Focus on the courts

by | Oct 1, 2021 | coronavirus

Last night was the final public hearing for redistricting legislative and Congressional districts. Apparently, they had a good turnout at the Fayetteville meeting. The legislature held a series of hearings at places around the state. Unfortunately, they probably don’t matter. 

I suspect the Republicans in control of the General Assembly already have a pretty good idea of what the maps will look like and would not be surprised if they are already sitting on somebody’s computer. The hearings mainly gave Republicans cover to say they had public input. They aren’t listening, though. Their main criteria is to maximize their advantage while trying to avoid having courts throw out their maps. 

In fact, instead of focusing on legislative districts, activists and the Democratic Party should be putting their efforts behind the Supreme Court races in 2022. There’s no scenario where Democrats gain control of either chamber of the legislature. The only real question is whether or not Republicans hold veto-proof majorities. They will certainly draw those maps if they believe they can get away with it. Since the governor cannot veto redistricting maps, the court is the only vehicle to stop them.

Republicans long ago figured out that courts matter. They centered much of their messaging around control of the U.S. Supreme Court. It drove out their base that wanted to make sure they had few limits on their right to bear arms and strict limits on your right to an abortion. They played the long game and it worked, giving them a solid majority on the court. 

Today, most  members of the U.S. Supreme Court appointed by Republican presidents were vetted first by the Federalist Society, the highly partisan conservative legal organization. They have sharply curtailed voting rights while giving dark money organizations more control over our democracy. They have also shifted power to regulate elections from the federal government to the states. That’s why Democrats in North Carolina should focus on the state courts moving forward. 

Progressives are most animated by the prospect of passing legislation that improves lives. They need get more motivated to stop legislation that restricts rights and gives more power to the few at the expense of the many. In the near term, the Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court are more likely to give progressives victories even if they are just stopping bad legislation and bad ideas. 

Democrats have a better chance of winning the U.S. Senate race and control of the appellate court system than they do the legislature. The state as a whole is shifting more Democratic and if the party could get younger voters to vote at a higher rate, they could have resounding victories in statewide elections, even if districts shaped by gerrymandering remain elusive. For voting rights, abortion rights, and other legislation, the state courts will likely be the final stop. Democrats need to become as focused on the judiciary as Republicans have been. 


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