Republicans are pushing constitutional amendments in North Carolina that are neither conservative nor liberal. They are authoritarian. GOP leaders believe they can strip power from the governor and are confident that they can maintain control of the General Assembly despite the will of the voters.
The latest evidence is a line in a proposed constitutional amendment that transfers all power of appointment held by the governor to the legislature. They would make the Governor’s office a shell of itself while dramatically strengthening the General Assembly, essentially giving themselves executive-like power while removing the checks and balances that have made our government work. For all those people calling themselves constitutional conservatives, this amendment should be an anathema.
Republicans are taking a coordinated approach to consolidating power. They’re strengthening their position at the ballot box by re-instituting the monster voter suppression bill struck down by the courts a piece at a time. They’ve passed a bill that will significantly reduce early voting, including excluding the Saturday before the election as a day to vote. They’re putting a voter ID amendment on the ballot with very few details, leaving it up to the legislature to fill in the blanks. And their hand is strengthened without the Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering.
Republicans clearly believe gerrymandering the legislature, Congress and the courts gives them the means to win in November and beyond. They also seem to believe that they can’t win statewide much longer. They want to ensure that they can govern as a minority party without interference from the executive branch. Passing a constitutional amendment to strip the power of appointment from the governor will give the legislature complete control of the board and commissions that oversee so many functions in our state.
What’s most insidious about the GOP’s attempt to rule by constitutional amendment, though, is the power it strips away from voters. Once amendments become part of the constitution they become extremely difficult to undo. Even if voters want change and society needs it, voters will have lost the ability to check the power of the legislature. These amendments are almost all written to strengthen the general assembly at expense of the people, forcing them to cede their power. That’s really the road to authoritarianism.