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National Issues

Where is the middle ground?

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say the Republicans and the Democrats all want the same thing — what’s best for America — but they simply have different ideas about how to get there, well … I’d have a lot of nickels.

But it seems anymore like that isn’t true. Sure, they both want what’s best for the country, but those ideas of what’s “best” are so divergent that best is no longer even remotely similar.

This is also true on the state level. As I followed the coverage of General Assembly debates surrounding the recent “bathroom bill” (House Bill 2), I was struck by the utter lack of common ground between the two sides.

On the left were citizens, municipalities and lawmakers who wanted to extend civil and privacy rights to include LGBTQ issues. In February, Charlotte’s city council decided to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. They are hardly the first city to do this, joining the ranks of more than 250 cities across the country that have made similar moves.

And their rhetoric was largely that of protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans, regardless of their identity. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a 2016 Democratic candidate for governor, said in response to the passage of HB2: “Discrimination is wrong, period. That North Carolina is putting discrimination into the law is shameful.”

On the right, the conversation was dominated by knee-jerk fear mongering. After calling a special emergency session of the General Assembly, Republicans were not bashful about their opposition to the ordinance. Dan Bishop, a Charlotte Republican who introduced HB2, said it “will clarify that cities are not authorized to do radical social engineering as agents of the radical left.”

There’s no doubt that some of the supporters for HB2 felt the Charlotte ordinance infringed upon the privacy of people who use the bathroom assigned to their biological sex. That is, if a man who identifies as a woman would use a female bathroom, it would create an uncomfortable — or even unsafe — situation for the women in there.

Nonetheless, some the loudest voices were clad in religious fanaticism. John Amanchukwu, executive director of the Upper Line Christian Academy in Raleigh, said, “When virtues are smothered through party platforms, man becomes confident in legalizing anarchy. This [Charlotte] ordinance is the corrupt fruit of treason. It is an inside job of the hearts of traitors.”

The vote tallies exemplified the divisiveness and unwillingness to compromise on this bill. In the House, all 77 Republicans and only 11 out of 45 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. In the Senate, the numbers were more skewed: after Democrats walked out refusing to participate in the vote, the bill passed 32-0 (all Republicans).

Where is the room for compromise, for negotiation or for finding common ground when one side thinks they are trying to protect the rights of minorities and the other side thinks they are trying to prevent the anarchist-leftist takeover of America?

Max Stayman, from Oakland, Calif., is a Duke senior studying public policy.

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