Rep. Mike Speciale (R-New Bern) is known as a very conservative bombthrower in the General Assembly, but recent events suggest that he is rapidly transitioning into a progressive hero, fighting steadfastly to defend the rights of his countrymen against the ravages of the Trump administration.
Take the three bills he filed today, for instance, all of which would amend the state constitution. They ought to be catnip for progressives.
The first is an amendment that would repeal the literacy requirement for registering to vote. Yes, this vestige of Jim Crow is still enshrined in the state constitution – it’s never been repealed. The targeted section reads like this: “Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language.” Although not enforced, the provision is arguably a microaggression and it clearly discriminates against North Carolinians who do not speak English. Certainly unexpected, but kudos to Rep. Speciale for taking on this progressive cause.
In Rep. Speciale’s next bill, we see him slyly reveal his anti-Trump (anti-fascist?) sympathies. The second bill would change the wording of Section 5, Article 1 of the state constitution, which currently reads:
“Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force.”
Speciale’s proposed change:
“Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, and now law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force.”
Did you notice the difference? The amendment would remove the words “and government”. Citizens of North Carolina would need only have fidelity to the Constitution – not necessarily the ruling regime. It brings to mind the old phrase: “I love my country, but hate my government.” And who runs the government? Donald Trump and the Republicans. This bill is no doubt a wink and a nod to progressives who are part of the resistance.
And finally, we come to Speciale’s last bill, the one dealing with secession. It’s the one getting all the press coverage. The North Carolina Constitution prohibits secession, reading: “This State shall ever remain a part of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation; there is no right on the part of this State to secede; and all attempts, from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve this Union or to sever this Nation, shall be resisted with the whole power of the State.” Speciale wants this section gone.
Naturally, the media has picked this up as an example of typical Republican kookiness; after all, who talks about secession in this day and age? But here again we see Rep. Speciale fighting for progressive values – if you haven’t noticed, secession is a Democratic thing, just as it was in the past. Just look at all the liberals pining for Calexit. Could a North Carolexit be in the future? Speciale at least wants to keep the option on the table – right now, the state’s constitution makes such an effort impossible, even if the U.S. Constitution was amended to allow secession.
Horrifyingly, the secession provision also seems to suggest that North Carolina would be forced to take action if any state attempted to sever its ties to the Union. “… [S]hall be resisted with the whole power of the State.” In the unlikely event that California secedes from the Union, our constitution might demand we take up arms against Californians to force them to live in Donald Trump’s America. Could there be a greater affront to the concept of personal liberty and the right of self-government?
Of course, these being constitutional amendments, they must go before the voters to be approved. And for that to happen, Speciale’s bills will need to pass in both chambers of the General Assembly. But because legislative leaders tend to balk at anything even remotely progressive, expect North Carolinians to be denied the opportunity to vote on these important changes.
It’s a shame, really. Because in this day and age, rare are the conservatives who put principle over party – a party that has been taken over by Trump and Trumpism. As the party continues to purge dissident elements, expect fewer, not more. Meanwhile, is heard the lament from Tar Heel progressives: “If only every Republican was like Mike Speciale.”
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.