Professional academic. Amateur musician. Obsessive fly-fisher. Compulsive kvetcher.
Dec 22, 2016
After tragedy then farce, what next?
Yesterday’s General Assembly clown show prompted yet another flurry of emails from out-of-state friends wanting to know “what the hell is going on down there?” No doubt soon-to-be-former Sen. Buck Newton would dismiss my friends and me as the “lunatic left from California and elsewhere.” The fact is, I’ve lived in Greensboro for nearly ten years, longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else in my life. It’s where I’ve made a home with my family. It’s where we intend to stay. And we’re sick and tired of it being made a national laughingstock.
Since I freely embrace the “left” designation (lunatic or otherwise), it’s no surprise that I’ve viewed the Republicans in Raleigh as the culprits. But in this latest fiasco, I hold the Democrats liable as accessories before and after the fact.
When news first broke on Monday about a deal brokered by Governor-elect Roy Cooper, I tried to be hopeful. Rescinding Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance was an unfortunate concession to anti-LGBT bigotry. But if would really lead to getting HB2 off the books, perhaps that could be a step forward on the road to liberty and justice for all. While I was skeptical that Phil Berger and Tim Moore would really hold up their end of the bargain, I trusted that Roy Cooper, who’s been in the game a long time, knew what he was doing.
Of course we didn’t get a repeal. Instead, we got an agonizingly long day of squabbling, maneuvering, posturing, and finger-pointing. Here’s a free Yiddish lesson for you: When the leader of the party with supermajority control drops a poison pill in legislation he’d promised to get passed, then blames the other party for refusing to swallow the pill, that’s what my people call Chutzpah.
In the end, voting against an illusory repeal was the right thing to do. So why do I fault the Democrats? Because they never should have gone along with this charade to begin with. After four years of Republican misrule, and on the heels of last week’s legislative coup, trusting Phil Berger and Tim Moore to deliver on any promise is simply careless.
In case there was any remaining doubt, the Republican majority in the NC General Assembly have now made perfectly clear their gleeful contempt for democracy. The measures they are pushing through in this latest special session, most notably S.B.4, are a naked power grab with the specific and unmistakable intent of nullifying last month’s election.
To be sure, not all of the proposed changes in the bills introduced late yesterday are inherently anti-democratic (with a small “d”). Most notably, eliminating partisan control in the state and county Boards of Elections would be a laudable reform. Unfortunately, the plan in S.B.4 would only erect a veneer of “bi-partisanship” without establishing truly independent, non-partisan oversight of our elections. Likewise, while the attempt to strip an incoming Governor’s authority over appointments reeks of partisan manipulation, that doesn’t mean that the existing allocation of appointment authority is sacrosanct.
Regardless of the merits, these are not matters that should be resolved in a hasty special session. These are significant changes to the structure of state government, with potentially far-ranging implications. And there is no pressing emergency, save for the inconvenient fact that the people of North Carolina have elected Democrat Roy Cooper to replace Republican Pat McCrory in the Governor’s mansion.
The fact is that the Republicans, having gerrymandered the General Assembly to give them veto-proof control, can and will pass whatever bills they want. Some of the more egregious over-reaches may eventually be invalidated in court (at no small expense, financial and reputational, to this state). That they opted to move these bills in a cloak and dagger fashion, rather than waiting until the regular term, only shows that they feel some residual pang of shame.
This may be the last best hope for the people of North Carolina–Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike–who want a state government that actually represents us and addresses our needs. We need to raise our voices, on the phone and in the street, and let the General Assembly know that we will not stand for legislation by ambush.