Since 2013, North Carolina has stayed in national headlines because of the political antics of the Republican legislature. The tactics they’ve used are far more disturbing than their policies. They’ve brazenly undermined democracy and systematically removed checks and balances from the government. What’s more disturbing is the silence from people who should know better.
As soon as Roy Cooper beat Pat McCrory in the race for governor, the legislature began transferring power reserved for the governor to the legislature. They’ve been so successful that, when asked by a reporter if the proposed constitutional amendments were designed to strip power from Cooper, Berger laughed and asked, “Does he still have any?” Moore chimed in, adding, “If you have any suggestions, let us know.”
The two legislative leaders thought they were being funny, but it was only funny because it was so true. They’ve got veto proof majorities in both houses of the legislature despite only accumulating slightly more than a majority of the legislative votes. Now, they’re going trying to accumulate more power by stripping the governor of his appointment powers in proposed constitutional amendments.
They’ve protected their majorities with the most egregious gerrymanders in the nation. Instead of denying trying to disenfranchise Democrats through rigged districts, they’re proud of it. When asked why he drew Congressional Districts that gave Republicans a 10-3 advantage, Rep. David Lewis replied that he didn’t believe it was possible to draw an 11-2 map. Those aren’t the words of somebody concerned about free and fair elections.
In towns and counties across the state, the legislature has tried to rig municipal elections to give Republicans more influence. They’ve redrawn districts for county commissioner and school boards without input from the leaders of those places. They’ve made nonpartisan races partisan, including judicial contests, where partisanship should matter the least.
Republicans are now aiming for the judiciary. They worked on redistricting the Superior Court and District Court seats but have put that off until next year. They’ve tried so hard the rig the Supreme Court race for the Republican that they actually changed the rules retroactively to strip the registration from one of the candidates. They’ve put constitutional amendment on the ballot to give the legislature the power to appoint new judges.
Otherwise responsible conservatives turn a blind eye to these efforts to eliminate competition in elections and remove the checks and balances of government. Instead they point to tax breaks that they claim have made North Carolina an economic powerhouse even though wages are barely above pre-recession levels and too many people work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Fortunately for them, the Republicans in Washington have stolen the spotlight. The national press is now consumed by the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans who have the undermined norms and traditions that protected our democracy. Sounds a lot like North Carolina.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >