guest post by Walter Cromwell

Along with Durham and Chapel Hill, Raleigh is one of the three points on North Carolina’s Research Triangle, an area known as much for its highly-educated workforce and world-class research universities as it is for college basketball. In 1994, Money Magazine tapped the Triangle as the best place to live in America, lauding “the area’s idyllic setting, job opportunities and great weather.”

While Raleigh still offers opportunity, at least for the people who can afford it, the city suffers from the same core affliction ailing so many of America’s institutions: leadership more concerned with enforcing woke ideology than with the protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Case in point: Raleigh’s decision to force COVID-19 shots on healthy cops, firefighters, and other city workers who don’t want the jab.

The Long Slide

Not long ago, Raleigh could be characterized as a conservative, medium-sized American city. Two prominent conservative members of the U.S. Senate called Raleigh home during the twentieth century. Senator Josiah Bailey, a member of the New Deal-era Conservative Coalition who was instrumental in killing Franklin Roosevelt’s scheme to pack the Supreme Court, was laid to rest at Raleigh’s Oakwood Cemetery, which is walking distance from downtown. Before heading to Washington in 1973, Senator Jesse Helms, who is also interred at Oakwood, served on the Raleigh City Council.

From 1993 to 2001, two different conservative Republicans were elected mayor. From 1964 to 2004, Republicans carried Wake County, which contains Raleigh and its suburbs, in every presidential election except 1992, when Bill Clinton edged George H. W. Bush by less than 3,000 votes. As late as 2004, the Wake County School Board approved an abstinence-only sex education policy.

The City of Oaks has changed dramatically since then, thanks in part to migration from other States and immigration from abroad. In 2020, Donald Trump lost Wake County, a place George W. Bush carried sixteen years earlier, by more than 167,000 votes and 26 percentage points. Meanwhile, the Wake County Schools hawk critical race theory and carry books like Lawn Boy in the school library, a work which features “scenes such as the main character talking about a sexual experience involving oral sex with another boy when he is 10 years old at a youth group gathering at their church.” 

Then there’s Wake County Schools Assistant Superintendent Paul Koh, who recently talked about training two-year-old children in “mask compliance.” Koh, who spent most his career in the Bay Area of California before descending on the great, Southern unwashed, is working on a doctorate in “Educational leadership focusing on the ontologies and epistemologies of Asian American leadership.” Koh’s Twitter account reflects his ideological leanings, featuring attacks on President Trump and support for Black Lives Matter. Trump-supporting parents who underwrite his salary can of course depend on Koh to carry out his duties neutrally. There is no agenda to see here. Everyone knows educrats set their inner John Dewey to the side and can seal their biases off when they step across the schoolhouse threshold.

Godspeed if you want to complain. The Wake County School Board recently cut the capacity of its meeting room so “[o]nly a handful of seats will be available” during public meetings. And even then you have to win a lottery to get a speaking slot. It’s all to keep people safe from COVID-19. Parents and county residents are expected to shut up, obey, and fork over even larger portions of their income to pay tribute in the form of ever-increasing property taxes to finance agenda-driven, smut-hosting schools that were closed for in-person learning for more than a year.

Left-wing progressives dominate the Raleigh City Council. The City’s strategic plan contains dozens of references to terms like “diverse,” “equity,” “inclusive,” and “justice.” The City “strives for environmental justice and equity.” It also aims to “enhance equity in the services provided by” the City. Raleigh’s police force might be understaffed, but don’t worry, because the City’s crime-fighting strategy includes, not putting more cops on the streets, but rather “Apply[ing] Crime Prevention through Environmental Design principles to increase and enhance safety at facilities and open spaces throughout the city.” So, if you get mugged in North Carolina’s capitol city, take comfort in the fact that more people will be able to watch as the attack unfolds.

The City is set to spend more than $1.4 million on its equity and inclusion department this fiscal year, a more than 47% increase over last year, and $400,000 more than the City was able to scrounge up in April 2020 to help Raleigh small businesses suffering under COVID-19 lockdowns. Those funds can go to churn out more book lists featuring Ibram Kendi, Ta-Nehsi Coates, and Robin DiAngelo—we are who we read, right? Or maybe the department will build on its handy critical race theory glossary, which cites the work of Dr. Maulana Karenga, a man who according to an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, was “convicted of heinous felonies” for “imprison[ing] and “assault[ing] two female members” of his black nationalist group. 

“Trial testimony” in Dr. Karenga’s case “revealed that the women had been whipped with cords, beaten with batons, and seared with irons—while naked—in an effort to elicit confessions that they were conspiring against him.” The City Council is busy renaming streets while holding up a violent convicted felon as an authority.

What in the Sam Hill is this?

Madame Mayor

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, the grand marshal in Raleigh’s woke parade, practices much of what defines America’s ruling class. One characteristic she possesses is a lack of authenticity, something that comes out every time Baldwin, a Rhode Island native, tweets out “y’all,” that quintessential Southern expression, while cribbing from Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris’ attempts to connect with voters south of the Mason-Dixon line. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, Baldwin is one of a select few Americans who finds Harris “authentic” and “REAL” (in all caps!). 

