Sunday, January 20, 2019

Thom Goolsby Plays the Hit Man on the UNC Board of Governors

Watch for it: Thom Goolsby will force a bloody awful showdown on the Chapel Hill campus over the Silent Sam Confederate monument. He's already said he intends to force the statue's return to its original location on campus, even if it takes a moat, a few guard towers, and tank traps to keep it unmolested. Goolsby leads the conservative faction on the UNC Board of Governors, which is clearly in the ascendant.

Goolsby has a history of nastiness and bullying. When he was a NC senator from Wilmington, he pushed for "vaginal wanding" of pregnant women before an abortion. He sponsored the bill to repeal the Racial Justice Act, which prohibited the imposition of the death penalty on the basis of race. He called protestors "Monday Morons" who were organized for Rev. William Barber's "Moral Mondays," which had rattled the Republican overlords. He pushed a vote on the UNC BOG to prohibit the UNC School of Law's Center for Civil Rights from pursuing legal remedies for low-income and minority groups.

Notice the good solid strain of racial politics in Goolsby's policy positions?

Goolsby graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. (venue for a good deal of *pop culture male displays), then went for an MBA at Golden Gate University. He came back to Chapel Hill for his law degree. Goolsby and a partner started Empowered Investor, handling big-buck investments and securities and doing quite well at it, and so he naturally ran for the NC Senate (Dist. 9) in that watershed year, 2010. He was reelected in 2012 and would have been a cinch for reelection in 2014, but a fiduciary scandal interceded. In a consent agreement with the Securities Division of the Secretary of State's office, Goolsby lost his licenses for doing investment and securities deals (because of, yes, fraud), and he won't get those licenses back before 2024. So, understandably, Goolsby decided against running for reelection in 2014. He actually put out a statement that said he wanted to spend more time with his family. No really. (His former seat in the Senate is now -- since November -- held by Democrat Harper Peterson.)

On the UNC Board of Governors, and in keeping with the self-image The Citadel bestowed on him, Goolsby has been a champion prick. Goolsby was appointed to the all-Republican board in August 2015 by the NC Senate (Phil Berger's joint), as a conservative counter-weight to BOG Chair John Fennebresque, a country club Republican who unilaterally fired Democrat Tom Ross from the university presidency and installed his favorite and fellow country club Republican Margaret Spellings in the chair. So Goolsby came onto the board primed for a big fight with Chair Fennebresque. Goolsby quickly demanded Fennebresque's resignation, and eventually got it, but not before Fennebresque got Spellings. (See "A Margaret Spellings Timeline") Of course, ultimately, Thom Goolsby got Spellings too, in a mortal sense.

Soon after Spellings took office -- almost immediately, in fact -- Goolsby was in the vanguard of her conservative harassment. Goolsby and his fellow travelers immediately threatened to move her comfy office out of Chapel Hill to some far-flung precinct where'd she be less comfortable (and comfitted by the Chapel Hill elite). They leaned hard on Spellings to be a no-exceptions enforcer of the notorious bathroom bill against transgender citizens. And when Spellings was caught redhanded talking to Governor Cooper about "the Silent Sam problem," Goolsby signed a letter condemning her and further threatening her future.

Spellings ended her five-year contract three years early, and in July 2018, the moderate BOG chair who had replaced John Fennebresque was himself replaced by one of the conservative hardliners. The conservatives are in full control now, and in full roar, and they're not likely to hold Goolsby back. The Citadel evidently taught dying on the ramparts, even if those barricades were built on Southern racism.

Goolsby clearly intends to force the return of Silent Sam. And because he's nasty by nature, he couldn't refrain from digging a knife into the Democratic rib-cage when he made his public proposal about bringing back Sam: "I'm even willing to add some 'two-sides-to-everything' balancing statues," he said, "the kind that inform students that Democrats are the real racists" (Jeffrey C. Billman). For example, add a statue commemorating the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, Goolsby suggested, when white supremacists, all members of the Democratic Party of that day, burned a black newspaper to the ground and overthrew the town’s newly elected black Republican government. Yes, and put up another statue dedicated to the minority women “forcibly sterilized by the Democrat Party who controlled our state for decades,” wrote Goolsby.

What Goolsby thinks we won't notice is that he would have participated in that 1898 insurrection -- probably with a fixed bayonet -- and would have voted for forced sterilizations of black people. You think he wouldn't?

Only question that's relevant right now: Will Goolsby's aggression be another Pickett's Charge? Will history finally overtake him?

*The Citadel in pop culture: I'm thinking "The Great Santini" and Frank Underwood in "House of Cards." There's more in that vein.

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