*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
By now a few Americans comprehend that Republicans, like their Koch-funded legislative mill ALEC, do not embrace and typically oppose the most basic tenets of democracy. One just has to peruse any number of scientific surveys and polls to see that every last policy Republicans promote and propose are contrary to the will of the people; because the people’s will conflicts with Republicans’ special interests.
Republicans in North Carolina are taking the more direct route in subverting democracy, and the will of the voters, with a deceitful scam that several other Republican-led states have enacted. There was a bit of good news this week when bigoted N.C. Governor Pat McCrory finally conceded defeat in his reelection bid, but he will likely not leave office without creating a several-year conservative super-majority in the State’s Supreme Court. The reason is clear; to guarantee the GOP’s legislature’s super-majority rules uncontested.
In the recent election, North Carolina voters rejected the troublesome conservative state Supreme Court and voted in some liberal justices. Obviously, the people understand that a fair amount of the state’s recent woes are due to the state’s High Court rubber-stamping bigoted laws and racial gerrymandering; the former is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite the voters’ will, the Republicans have planned to add two seats to the High Court and allow McCrory, the exiting governor, to appoint to conservative justices.
This kind of blatant subversion of the voters’ will is not unique among Republican-led states. In 2015 legislators in Georgia passed legislation adding two seats to its supreme court resulting in Republican governors perpetuating a conservative majority on the Court. Republican legislatures in Arizona, and several other states have utilized the same tactic to great effect.
According to an analyst with the National Center for State Courts, Bill Raftery said that what North Carolina Republicans are planning is “Part of a larger trend that’s occurred over the last eight to 10 years.” Mr. Raftery has spent his time tracking Republican efforts in Florida, South Carolina, Iowa and North Carolina to “manipulate” the number of justices on state supreme courts as a last resort attempt to maintain political dominance regardless the will of the people.
In North Carolina, the people clearly understood that the current conservative majority on the state’s High Court rubber-stamped every highly-controversial racial and religious legislation McCrory signed into law; only to be struck down in federal courts. In fact, the Republicans on the court “twice upheld the legislature’s redistricting maps that federal courts have ruled discriminated against African American voters.” That case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and likely contributed to voters electing liberal justices.
This latest planned scheme is not North Carolina Republicans’ first act to disregard the voters’ will and guarantee a conservative majority on the state supreme court. In 2015 Republicans passed a bill that, if it stood, would have prohibited one of the winning liberal candidates, Judge Mike Morgan, from even running for a seat in the election. The legislation drastically altered the state’s Supreme Court elections from “contested races to retention elections.” In those “fixed” elections the public votes “yes” or “no” on whether or not to retain the current justices on the bench. But even if the voters vote “no,” the bill allowed the Republican governor to appoint conservatives to the bench for a two year term. That law was struck down as a violation of the North Carolina state Constitution.
Reports are that the Republican will “consider the court-packing bill” during a planned emergency session this month. ThinkProgress reported that while House and Senate leaders have refused comment, local media quoted “anonymous sources” who heard legislators talking about the scheme. Apparently, one Republican legislator called the plan “stupid party politics” instead of what it really is; a plan to subvert the voters’ will.
Since Republicans will have the ability to override any Democratic governor’s veto with a state legislature super-majority, it portends a mess for the state going forward. Remember, North Carolina’s Republicans already passed laws eliminating civil rights protections of single women, people of color, practitioners of the “wrong” religion and the LGBTQ community.
North Carolina Republicans have also led the nation in subverting voting rights and there is no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court hearing the current challenge will strike down the racial gerrymandering laws to provide any relief to minority communities. The North Carolina voters are at the mercy of a current High Court that remains understaffed because Senate Republicans had their own despicable scheme to “pack the court.”
Republicans have never embraced the founders’ idea of a government of “checks and balances” to prevent tyranny. If North Carolina Republicans reject the voters’ choice of a more reasonable liberal court and remake it to complement Republicans’ unconstitutional policies, there will be no balance and nothing the people’s choice of a Democratic governor can do to stop them.
In fact, if Republicans proceed with their plan, governance in North Carolina will mirror governance in Washington where the concept of checks and balances went out the window; all because a minority of voters handed Republicans complete and unchallenged control of the nation.