it shouldn't cover elective abortions. But last week, the four-member Democratic majority (with Harold Webb, recovering from a stroke, voting by telephone) reasserted itself and voted to reverse Cooke's decision.
In simpler times, women had no abortion rights—and died because of it.
Today, it's another issue the Democrats grapple with. And Republicans say no.