Yesterday, Democrats in the North Carolina House sustained Governor Cooper’s veto of the so-called Born Alive bill. Partisans on both sides of the bill lit up social media, often distorting the issue. The pro-life crowd accused Democrats of infanticide. The pro-choice side claimed Republicans were trying to restrict access to abortion. Despite all the rancor, the real significance of yesterday was the vote itself. 

Democrats in the house held their caucus together to sustain Cooper’s veto over a contentious issue. The vote was a victory for Democratic leaders, showing the muscle they gained after the 2018 elections. In the past, Democrats sometimes had a hard time holding the line when trying sustain Bev Perdue’s veto, the last time they had the numbers to do it. Minority Leader Darren Jackson gets the credit and the victory for yesterday’s vote. 

His success gives Democrats confidence heading into what may be the final weeks of the legislative session. Cooper can wield the veto pen and know that it’s not just a symbolic gesture like it was before Democrats broke the GOP’s veto-proof majorities. Activists have a reason to stay engaged and can point to yesterday’s success as reasons to write, call and generally show up. 

As for the Republicans, they got what they wanted. Their base is outraged and engaged. They’ll use the vote as a reason to fire up the base next year. We’ll hear more cries of infanticide over the next year and half but the audience will be that small minority of the population for whom abortion is the defining issue of politics. 

The GOP has been using their divide and conquer tactics since they got in charge. From Amendment One to HB2, they’ve exploited divisive social issues to drive out their base. It’s a sharp contrast to Democrats who governed by trying to keep the division under wraps. 

In the end both sides got what they wanted. The bill itself was largely inconsequential as Colin Campbell wrote in the News & Observer since there are “no documented cases in North Carolina” of babies born alive after botched abortions. However, Democrats showed that they can sustain a veto and Republicans got to fire up their base heading into 2020.  

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