By the time most of you read this, a legislative coup d’état will have already taken place in North Carolina. While the media may attempt to describe this coup as a partisan over reaction to Governor McCroy’s defeat, it is really all about ensuring that Republican’s maintain control, regardless of the outcome of the election.
Some of the readers of our local paper, the Central Virginian, may recall my March 13th, 2011 letter to the editor titled “We are all Wisconsin,” which discussed how the Republican controlled Michigan legislature voted to allow the Governor to appoint individuals with the power to invalidate local elections, denying municipalities control of their own destinies, if a municipality was deemed in financial trouble, with a so called emergency manager law.
And such ALEC inspired legislature is just one small part of Republican’s plan to take this country back to the Gilded Age, part of a well coordinated RICO like effort to seize control of state legislatures and Congress. They are not interested in, creating jobs, or balancing budgets, and are working hard at every level to turn the country staunchly conservative on every issue imaginable, legally and permanently.
Something they have been working on well before Obama’s election in 2008. You may also recall how some of those cities; Flint and Detroit have in the years since become the center of national attention. Flint, because of dangerously unsafe drinking water, caused by the emergency management teams cost saving measures and more recently how both Flint and Detroit ended up with unusually high numbers of people voting in every election but the Presidential, and how some 75, 000 votes in those cities were not counted.
Yet according to Detroit officials those votes can not be recounted because of “poor record keeping” – presumably one of the rationales for any recount.
You may also recall my saying that if such a clandestine takeover of local governments was allowed to flourish in other states; American life would become unrecognizable in a remarkably short time. Well in the years since, many Republican controlled states have become experimental labs.
Unfortunately, unlike Thomas Edison’s fabled Menlo Park, dubbed the Invention Factory, the only innovation coming from these states has been the different ways they have found to inflict misery on their inhabitants.
And it’s the predictable result of what happens when radical free market ideology replaces common sense, you get crony capitalism, failed economies, and failed states. You may already be familiar with some of these experiments in states like; Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Mississippi, and Kansas.
Wherever Republicans have taken over state legislatures, the results have been a dramatic turn for the worse Just look at what has happened to our neighboring state to the south, North Carolina. In 2008, the state elected Obama for president, but by 2011, riding on American’s for Prosperity’s astroturfed Tea Party wave both the House and the Senate had flipped to Republican control.
With Republicans in control of redistricting, they drew up new lines with the generous assistance of Billionaire Art Pope, in an effort to solidify their future electoral chances, laying the groundwork for their “conservative revolution.” In 2012, North Carolina’s legislature banned the state from basing coastal policies on scientific predictions of sea level rise, preferring to base their solutions on “historical data.”
That same year, Republican Pat McCrory, the former CEO of Duke Energy was elected as Governor and the state took an even more dramatic turn to the right.
In 2013, North Carolina cut weekly unemployment benefits by 40 percent,and shortened the period of time when workers could receive the benefits, all at a time when North Carolina’s unemployment levels were approaching 10 percent. Under the guise of “tax reform,” the state imposed a significant tax burden on the middle class. Along with repealing “teacher tenure” for any teacher hired after July 2013, and investing more taxpayer dollars in “private school vouchers,”
Most significantly, they repealed many of the measures previous legislatures had passed to increase voter participation throughout the state.
Then, in March 2016, the deeds of North Carolina’s Republican party became national news when, in a less than 12 hour Special Session, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill that not only prevented localities from enacting anti-LGBT discrimination measures, but made it more difficult for any person to enforce claims of discrimination in state courts.
Needless to say the publicity from this so-called “bathroom bill” generated protests around the nation and has prompted many businesses to stop expansion plans in the state or consider relocating, along with the cancellation of many major sporting events. An issue that was a major factor in Governor McCroy’s defeat in his 2016 re-election bid.
Last month, Democrat Roy Cooper unseated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, while Democrats also gained a majority on the state Supreme Court, breaking the Republican stranglehold on North Carolina’s state government. Now, though, Republicans have used the pretext of a lame-duck special legislative session—ostensibly convened for disaster relief—to introduce a slew of measures that radically curtail the authority of the governor and even the high court itself.
This nakedly partisan plot is unprecedented in modern state history. Indeed, you have to go back to the 1890s to find a parallel, when reactionaries violently introduced Jim Crow after a multiracial coalition of progressives briefly won power.You may recall how almost immediately after the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, how Republican controlled states went into action to suppress the vote, and that it was major factor in the Drumpf becoming (at least for now) our next president.
And North Carolina was no exception; McCrory signed the nations most sweeping voter suppression law in half a century, which included a strict voter ID requirement, the end of same-day registration, and cutbacks to early voting opportunities. And Republicans literally ordered data on which voting methods black voters used more and eliminated them.
This law was so extreme that a federal court said it “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision” when it struck it down in July. Meanwhile, Republicans had previously gerrymandered the legislature so aggressively that they won veto-proof majorities in 2012 despite losing the popular vote, and they easily maintained their stranglehold on the legislature in despite McCrory’s loss.
Now that the court has struck down those maps as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, it means that North Carolina Republicans are using an illegally obtained legislative majority to usurp the powers of the fairly elected new Democratic governor.
Plain and simple, Republicans are attempting to usher in a new era of Jim Crow, and what we are witnessing is simply a bid to overturn democracy itself, just as we have seen in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin with the Presidential election recount.
Considering that Republican’s in Virginia are just one vote away from a veto proof super majority in the House, and whose current control of the Senate hinges on a special election to replace “Uncle Tom” Garrett in the 22nd Senate district, don’t be surprised to see all manner of extreme “positioning” during the coming year.
Like; H.R. 268 which proposes to make the January 27th anniversary of “Roe v. Wade,” a Day of Woe in Virginia where citizens are “encouraged” to lower their flags to half-staff in mourning. And should a Republican become Governor this year, it doesn’t require much imagination to envision how long it will take to Virginia become just like North Carolina.
So the question I have for readers of this blog, considering that we sat back and did nothing during the Bush Era, and passively watched as the Republican’s took over the House side of the General Assembly, do you really want to see what will happen when they have control of all the legislative levers?
If now isn’t the time to start engaging in “massive resistance” and organization against these retrograde ideas and policies, when is?