Editorial: The white guys in the room

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Rep. John Faircloth hung out from the end of the makeshift dais, the table not long enough to properly hold the members of Guilford County’s delegation to the state House.

The 250 or so who filled the pews on Saturday at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro could see Faircloth’s long, stork-like legs crossed in front of him, his casual hard brown shoes, the dark socks, just a shade off his creased weekend trousers. He went with the tobacco-brown sportcoat today. And what the hell: A yellow shirt.

Faircloth and his Republican colleague John Blust made up a minority on the slate that also included Reps. Pricey Harrison, Ralph Johnson and Cecil Brockman. But their influence, and that of their party, is outsized in this issue of Senate Bill 36.

The Guilford Democrats have already voiced opposition to the bill, but even if they convince all 42 of their colleagues in the House to go against it, the deck is stacked with 74 Republicans, none of whom have any particular allegiance to Greensboro.

Except Faircloth, Blust and Jon Hardister, who was been bashed in the Rhino Times after not immediately falling into line on the plan proposed by Republican state Sen. Trudy Wade and the paper’s publisher, Roy Carroll.

Hardister didn’t make the meeting at the UCC. And neither did a single person who supported the recalibration of city government the bill would enact.

That left Faircloth and Blust to glean what they could from the gathering and report back to their tribe. As Blust said, “[M]ost members [of the House] defer to the local delegation from that area when voting on local bills.”

Seated at the dais, up where the altar would be, Blust looked conflicted. In his eighth term, he predates the tea-party takeover, and likely remembers fighting a majority party that tended towards overreach in its legislation. And he hopes to still be here when the wave recedes.

When he heard a citizen say, “This bill is contrary to the concept of local control,” he couldn’t help but nod his head a little.

Blust has Greensboro precincts in his district, too, many of them within hollering distance of this church.

Faircloth is a harder read. He’s been to a million of these things and knows how to let the voices wash over him. The only time he leaned forward in his chair was when US Rep. Alma Adams swept in and denounced the bill.

The former High Point chief of police now mans a district that stops short of Greensboro, and makes a hook around the African-American precincts of High Point. Voters in Greensboro can’t touch him.

Like Blust and Hardister, Faircloth has yet to stand for or against the bill — telling, in that it could go before the House a few days hence.

But neither of the white guys seemed to know that the new plan breaks up college campuses and longstanding neighborhoods into separate districts, not until today. This assembly showed them, at least, the degree to which it is unpopular.

Both Faircloth and Blust pledged to study the issue further. And Faircloth gave an assurance that if the city does get the shaft on this one, it will happen in broad daylight and not through shady political maneuvering.

“We’re not gonna hide it somewhere,” he said.

That part of the caper has already happened.