Pat McCrory Is Teaching A Class. What Lessons Has He Learned?

Feb 4, 2019

Now here’s a college class that sounds like it’s worth the tuition.

Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte and governor of North Carolina, is teaching a class at UNC Chapel Hill starting this week.

It’s called “Hard Lessons of Leadership: An Insider’s Look That You Won’t Read In A Textbook.” The titles for the weekly lessons are fantastic: “The Allure of Power,” “It’s All About the Money,” and my favorite, “Prepare To Be Eviscerated.” (By the way, I can’t believe nobody has made a horror movie called “Prepare To Be Eviscerated.”)

McCrory’s story is not a horror movie, exactly. I’m not sure how he sees it – maybe as a hero’s tale. But from here, it feels like a bit of a tragedy.

McCrory was one of the most popular and accomplished mayors in Charlotte’s history. He won seven terms as a Republican with bipartisan support in an increasingly Democratic city. I voted for him in most, if not all, of those seven elections. In a city designed to have a weak mayor, he pushed for Charlotte’s light rail system and the uptown arena – both things that he caught heat for but were in the city’s best long-term interests.

Then, in 2008, he ran for governor and lost. And to me, that’s where the tragic part begins.

In that Republican primary, his opponents had criticized McCrory for not being conservative enough. So when the next election came around, he aligned himself with Art Pope, a multimillionaire businessman who has supplied the money and power behind much of North Carolina’s right-wing politics. In 2012, McCrory won the governor’s race. And somewhere on the way from Charlotte to Raleigh, the moderate Pat McCrory disappeared.

He signed the HB2 “bathroom bill” that turned out to be a disaster not just for our state’s reputation, but our economy. He signed bills that cut unemployment benefits, opted out of the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicare provisions, and curtailed voting rights in a way that a federal appeals court said targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.” He also managed to tick off Charlotte-area voters of all stripes by backing toll lanes on I-77. In the end, he lost to Roy Cooper after serving just a single term.

I still can’t decide if Pat McCrory is a decent guy who lost his way, or a career politician who was willing to do whatever it took to win. Maybe something in between.

McCrory has hinted that he might run for office again. He sounds like he aims to be honest in the class he’s teaching at UNC. I hope that honesty extends to exploring how far he might’ve ended up from who he really is, and whether it was worth it.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.