John Hood: The season of change fills Carolina

Feb. 25, 2013 @ 07:06 PM

RALEIGH — Now is the winter of our discontent.
Or so said Shakespeare’s Richard III, a fictional villain who may have borne at least some resemblance to the fellow just found buried under a parking lot in Leicester. The phrase opens the play, as Richard proclaims that the winter of discontent will be “made glorious summer by this sun of York” – not a reference to the Yorkshire climate but a metaphor for his brother Edward assuming the throne of England.
I’m far from an expert on the Bard. But I’ve always thought this line to be one of his best, because of its ambiguity. In context, it is optimistic – a winter of discontent yielding to a summer of promise. But most people remember only the first line, which sounds like a complaint. And Richard is, after all, far from satisfied about his brother’s good fortune and seeks to overthrow him. So a complaint would be in character.
The current moment in North Carolina politics contains a similar ambiguity. A month into their new majority role, Republicans see a long, barren winter coming to an end. They expect their new ideas on taxes, regulation, education and entitlement reform to create new growth and opportunity in the coming months and years.
Democrats see no glorious summer ahead. They see the new Republican leaders as potential Richards, not Edwards. They see those new ideas as a significant departure from the state’s traditional public policies, which is certainly the case.
This is, at least in the short term, an unbridgeable partisan divide. Although the disagreement need not be bitter, or expressed as personal attacks, it will of necessity be passionate. Republicans should expect every mistake or piece of bad news under their tenure to be elevated to the level of Shakespearean comedy or tragedy. Democrats should expect to object loudly, to fight doggedly, to rally thousands of people to their cause – and to lose. Republicans and conservatives did the same thing for many years. They survived. Democrats and liberals will, too.
The matter will be settled by the outcome, not the build-up. If the McCrory administration and the Republican Legislature enact much or all of their agenda, it will take several years to evaluate the results.
Political partisans often ascribe the worst possible motives to their rivals because of their own ideological certainty. They are sure their ideas are the only ones supported by evidence and proven by experience. So anyone with different ideas must have ulterior motives.
My own philosophical system, however, teaches me that intentions and results are not necessarily related. I do not assume that those who favor higher taxes, bigger budgets and more governmental control over our lives are “determined to prove a villain,” as Shakespeare has his Richard III admit. I assume they mean well but are mistaken.
The great political drama that is Republican rule in Raleigh has only just begun its first act. It’s a bit early to start writing reviews of it.

John Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and author of “Our Best Foot Forward,” a book on North Carolina’s economy. It is available at Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.