In this Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2913, photo, speaker Rexanne Bishop holds her sign at the "Moral Monday" event in Greensboro, N.C.
Jerry Wolford/News & Record/AP

North Carolina Republicans launch a legislative ‘coup’

Updated
Once Republicans took over North Carolina’s state government, they not only pursued a relentlessly far-right agenda; they also abandoned all subtlety. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) ran as a pragmatic former mayor and business leader, but governed as a conservative crusader, imposing outlandish voting restrictions, creating new limits on civil and reproductive rights, and cutting tax and unemployment benefits on struggling families.

And so, this year, McCrory became the only incumbent governor in either party to lose re-election – which apparently drove North Carolina’s GOP-led state legislature to become even more reckless.
North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature is moving to strip powers from the state’s governor three weeks before Democrat Roy Cooper is set to succeed a member of their party in the executive mansion.

Lawmakers on Thursday began debating a bill to require Senate confirmation for cabinet appointments, reduce by 1,200 the number of state employees the governor could hire and fire at will and eliminate the governor’s power to pick certain university trustees.
Note, all of this came as a surprise. Late Wednesday, with the holiday season approaching, Republican officials announced that the General Assembly would gather for a special session, ostensibly to work on disaster relief for hurricane victims.

But hurricane victims are not foremost on GOP lawmakers’ minds. Rather, they’re focused almost entirely on curtailing the governing abilities of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper before he takes office on Jan. 7. Republicans disagree with the voters’ choice, so they’re taking steps to prevent him from governing before he can even begin.

Cooper explained yesterday, “Most people might think that this is a partisan power grab, but it is really more ominous.” Larry Hall, the Democratic Minority Leader in the state House, added that the purpose of the special session is “to nullify the vote of the people for governor.”

As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern explained, this is, in effect, a “legislative coup.”
What’s happening in North Carolina is not politics as usual. It is an extraordinarily disturbing legislative coup, a flagrant effort to maintain one-party rule by rejecting democratic norms and revoking the will of the voters. It is the kind of thing we might expect to see in Venezuela, not a U.S. state. It should terrify every American citizen who believes in the rule of law. This is so much more than a partisan power grab. This is an attack on democracy itself.
The Slate piece had a helpful overview of each of the dramatic proposals Republicans intend to ram through – proposals that two former North Carolina governors, one Democrat and one Republican, said yesterday go “too far.”

The indefensible scheme that’s underway is made possible by a massive GOP legislative majority, which exists in large part because Republicans carefully drew the district lines to ensure their own power. A federal court rejected that legislative map as discriminatory and ordered new elections – which will be held next year, giving voters a chance to undo some of the radicalism Republicans have imposed on the state.

I can appreciate the suspicion that this is just another political game, which politicians’ in both parties play when given the opportunity, but it’s really not. In states like Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland this year, Democratic governors working alongside Democratic legislatures saw a Republican win their gubernatorial races in 2016. In each case, Dem lawmakers could’ve scrambled to pass new laws, restricting the next governor’s ability to govern, but instead they accepted the election results and prepared for the transition process.

What North Carolina Republicans are doing is far uglier and more dangerous. You don’t have to be in the Tar Heel State to be alarmed by their unhinged antics.


North Carolina and Pat McCrory

North Carolina Republicans launch a legislative 'coup'

Updated