March Madness is the moniker given the NCAA basketball tournament championship, but this year in North Carolina it is taking on new meaning. Seems like everyone is mad about something. Local governments are mad at the legislature, the legislature is mad about the Dorothea Dix deal, the Racial Justice Act and a plethora of other issues. Educators are mad about possible funding cuts and state employees…well, they’re just mad. This madness or chaos can best be explained by understanding Virginia Satir’s five stage change model.
Satir was a systems therapist, focusing primarily on family systems. She explained that systems operate for a time in a state of existence best described as “status quo or normal.” Over time resistance develops to the point where the insertion of a foreign or de-stabilizing element will throw the system into chaos. That chaos will continue until a transforming idea is integrated and leads to a new status quo.
For more than 100 years Democrats controlled state and most local governments. With a few brief exceptions they were the political status quo in North Carolina. That started changing in 2010, when the GOP took control of both houses of the legislature, even though there was a Democrat as governor. In 2012, for the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans won a veto-proof majority in both legislative houses, the Governor’s office, nine of the 13 Congressional seats, a majority on our Supreme Court and at least at parity in county governments. What caused such this de-stablizing system change?
Democrats had undying compassion for the least, the lost and the last, expanding both the scope, size and cost of state government. Republicans and Libertarians offered resistance, protesting that Democrats demonstrated little accountability and gave them little chance to speak, much less be at the table when decisions were made. They called for Democrats to temper some of their compassion in favor of more accountability in how much they spent and how effectively programs were operating. The GOP resistance message obviously resonated with voters, resulting in a de-stabilizing element or dramatic change in the status quo.
Republicans rule and the shoe is on the other foot. The GOP took the reins of power pledging to instill accountability in government. Today it’s the Democrats screaming that Republicans are hard-hearted, calling for the GOP to show compassion for more than business interests and the wealthy. And irony of ironies Democrats complain their voices are not being heard in decision-making. Satir describes this condition as chaos, defined as disorder and confusion – where we are now.
So here we are in chaos, seeking a transforming idea that will lead us to a new normal and stability. I believe moderates or centrists have that idea. There is no recognized party, group or even leader that speaks for us moderates or centrists so our voices are often not heard, but they question why we must have one extreme or the other. Can’t we show compassion while also being accountable? Their transforming idea is the insertion of cooperation and compromise, a willingness to find solutions that benefit the most.
We are weary of officials more interested in being right than doing right. The way back to a new normal, a new stability embraces compassion, accountability, cooperation and compromise. Enough of the madness and the chaos.
Campbell is a former assistant state treasurer and is the creator and host of NC Spin, a weekly panel discussion on state issues that airs on public television.