At the heart of American political dysfunction, and at the heart of what’s happened to North Carolina, is gerrymandering. With sophisticated technology and control of the redistricting process following a wave election in 2010, Republicans drew themselves districts that ensure their safety while ignoring the will of the people.
An article in Salon yesterday also suggests that gerrymandering led to the rise of Donald Trump and extremism in America. The piece clearly shows how North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, a product of the 2011 redistricting, used the extremists in Congress to overthrow Speaker John Boehner, dubbing him an insider and Washington hack who lacked conservative principles.
But it’s not Boehner and his allies who lack conservative credentials. It’s Meadows and his ideological soulmates in the North Carolina legislature who do. They’re radicals with an authoritarian bent. They don’t want limited government, they want total control of government.
In Washington, they’ve opted to shutdown government to get their way. They can’t pass a budget even though they control both houses of Congress. They’ve voted fifty times to repeal Obamacare and not once to fix it. And they’re doing this without any sort of broad mandate from voters but to appease their extremist base. As the Salon article noted, and as is true in North Carolina, more people voted for Democrats for Congress in 2012 than voted for Republicans.
In North Carolina, they’ve passed bills to limit the rights of the LGBT community, reduce women’s access to health care and abortions, and they’re slowly but surely dismantling the public school system. To ensure they keep control, they’ve expanded their gerrymandering from legislative seats to local and municipal districts, usurping the local control that true conservatives value. They aren’t operating with will of the majority. In 2012, the vote for legislative seats was evenly split between Democrats and Republicans but the GOP held veto proof majorities in both houses.
At the national level, the extremist rhetoric fired up a base that’s angry and disdainful of reliable conservatives. Donald Trump stepped into that void. In North Carolina, Republicans got Pat McCrory, a man with few principles and even fewer political skills. He turned out to be one of the most conservative governors in the country because of his inability to navigate the politics of Raleigh or to stand up to the extremists driving the legislature.
Someone recently said to me that the Founding Fathers intended legislative gridlock to control the pace of change in the country. That’s not quite true. They meant for change to come slowly through compromise. After long and arduous debate, the two sides would come together to reach agreement, and neither side would be entirely happy.
Today, we have gridlock where extremists hold Congress hostage, waiting for complete control instead of coming to agreement. In North Carolina, they got it. If they get it nationally, we’re in very scary territory.