Power Grabs: The Canary in the Coal Mine was North Carolina

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Republicans are not respecting the will of the voters. 

The latest power grabs by Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan, stung by losing the governorship in the midterm elections, are clearly anti-democratic but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen. In 2016, North Carolina did the same thing and set the example for what we’re seeing in the news these days.

Catch up on the Wisconsin power grab HERE.  Catch up on the Michigan power grab HERE

What happened in North Carolina in 2016?

The North Carolina state senate and house remained solidly Republican both before and after the November elections (Republicans held the senate 34-16 and the house 74-45.) But, the Republicans lost the governorship in the election. Governor Pat McCrory (R) was suffering from backlash from his anti-transgender “bathroom bill” and his challenger, North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) won the race by a slim margin.

For a month, McCrory alleged all kinds of ugly things about the election and refused to concede. He finally conceded the race in early December. Then, he called a special legislative session to tackle disaster relief (there was flooding from Hurricane Matthew and wildfires in the western part of the state) which then became the method by which the state legislature proposed two bills to drastically reduce the incoming governor’s powers. Those power grabs included:

✦ Cutting the number of staff the governor could appoint to his government from 1,500 down to 425.

✦ Required that all of the governor’s cabinet appointments be approved by the state senate.

✦ Limited the number of appointments the governor could make to the Board of Education and the University of North Carolina’s board of trustees.

✦ A requirement that legal cases go through the court of appeals (which had a Republican majority) before going to the state Supreme Court (which had a Democratic majority.)

✦ Changes to the state and county board of elections so that it was split exactly between Democrats and Republicans (while before there was a one seat majority for the governor’s party) and that the Republicans would lead the board in even-numbered years, i.e. election years.

The bills passed and Gov. McCrory signed them.

In January 2017, Cooper became governor. Thus began two extraordinarily frustrating years for him and the state Democrats. Since the Republicans also held a supermajority in each state legislative chamber, anytime Cooper would veto a new piece of legislation, the state legislature could override his veto. Cooper has also been in court over and over again to fight the constitutionality of various bills that the Republicans have passed, with mixed success.

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By the Charlotte Observer’s Kevin Siers (2017)

The only ray of hope I can provide is that in the 2018 election, the Democrats were able to make progress and they broke the supermajorities in both the state senate and house. The Republicans still have the majority, but they can no longer override the governor’s veto.

This is all to say that Republicans in a growing number of states are willfully circumventing the will of the voters. It happened in North Carolina, and now the anti-democratic virus that the Republicans are infected with is spreading.

An article at Vox captured it best: “Rather than doing the soul-searching that often comes after an electoral loss, Republicans are changing the rules to shield themselves from election outcomes. They are making the government less responsive to the popular will.”

We are living in dangerous times. Stay alert and stay loud.

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Categories: Explainers

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