Less than six months removed from a thorough drubbing, Republicans are acting like their mandate remains as strong as ever. House Republicans passed a nasty immigration bill yesterday over the objections of both local government and the statewide Sheriff’s Association. Their Senate counterparts are in the process of imposing a draconian work requirement on Medicaid recipients, and may well put guns in classrooms. The NCGA is still, in the words of AEI scholar Norm Ornstein, “the worst legislature in the country.”
For six brutal years, bills like this would have become law without resistance. Failed Governor Pat McCrory was a completely incapable executive, with even less courage to confront his party’s radicals. Whether he opposed extremist legislation was almost irrelevant in the face of his overwhelming incompetence. In the Governor Cooper’s first two years, the dynamic between the executive and legislative branches stayed the same. The GOP’s gerrymandered supermajorities allowed them to override his vetoes like a freight train–and enjoy doing it. North Carolina took enormous damage as a result.
So far, Cooper’s policies have largely provided a symbolic contrast with his predecessor. Where McCrory awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to feckless hacks, Cooper named highways after progressive icons. Now, as the rubber hits the road, the 2019 legislative session will show the large practical repercussions of his win. For at least two years, the “Conservative Revolution” has ended.
As I wrote last week, Republicans are attempting to plow ahead with extremism despite its clear rejection by voters. Radical bills will undoubtedly keep coming as the months pass. Governor Cooper, however, can and will veto this legislation with salutary results for the vulnerable. This time, his vetoes will be upheld. Republicans may think they still have the right to turn the screws on progressive North Carolinians, but this perceived entitlement no longer has real-world punch.
I won’t invoke playful vulgarity on a family blog, so I’ll leave this message as it was written in the headline: Roy Cooper’s election was a big deal. North Carolina’s 75th governor has the opportunity, by stopping extreme Republican legislation, to do as much for the state as any governor in at least a decade. It’s thus all the more important that he beat Dan Forest, a radical who would sign these bills with relish.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.