Yesterday was a bad day for the authoritarians in the General Assembly. First, the court came out against their law that would retro-actively change elections laws, leaving two Republicans on the ballot for Supreme Court. Then, all five formers governors, two Republicans and three Democrats, called out misleading constitutional amendments, urging voters to reject them.
Republicans in the legislature have put a concerted effort into eliminating the system of checks and balances that protect our democracy and our rights. Their extreme gerrymandering protects their power at the legislative level and their various voter suppression efforts would restrict access to the ballot for groups that might oppose them, specifically older African-Americans, younger voters and the poor. They’ve been so successful at stripping power from the executive branch that when asked by a reporter if the constitutional amendments were designed to take power from Governor Roy Cooper, Phil Berger quipped, “Does he still have any?”
They’ve been trying to rig the Supreme Court for a couple of cycles. First, back in 2016, they tried to make the re-election of GOP Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds a “retention election” meaning he wouldn’t face an opponent, just a “yes-or-no” vote. This year, they kept changing the structure of the elections, making them partisan again and then removing the primary and making it a winner-takes-all affair. When a former Democrat filed to run as a Republican, following the rules set forth by the Republicans in the legislature, the GOP leadership tried to retroactively change the rules to strip his Republican designation. Yesterday, they lost.
Their loss highlights both the need for an independent judiciary and the GOP’s determination to eliminate it. Republican overreach has been consistently reined-in by the court. They’ve spent millions of dollars losing court cases at both the state and federal level. To stop the losses, they want to make judges responsible to them, not the public.
Which leads to the remarkable press conference yesterday. Clearly, the former governors see the legislature’s overreach as a threat to democracy. Their press conference called out the GOP legislators’ attempt to undermine the authority of the governor and reduce the checks and balances on their power.
The GOP wants to run the state as a legislative cartel. A small group of powerful state senators and representatives would make most of the decisions in the state, unencumbered by checks on their power from either the voters or the other, neutered branches of government. It’s a scary proposition and highlights the reason we should reject their constitutional amendments and support judicial candidates who will check their power instead of increase it.