Republicans heading back into special session this week could be offering Democrats a potent weapon going into the midterm elections. They want to either redistrict judicial races or put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would allow the legislature to appoint judges. The messaging is just too easy, especially heading into a year when Trump, the leader of their party, has approval ratings below 40%.
Republicans either want to rig the courts or they want to strip away your right to vote for judges, depending on which option they choose. Both arguments are easy to make and both are inherently believable since few people trust politicians these days. Either way, the public’s not going to be too happy.
Republicans are walking on very dangerous turf. They would be wise to take a cautious path the rest of this year. The president is unpopular, Republicans in Congress are unpopular and Democrats enjoy a double-digit lead in the generic Congressional ballot. The GOP should be playing defense instead of making risky moves.
The best chance Republicans have of salvaging this election cycle, short of some game changing catastrophic event, is to get the public to focus on the economy. Unemployment is at its lowest in years, the stock market is at its highest ever and wages appear to be finally increasing. In normal circumstances, those conditions might protect Republicans from any sort of wave.
Instead, they seem to be pushing their legislative advantage in case they lose it. The proposal to strip away voters’ rights to elect judges is particularly risky. North Carolina has been electing District and Superior Court judges since 1968. (My father was elected to the District Court in the first election, winning the Democratic primary on my fifth birthday.) A proposed constitutional amendment was put on the ballot in the early 1980s and soundly defeated. Urging people to give up their power in favor of the legislators who’ve been rigging elections through gerrymandering and redistricting local districts seems as likely to cause a backlash as succeed. It’s one more reason for the Democratic base to head to the polls.