In recent years, Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina haven’t exactly honored basic norms of American governance. We are, after all, talking about a group of GOP officials who’ve imposed sweeping voting restrictions, redrawn district lines in ways that were later deemed racist and illegal, and stripped an incoming Democratic governor of his powers, before he took office, because he had the audacity to win an election.
At times, it’s seemed as if North Carolina Republicans went out of their way to identify the democratic norms that undergird our political system, so that they’d know specifically which principles to attack.
Take yesterday, for example. The News & Observer in Raleigh reported:
In an early-morning move that shocked and angered Democrats in the chamber, the N.C. House of Representatives voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget. Just over half of the 120 members were present to vote.
Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, made the motion to reconsider the state budget, and chaos in the chamber quickly ensued. Democrats in the chamber vehemently objected to the bill being brought up, saying they were told there would be no votes during the 8:30 a.m. session and that the session was just a formality so work could begin.
Thanks to aggressive gerrymandering, Republicans maintain a sizable majority in the North Carolina House, but Democrats made gains in the 2018 elections, which ended the GOP’s supermajority in the chamber. As a result, veto-override votes in the state House are far more difficult.
It’s against this backdrop that Republicans yesterday reportedly told lawmakers there would be no legislative action in yesterday morning. With few Democrats in the chamber, GOP leaders reversed course, hatched a secret plan, brought up the budget Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed earlier this year, and overrode him.
The governor was attending a 9/11 memorial at the time and, like other North Carolina Democrats, had no idea about the stunt the GOP intended to pull.
The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer was understandably unrestrained in its condemnation of the Republican lawmaker’s maximalist tactics, describing GOP leaders as being “beyond shame.”
The editors called yesterday’s antics “a stunning display of contempt for democracy,” adding, “[T]his isn’t a case simply of hardball politics and sly legislative maneuvering. This is a case of breaking faith with the people of North Carolina and with all who strove and sacrificed over generations to protect and advance North Carolina’s political system as one based on a true representation of the people’s will, a true democracy.”
I realize I shouldn’t be surprised, but occasionally, the lack of honor among those in positions of public trust amaze me.
Looking ahead, the budget measure now heads to the state Senate, which also has a Republican majority thanks to gerrymandering that was recently deemed illegal.