“We didn’t see this coming,” state Rep. Jon Hardister said after HB 2, which he had voted for in an emergency legislative session just days before, elicited a strong negative response from many quarters.
Business leaders came out against it in a drove, including HanesBrands in Winston-Salem, which had been erroneously included in a list of companies that actually support the bill, and Bank of America, the biggest company in the state.
On the artistic side of the economic scale, composer Stephen Schwartz disallowed any use of his creative property — which includes the Broadway musicals Godspell and Wicked — inside the borders of the Old North State. From the world of sports, the NBA, which as it turns out has many employees who are interested in civil rights, is reconsidering its decision to hold its All-Star Game in Charlotte. Governors and mayors are cutting off non-essential travel here. Tourists are looking elsewhere for their vacations. Demonstrators are taking to the streets. Television and film crews are making other plans. It’s a genuine fiasco of the kind that can be measured in dollars and cents.
That Hardister and the higher-ups in his party did not see this ferocious and immediate backlash coming speaks to the bubble in which they’ve ensconced themselves, where the United States is a Christian nation, tax cuts create jobs and bringing a gun to the state fair just makes good sense.
Contemporary issues of gender, privilege, race and systemic violence — the things everyone in our cities are talking about — do no permeate this bubble. It is populated mostly by white men who have no comprehension of the sexual spectrum beyond its binary poles.
And if they’ve never heard of a thing, then it doesn’t exist.
There is hostility, inside the bubble, against new information, particularly when it does not align with the party’s message. This phenomenon was on evidence after executives from the High Point Market Authority — which hosts the two largest events in the state, in terms of economic impact, in the spring and fall — alerted state leaders that people were pulling out of the April market due to the new law. Indeed, the American Society of Interior Designers advised all 26,000 of its members, many of whom also share an interest in civil rights, to skip the High Point furniture market this spring.
When faced with this information, whispers emanated from Raleigh insinuating a cut in state funding for the market could be the result of merely pointing it out.
That’s how it goes inside the bubble, and exactly how it will go, until someone — or, more likely, many someones, all with state IDs in their hands on Election Day — comes along and pops it.