— Slate (@Slate) April 13, 2017
Just weeks after a court struck down the centerpiece of North Carolina Republicans’ legislative coup, the GOP-dominated legislature has initiated a new power grab that will once again strip authority from the Democratic governor and curtail voting rights throughout the state. This week’s vote marks another attempt by Republicans to consolidate power before judicial intervention and shifting demographics threaten their dominance in the state. Their trouble began in December, when Republican Gov. Pat McCrory finally conceded defeat to his Democratic rival Roy Cooper. Days earlier, a federal court had ruled that Republicans’ veto-proof majorities in both houses of the legislature were the result of an unconstitutional racial gerrymander and ordered new elections. The GOP felt its grasp on power slipping away—so it held a special session to dilute Cooper’s authority and restrict the franchise.
If you’ve been paying attention to what’s been happening in North Carolina over the past year or so, you understand democracy is under assault in the Tar Heel State. How else to explain the “If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em” philosophy which seems to be the Prime Directive of the state’s Republican Party. Incensed that “their” governorship was stolen from them, Republicans in the legislature have embarked on a plan to kneecap Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The endgame of their plan appears to be consolidating power in their hands and rendering Democrats impotent bystanders.
If you can’t win at the ballot box, steal in in the legislature.
Having heavily invested in suppressing minority voting and legally defining the LGBTQ community as second-class citizens devoid of human and legal rights, Republicans didn’t take Pat McCrory’s loss well. What followed was what could only be described as a scorched-earth policy in which they destroyed democracy in order to maintain their primacy.
I don’t want to paint a picture in which Republicans are the only ones portrayed as capable of destroying democracy in order to keep themselves in power. It’s just that they seem to be the only ones willing to burn America to the ground in order to “save” it- if by “save” you mean “passing laws which disenfranchises minorities and disempowers Democrats.”
A key feature of the insurgence was an overhaul of the state election board. Previously, the governor appointed five members to the board—three from his or her party and two from the minority party. In turn, the state board appointed three members to each county election board—two from the governor’s party and one from the minority party. These boards created and implemented rules regarding voting procedures, including early and absentee voting, registration, ballot access, and precinct location. Under McCrory, Republicans held a majority on every board, and they used this power to curb voting rights quite effectively. After a federal appeals court blocked a voter suppression law for “target[ing] African Americans with almost surgical precision,” for instance, state and county election boards implemented the law’s worst provisions anyway.
You read that correctly; Republicans ignored a federal appeals court’s ruling and forged ahead with their plan to curb votings rights. Their intent- preventing minorities, a traditional Democratic constituency- from exercising their franchise was apparent from the start. Republicans intended to create a system which would ensure a veto-proof Republican majority. It wasn’t about the will of the people, or protecting and preserving democracy. It was a naked power grab, plain and simple…and Republicans barely bothered to conceal their intent.
It’s easy to blame North Carolina Republicans for an evil, self-interested assault on American democracy, a not altogether inaccurate description of what they’re up to. The real blame belongs to the people of North Carolina, who voted these despots into office. If it’s true that Americans get exactly the quality of leadership they deserve, the people of North Carolina must have some horrible karma. They installed a cabal of Christocratic, anti-democratic racists and homophobes who care for democracy only insofar as it can be manipulated for their benefit.
This is why we can’t have nice things.