Mary Ann Baldwin, Raleigh Mayor (yikes!)

Government by experts is another sign of our times. Baldwin says she wants to “put science first.” In practice, what that really means is indefinite obedience to unelected bureaucrats in government agencies. Like many other elected officials across America, and the world, Baldwin doesn’t have the necessary expertise to make scientifically-informed decisions or ask the tough questions to experts. So, if there was some scientific rationale for her May 2020 dictate to bars that they could not serve alcohol after 11 PM, Baldwin likely didn’t come up with it or vet it. How could she? Baldwin studied journalism at the University of Rhode Island. And it’s doubtful she’s opened a statistics or mathematics textbook in decades. Nevertheless, she rules, with a pseudo-scientific, democratic veneer.

Baldwin talks about “democracy,” but that term doesn’t mean what you think it does. After the 2016 election, and before she was elected Mayor of Raleigh, Baldwin asked Senator Richard Burr to “stand up for decency and democracy” by denying Steve Bannon a White House role. Because a constitutionally-elected president doesn’t get to choose his advisors, or finish his term, as Baldwin called for Trump to be impeached as early as August 2017.

Baldwin and the City Council went even further last year in showing their commitment to democracy, voting to give themselves another year in office by postponing the election until November 2022 “in a closed meeting, without any public input, without ever being put to a public vote.” Democracy in America, just like Alexis de Tocqueville envisioned it.

Don’t forget about another defining feature of our ruling class: meeting the needs of the corporatist swamp. While serving as mayor, Baldwin took a job with a paving company “that received a $6.3 million city contract for street resurfacing just days before Baldwin began interviewing for the job.” Raleigh’s left-wing daily newspaper, The News & Observer, conceded “[t]aking the job was an awkward move by Baldwin,” noting she “cannot wish away the perception that she has benefited from her public role in a personal way.”

Finally, Baldwin’s tenure brought a jarring new feature to Raleigh’s visual landscape: California-style homeless camps. Last year, a homeless encampment emerged in North Raleigh, just outside the City limits, bringing with it “[a]n ocean of trash and other debris.” The camp was along a route commuters use to travel from downtown Raleigh to million-dollar homes on the outskirts of town. Think of smaller-scale, Southern version of Los Angeles’ tent cities.

A Tone-Deaf Vaccine Mandate

If these issues weren’t enough, you would think rising crime and a short-staffed police force would have the City asking difficult questions about how to reverse these trends. How do we recruit more young people to sign up to be cops and firefighters? How do we retain our best first responders and city workers? How can we improve the lives of the people who live here and pay for our operation?

In September 2021, the City announced a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate. By City leadership fiat, and without a City Council vote to enact the policy, Raleigh’s City Manager required all city employees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. Of course, if you get the COVID-19 shot and get hurt, that’s not on the City or the vaccine manufacturer, that’s on you. Justice, indeed.

If you don’t get the shot or test, you lose your job, at least at the end of a three-week disciplinary process. During that process, you’re expected to report for work unvaccinated and untested. How is that supposed to keep people safe from COVID-19? No one really knows. Maybe the disobedient workers benefit from the same COVID-19 immunity protestors enjoyed when they left a train of destruction and property damage in downtown Raleigh following George Floyd’s death in May 2020.

But that’s not even the most bizarre aspect of the policy. If you opt to test instead of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, then you can’t get promoted. That’s right—if you’re a healthy cop or firefighter at low risk from COVID-19, and you want to get promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, you must take the jab, or else you’re perpetually stuck. Who with any career ambitions would stay for this? A Duke law professor commenting on the mandate even called the promotion policy “somewhat illogical.”

The workers fought back, retaining counsel to send a fourteen-page letter to the City, demanding withdrawal of the policy. In the letter, the workers maintained that the policy was enacted illegally and violates state and federal law. 

Baldwin could not even be bothered to respond to the workers directly. Instead, she told The News and Observer that “the city will ignore” the workers’ letter, leaving those who have invested decades to build careers potentially looking to leave Raleigh for good. This is, to quote Justice Scalia, “let-them-eat-cake obliviousness” to plight of the workers and also the people who pay to keep the lights on in Raleigh, unvaccinated and vaccinated alike. Baldwin styled herself the “Notorious MAB,” an apparent homage to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her 2019 run for office. She should brand as Mary-Antionette for her re-election campaign.

As for the workers, the City is actively discriminating against every employee who declines to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines. The workers organized a fundraising campaign to fight the mandate, but it has stalled. If you want to help, you can donate here.

Senator Helms once joked “why build a zoo when we can just put up a fence around Chapel Hill,” a jab at the left-wing academics at the public ivy university there. Unless Raleigh’s arrogant, out-of-touch leadership class is restrained, and quickly, the city in which Helms was laid to rest will become a woke zoo he would never recognize. 

Walter Cromwell is a pseudonymous lawyer and longtime observer of North Carolina’s political landscape