We are just days removed from the decision of federal judges to, yet again, condemn the congressional maps in North Carolina, and the partisan spin is in full effect. Part of the trouble that got Republicans into this mess is their own pomposity. Having succeeded in riding wave elections to power during the Obama presidency, fate imparted on them the chance to preside over redistricting after the 2010 census. Riding high on their ephemeral victories, the next step seemed clear: cementing their electoral grip.
But so too was the flaw of Icarus. With unassailable rule over the North Carolina Legislative and Executive branches, they pushed through maps that benefited Republican incumbents to an impressive degree. The famous quote from Rep. David Lewis pretty much sums up the rationale, which is almost comically blunt: “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” He goes on to say, also, that the only reason their map yields 10 Republicans instead of 11 is because the latter is mathematically impossible.
As far as I can tell, the intended method of politics in this country is that the people should select their representatives, and not the other way around. Unfortunately for North Carolinians, the GOP doesn’t trust you to decide. In a state where both Donald Trump and Roy Cooper can win on the same night, it is baffling to consider that the state would tilt 10-3 to Republicans in any reasonable electoral construction.
Should this matter to Republicans? Though some may enjoy the uniform control in both the Congressional delegation and the General Assembly in Raleigh, electoral immunity does not render better representation, even if it comes from your own party. Those representatives in ruby-red districts face no prospect of reasonable contestants in elections, and the only fear they do harbor is that of a radical primary challenger. What would conservative North Carolinians do if a Roy Moore were to skate through in a primary, in a district gerrymandered such that no Democrat could win? Acquiesce?
Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of the NCGOP, offered his thoughts on Twitter about the decision. The crux of the defense they’ve adopted is that federal judges should have no say in the machinations of district-drawing within the state. As an article he quotes puts it, “We should not transfer authority for drawing political boundaries to unaccountable judges who, unlike legislators, can’t be voted out if we don’t like what they did.” Replace “judges” with “Republican representatives,” and Mr. Woodhouse has just delivered a decent attack against himself that rings true. He says elsewhere that this amounts to a “hostile takeover of the NCGA” by activist judges. Now he must know what it feels like for North Carolinians whose votes his party purposefully dilutes.
The problem, quite clearly, is that these politicians indeed are immune and unaccountable, precisely because of the devious methods the GOP has utilized in our state. Many North Carolinians are fed up with the methods the Republicans are employing to torpedo state politics. Their lamentation is that elections have consequences, in this case the ability to conjure ridiculous electoral maps. But that same argument offers the answer to their chicanery: Presidents Obama, Carter and G.W. Bush all won elections and appointed federal judges, who have once again ruled these preposterous districts unconstitutional.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.