The tone of this blog is highly critical of the governor, and there’s no reason to let up until his performance ceases to disserve our state. In addition, the past session cast doubt on another figure’s credibility. Portrayed in the national press as an omnipotent demigod, he has proven less dominant than imagined. That man’s name is Art Pope.

Readers seeking to understand the legislature could do no better than to read this post. To the shock of many observers, the piece argues that Art Pope’s influence is less central to Republican control than many think. The budget debate gave us practical confirmation of this thesis. Although key Pope initiatives were included, the budget reflected Senate priorities more than his.

The differences between Pope’s budget and the final document surface in critical areas. For example, Pope attempted to keep pre-school enrollment flat. The Senate cut eligibility in half, perhaps to send a message about who should be raising children. “McCrory’s” proposal restored funding for drug courts to assist substance abuse victims. The punitive macho men of the Senate would have none of it. As per their dictates, anyone whose life is ruined by heroin will have their misery compounded with time behind bars. It’s astonishing that Art Pope is the pleader for compassion.

The voter-suppression bill’s campaign-finance atrocities count as Pope giveaways only if you think he’s the critical benefactor. This is nonsense. Now that Gilded-Age Republicans control “our” government, campaign liberalization benefits the whole traditionalist wing of business. As the Tillis consumer-loan transaction suggests, Republicans plan to extract donations from every interest they can bribe–not just Variety Wholesalers. Senator Phil Berger, a deft fundraiser, added these provisions to widen the party’s net.

Democrats must recognize these facts. If they continue to fixate on Pope, they’ll leave intact the truly dangerous entity: the Senate. We must reorient our strategy around defeating the Senate majority. Such a plan lacks the emotional allure of demonology, but the dividends will be real, not mythical.

Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.

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