Saturday, December 17, 2016

NC: New Depths of Shame

Once upon a time, North Carolina was a forward-thinking state that took good care of its citizens. But they have spent the last few years hell-bent on turning it into a backward bottom-feeder. Now, in an attempt to win the prize for Worst Legislature in America (sorry Florida and Ohio), the North Carolina has decided to go full-on racist banana republic.

We'll get to this latest round of idiocy in a moment, but first, a refresher on Our Story So Far.

The set-up for all of this is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country (only fitting as North Carolina actually invented the practice and name). So badly gerrymandered that federal court said they had to redraw the boundaries-- but not in time for this last election.

@NCHouseSpeaker Tim Moore really needs to hear from you

The gerrymandering was just part of North Carolina's attempt to squelch the voting rights of black citizens. A federal judge also struck down several other Jim Crow voting restrictions, based on the fact that officials had literally studied various voting methods to determine which ones were most often used by black voters and then targeted the removal of those. The federal justice used the term "insane." The nicest thing you could say about the whole maneuver is that maybe-- maybe-- the NC GOP was trying to suppress black voters because they tend to vote Democrat, and not just because they're black. So maybe the NC GOP is just a bunch of partisan anti-democracy asshats and not actual racist anti-democracy asshats. Maybe.

The NC GOP had its eyes on other targets as well. Those damn college students with their fancy book-learning and liberal thinking. GOP Governor Pat McCrory took an axe to the UNC budget and brought in the decidedly-not-liberal Margaret Spellings to run the place. She's been just swell.

Meanwhile, the legislature and governor continued a multi-prong attack on public education. NC has tried to catch up to Ohio and Florida in its willingness to let any shyster with a checkbook and a dream set up a charter school and make a bundle while not being held accountable for results.  They have implemented the dim-witted policy of flunking all third graders who don't pass the Big Standardized Test for reading. They jumped at the chance to set up an Achievement School District, a mechanism by which states take over school districts so that they can be turned into more money-making charters, a mechanism abandoned by one if its biggest fans because it doesn't work.

North Carolina's legislature and governor have also done their best to end teaching as a profession in the state. They've withheld raises and tried to use them as bargaining chips to get teachers to give up tenure (because the court told them they can't just unilaterally take tenure away). And they messed with pay in a manner so bad and insulting that even their own Teacher of the Year called them out. Through it all, Pat McCrory kept trying to sell himself as an education governor, as if teachers are utter morons.

And, yes, North Carolina's GOP is the group that decided that banning transgender citizens from certain bathrooms was a hill they wanted to fight and die on. That story's important because it's the prelude to the current new depths of shameful shamelessness for the NC GOP.

The NC Attorney General who called the bathroom bill a national embarrassment was Roy Cooper. Cooper went up against McCrory for the governor's seat, and he won. McCrory (the first NC incumbent governor to ever lose) at first made plenty of noise about questioning ballots and challenging the results before conceding.

"I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken and we should now do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper," McCrory said in a statement. But Pat McCrory has told a lot of lies, and this was just another one.

Not only did McCrory lose, but the state Supreme Court was flipped from conservative to liberal majority. And the NC GOP wasn't having any of it. So on Wednesday night, they called a special session specifically to change the rules and strip power from the court and the office of governor.

The full list of law rewrites include

* change the rules so that Democrats can't have control of any county boards of election
* effectively downsizing the state board of elections, and requiring it to have a GOP chair in election years
* make Supreme Court elections partisan (currently, candidates aren't identified by party)
* change the appeals policy for the court
* reduce governor-appointed positions from 1,500 to 300
* require cabinet appointees to have Senate approval
* generally moving power for various functions, like running the state university system, to offices that will be held by Republicans

Some of these moves are attempts to undo power grabs that the GOP made when they took power. For instance, when McCrory took office, the legislature upped governor-appointed positions from 500 to 1,500. So part of what we're seeing here is a lesson that political morons apparently have to repeatedly re-learn-- when you give an office a shiny new hammer, you have to consider the possibility that the next guy to hold the hammer will not be your friend.

But mostly this is an attempt to negate many of the effects of the election by simply rewriting the law. It is banana republic behavior, and one more chapter in the continuing saga written by the NC GOP's belief that we are not actually a nation of laws, but a nation of white guys who should be able to do whatever they can think of to hold onto power.

Plenty of North Carolinians have stopped by the capital to speak their mind, and the legislature is responding by shutting themselves up in private and arresting citizens who dare to question this power grab, as well as journalists who dare to cover it. It's a measure of just how transparently undemocratic this is that the legislature has not managed to articulate even a half-decent bullshit cover story about why they're doing this.

Here's a pretty piece of baloney from Senator Phil Berger (@SenatorBerger) that tries to present some rationale that he says has been "covered up by the press" but every thin piece of his crappy argument is shown to be a lie by the simple fact that the legislature somehow didn't feel the need to correct any of these issues until a Democrat was elected governor. House Speaker Tim Moore (@NCHouseSpeaker) has made some noises about "balance of power," and yet is untroubled by gerrymandered districting in the state. Meanwhile, Pat "We should do everything can to support the 75th governor" McCrory has started signing these bills as they ooze out of the legislature.

Cooper has promised to take his own legislature to court, but at this point North Carolina really has locked up the title of Worst Legislature in the US, and like a team looking past district contests to a state or national title, the NC GOP seems intent on winning an international prize. Willingness to essentially overturn an election, end democracy, and institute one party rule is hardly a regular American trick, but belongs in nations that don't even pretend to believe in a democratic process. The NC GOP have brought shame not just on themselves, not just on their state, but on the whole nation, and I hope you'll take a few moments every day to tell them so. 


  1. As a native North Carolinian (now transplant Pennsylvanian), I never thought I would encounter situations challenge my verbal acumen to describe them. 2016 has stripped me of this belief. Words cannot express my rage. And worse, I am related by marriage to some of these yahoos. Christmas vacation should be interesting.

  2. Peter, not only is your insight and analysis always razor-sharp, but if these terrible things have to happen, at least we can enjoy your entertaining, satirical wit in how you write about them, to take off the edge of complete despondency.

  3. Anyone here hoping that Obama and congress conspire to limit president elect Trump's power?

    I certainly am.

    Will you allow this post?