The massively immoral and anti-democratic power grab in North Carolina by Republicans bent on permanent one-party rule despite voters electing a Democratic party governor is just a preview of the GOP in the age of Trump, says Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen.
Republicans, having barely lost the governor’s mansion, have launched an anti-democratic legislative coup. In a hastily called emergency session — and with little deliberation or public review — GOP state legislators have proposed a series of antidemocratic measures that would fundamentally erode the power of Roy Cooper, the newly elected Democratic governor. The goal is simple: to use the authority of state law to ensure continued Republican political dominance.
The GOP’s power grab is both terrifying and comical in its breadth. Proposed legislation would force Cooper’s cabinet picks to be confirmed in the state Senate. Previously they were appointed without Senate confirmation.
It would reduce the number of political appointees that Cooper can chose, from 1,5000 to 300. This would reverse the Legislature’s earlier decision, when Cooper’s Republican predecessor, Pat McCrory became governor, to expand the number of appointees. It would also allow McCrory’s partisan picks to keep their jobs and become career state employees.
Cooper would be stripped of the right to appoint members to the state university’s boards of trustees — and that right would be transferred to the state Legislature, which, not surprisingly, has a Republican supermajority. That huge GOP advantage was obtained by a discriminatory and unconstitutionally drawn legislative map. A federal court has in recent weeks overturned the map and demanded it be redrawn, while also mandating a new election for the state Legislature to be held next year.
But since, apparently, North Carolina Republicans feel they haven’t done enough to rig the state’s voting system, they are now trying to radically erode Cooper’s control over state and local election boards. In perhaps the GOP’s most creative move, proposed legislation would also mandate that the board of elections be rotated between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats having the chairmanship in odd-numbered years and the GOP in even-numbered years. Guess which years most elections in North Carolina are held?
Just in case you think that state courts can reverse these decisions, the Legislature is also considering a bill that would make it more difficult to bring cases to the state Supreme Court, which — and you guessed it — is now controlled by Democrats.
The GOP’s actions fit a familiar pattern. This is the same group of legislators that in another emergency legislative session passed HB2, the so-called transgender bathroom law, which also prevented local jurisdictions from putting in place antidiscrimination laws to protect the rights of LGBT North Carolinians.
Together with McCrory, North Carolina Republicans cut unemployment benefits and funding for early childhood education. They gave generous tax breaks to the state’s wealthiest citizens while scrapping the earned-income tax credit. Perhaps most famously, the GOP passed the most onerous voting restriction law in the country, one that was overturned by a federal court because of evidence that the legislation “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
I’ve had my hair on fire for months now about the existential threat to democracy that Donald Trump represents. We’re already seeing evidence of his authoritarian tendencies and lack of respect for democratic norms in the five weeks since he won the presidency. But what’s happening in North Carolina right now is the real deal. This is a frontal assault on democracy.
McCrory signed these measures into law last night and there's nothing Democrats can do right now. He'll get to re-appoint nearly all of his state board choices for a four-year stint starting December 30, and Cooper will not have the ability to fire a single one of them, meaning that McCrory will get to appoint all of Cooper's picks.
The state's GOP Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest, is even more rabidly right-wing than McCrory and will get to make a number of appointments himself, without any oversight from Cooper at all.
In short, this is a coup. This would be like Congress and and outgoing Republican president signing a bill that would allow the outgoing president to pick all the new president's cabinet members, and a bill that would put Republicans in charge of elections in all 50 states during even-numbered years when federal elections were held. It would be a disaster.
But that's exactly what will happen in NC now. It's a banana republic, and I hope that voters throw the bums out.