Just for the record, North Carolina is not a banana republic. But, hey, we’re working on it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and tearing down the Tar Heel State’s democratic government can’t be wrought in just a few years.
Here in North Carolina we took a huge leap toward becoming a banana republic this week when the GOP-controlled leadership voted to pass a number of bills designed to undercut the authority of in-coming Democratic governor Roy Cooper during a “special session” of the state’s General Assembly. Although billed as a special session to address disaster relief for North Carolina’s hurricane victims, its primary purpose was for creating a disaster of another kind for the state’s citizens who had elected Cooper as their governor. Several years ago our state’s GOP traded in their “job creators” mantra for “chaos creators.” And there is no doubt they are much better at the latter than they are at the former.
Not all conservatives were on board with the power grab. Mike Kokai of the Art Pope-funded John Locke Foundation said of the power-mad GOP “(It) causes lots of problems for anyone who wants to see good government…to see this being done as it’s being done, has to raise some red flags.”
But here in North Carolina this sort of monkey business is so common that it has become the “new normal” and far too many of the state’s citizens are prone to accept it as such. Red flags? What red flags?
Senator Harry Brown (R-Onslow) told the news media that this move by his party was totally justified, citing the 1976 “Christmas Massacre” (yes, 1976) in which newly-elected Democratic governor Jim Hunt fired a bunch of Republicans because they were, well, Republicans. Says the sanctimonious senator, “Everybody knows the history and we’ll just leave it at that.”
Fortunately, there are those in the state who don’t intend on leaving it at that. Most notably Rev. William Barber and the NC NAACP will continue to bring attention to these kinds of shenanigans in the state capital as well as bringing lawsuits. Undoubtedly, as the result of this past week’s actions by the GOP, resistance will only grow.
The news media should also be involved in labeling these kinds of actions for what they are. For example, WRAL came out strongly against the unprecedented move this week stating in an editorial: “Amid the sorry spectacle, we see a fundamental question North Carolina must ask: What kind of person puts partisan politics above the orderly functioning of state government?….This special session is giving us a clear answer to that question–every GOP legislator who votes for these ‘get even’ bills is guilty of that sorry charge.”
Of course in-coming governor Roy Cooper has no intention of letting something like this go unchallenged. “This has got to stop,” he said in response to the partisan politics on display this past week. “I will use every tool in the governor’s office, to fight for everyday North Carolinians, including the courts if necessary. If I believe that laws passed by the legislature hurt working families and are unconstitutional, they will see me in court.”
What happened this past week in Raleigh doesn’t just affect the governor’s ability to govern. It affects all of us who call North Carolina home. We should all be involved in letting the GOP leadership know that we will not give up our democracy without a fight.
On Friday, President Obama speaking at a news conference in Washington, perhaps his last as president, warned of the dangers of partisan politics. North Carolina’s politicians would be wise to heed that warning.
(photo credit: Jerry Wolford/News & Record/AP)