Before we get to the subject at hand, let’s deal with several matters.
First, a confession. Though an Independent, I really now lean to the left a bit. But, compared to how far in the briar patch the national Republican Party is currently, I’m still a bit right of center. I started out as a Republican. So I know the spoor. They moved. I didn’t.
Second issue: for the purposes of this opining piece, I want us all to move to the middle. Shed your political leanings. Forget your party registration. Swallow hard and step out here in the barren middle with the rest of us - completely unclothed, politically speaking.
Now, focus on one of the four tenets of Rotary International: “Is It Fair?” Or, if you prefer, biblically speaking, think along the lines of “Do Unto Others.” Alrighty, now. Let’s get to work.
The subject at hand is either Cuba - or North Carolina. Unless you look really close these days, it’s awfully hard to tell them apart. Keep in mind, a Democrat won the governorship. Voters turned the GOP lifetime Dow Chemical employee out. Not decisively. But out. The GOP kept the legislature. Decisively. But not the governorship.
What that headed-out-the-door governor and the lame duck legislature have been doing in the last eight weeks passes neither the Rotary example nor the biblical admonition. Not by a long shot.
The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) is a non-partisan outfit that grades democracies worldwide on a 100 point scale. That scale is based on many factors but, among them, are voter access to polling places, influence of state-controlled media and the potential that an election was rigged. EIP rates all kinds of places and elections.
For 2016, North Carolina received a score of 58/100. So did Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia. Got that picture in mind? And that was just the election - not these last eight weeks.
UNC-Chapel Hill political scientist Dr. Andrew Reynolds wrote an op-ed for the Raleigh News & Observer in which he said “If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table - a deeply flawed, partly free democracy only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.” Wow! In America? Yes, Virginia, in America.
Gov. McRory and those legislative sore winners have about gutted the duties of the incoming governor. Oh, he still gets a staff car, a new credit card and keys to the executive bathroom. But that’s about it. He won’t be able to appoint his own state cabinet officials without approval of that Republican-dominated Senate - which ain’t likely to occur. The number of state appointive positions to be filled by the governor has been cut by about 80%. So the holdovers he’s forced to accept will be what? Republican appointees, that’s what.
The number of members of the State Board of Elections has been increased from five to eight. But - the GOP legislature gets to appoint four so that’ll assure a tie vote and effectively deadlock things. There are some other new “handcuff” laws but you get the idea.
One other note. The NC Legislature had rigged voting districts so badly - to shut out Democrats - that a federal court struck down the map as “unconstitutional” as of Nov. 9th and ordered new lines and a special 2017 election. EIP found North Carolina has the “least democratic redistricting in the world.” Yes, the world!
EIP also noted the USofA is the only nation that allows politicians who run by district to design the districts they run in. Only one!
I’d guess, about this point, all who were able to shed your partisan feelings to stand out here politically naked with the rest of us can see why you were asked to do that. Whatever your leanings - whatever your political sensibilities - what’s happened in North Carolina is just plain wrong. And totally unfair. Winning is one thing. Breaking the rules - and the law - is a whole new ball game.
The issue of political redistricting has been considered an “inside-the-park” issue for too many years. It’s often done only by political insiders who, too often, set lines to assure their own or their party’s survival. Very little public input is allowed and most of the public hasn’t cared. But, if war is too important to be left to the generals, creating political districts is too important to be left to the politicians.
The only way out of this morally reprehensible practice is to allow the courts to create independent redistricting panels. Take the crayons out of the hands of self-serving partisans and put them in the hands of “civilians” so to speak. North Carolina has gotten so far in the swamp a federal judge has trashed all state redistricting and not only ordered a new plan but also a whole new state election.
I remember a longtime Idaho pol once telling me “When we’re out, they do it to us and, when we’re in, we do it to them.” That really does happen everywhere to some extent. But North Carolina - and a couple of its neighbors - have gone far beyond just “tit-for-tat.” Voters are being rejected, disqualified and ignored. Voting district gaming has broken federal and state laws. The voter’s choice for governor has been handcuffed so he can’t deliver what the voters said they were buying.
Anyone who thinks Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee and a few others aren’t standing in that North Carolina shadow haven’t been paying attention.
The issue of fair and proper redistricting is more important now than ever. With a dead-in-the-water Congress, the Koch boys and other zillionaires are going directly to the states for the political candy they want. They’re changing our laws, endangering our welfare and trying to design the kind of nation they want one state at a time.
North Carolina has become a political cancer. It’s time for some major surgery.