Daily Kos has the best summary of this past week’s truly disturbing events in North Carolina that somehow merited barely a mention in the GOP-friendly media here in Arizona. As the New York Times warned years ago in reference to the Watergate scandal:
If political tyranny ever comes to America, it is likely to arrive not in the guise of some alien ideology such such as Communism or Nazism but as a uniquely American way of preserving this country’s traditional values. Instead of tyranny being the dramatic culmination radical protest and revolution, it can come silently, slowly, like fog creeping in “on little cat feet.”
Daily Kos reports, North Carolina Republicans execute legislative coup against democracy itself:
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 advance 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.
The scope of the GOP’s war on democracy is stunning. In this special session, Republicans enacted a new law that removes the governor’s party’s control over all the state and county boards of election. That same measure also makes previously nonpartisan state Supreme Court races into partisan contests and requires state constitutional challenges to first go before the Republican-dominated state Court of Appeals. The legislature has passed another bill awaiting McCrory’s signature that would require state Senate approval for the governor’s cabinet appointees. This bill would also slash the governor’s number of executive branch appointees from 1,500 to 425 and eliminate the governor’s ability to appoint members of the state Board of Education and the University of North Carolina’s board of trustees.
Under McCrory, Republican legislators had already put North Carolina on the front lines of the battle against voting rights. Almost immediately after the United States Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, McCrory signed America’s 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. Republicans literally ordered data on which voting methods black voters used more and eliminated them. The law was so extreme that a federal court said it “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision” when it struck it down in July.
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 them in 2016 despite McCrory’s loss. A court in 2016 struck down those maps as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, meaning that North Carolina Republicans are using an illegally obtained legislative majority to usurp the powers of the fairly elected new Democratic governor. Democracy relies on electoral losers recognizing the legitimacy of the victor, and this breathtaking power-grab can only be described as a full-blown legislative coup designed to subvert democracy itself—and reinstate a new era of Jim Crow.
The Daily Kos summary goes into great detail on how Tea-Publicans in North Carolina have systematically engaged in a coup against democracy in order to maintain their control over power. You should read the entire post.
Paul Waldman at the Washington Post warns, The GOP coup in North Carolina previews what we’re going to see everywhere:
There’s a kind of coup going on in North Carolina, one that tells us a lot about just how far Republicans are willing to go to hold on to power and undercut Democrats.
Here’s what’s happening: After a close election, Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican incumbent Pat McCrory to win the governorship. So the Republican state legislature decided to call an “emergency” session before Cooper takes office and strip the governor of as many powers as it could.
The bills Republicans are pushing through the legislature would, among other things, cut the number of appointments the governor can make by 80 percent; make his cabinet appointments subject to state senate confirmation; transfer authority for the state board of education from the governor to the superintendent (a Republican ousted a Democrat this year in the election for that seat); move the authority to appoint trustees of the University of North Carolina from the governor to the legislature; and dilute the governor’s control over the state board of elections and mandate that the board will be chaired by a Democrat in odd-numbered years (when there are no elections) and a Republican in even-numbered years (when there are elections).
And they’re barely bothering to pretend that if a Republican governor is elected in four years they won’t just reverse most or all of these changes.
This isn’t just hardball politics. This is a fundamentally anti-democratic approach to government, one that says that when we win, we get to implement our agenda, and when you win, you don’t.
Hmmm, just like Senator Mitch McConnell’s total obstruction policy of “just say no” to everything proposed by Democrats and President Obama for the past eight years. This isn’t something new.
To put this in context, perhaps nowhere in the country have Republicans moved more aggressively to solidify power by disenfranchising their opponents as they have in North Carolina. Immediately after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, Republicans enacted a voter suppression law that “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision,” in the words of the appeals court that later struck it down. The district lines already give the Republicans an enormous advantage: In 2016, Republicans outpolled Democrats in North Carolina congressional races by a margin of only 53-47, yet they held 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats.
The situation in the state house is similar: In this closely divided swing state, Republicans enjoy supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature because of aggressively gerrymandered legislative districts that pack African-Americans together in order to dilute their power. The districts were declared unconstitutional by a federal court earlier this year, and the state has been ordered to redraw them and hold special elections next year. But in the meantime, in this year’s election Republicans won 56 percent of votes to the state senate, yet controlled 35 of the chamber’s 50 seats. In the state house the results were similar: Republicans won 53 percent of the votes, yet hold 74 of the 120 seats.
[T]here’s a shamelessness to the way Republicans change rules, trample over long-established norms, and generally act as though any result except one in which they win is inherently illegitimate. And that’s the fundamental principle that guides them. As far as they’re concerned, Democratic votes are not real votes and therefore can and should be suppressed; elections in which Democrats win can only have been stolen; and elected Democrats are usurpers against whom no tactic of subversion is out of bounds.
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In the next few years, Democrats are going to be up against versions of the North Carolina model in every state where Republicans have power and at the national level as well: efforts not just to implement Republican policy goals but to change the rules to make it as difficult as possible for Democrats to win. It has already been happening for a while, and it’s only going to accelerate.
Sinclair Lewis warned of such tyranny in his semi-satirical novel It Can’t Happen Here in 1935. It not only can happen here, it already is happening, coming silently, slowly, like fog creeping in “on little cat feet” to a GOP-controlled legislature near you.