North Carolina Republicans are staging a legislative coup, plus Glenn Kessler has 2016’s Biggest Lies. (More)
“They shouldn’t be pushed through in the dark of night”
Tarheel Republicans are really, really pissed that they lost both the governor’s mansion and their state supreme court majority in November. So they’ve decided to hamstring the new Democratic governor and the state supreme court:
Legislative Republicans clashed fiercely with Gov.-elect Roy Cooper Thursday as the House and Senate voted to sharply limit his appointment powers – and Cooper vowed to sue them over any law he deems unconstitutional.
The legislature is holding a hastily called special session to restructure many aspects of state government after Cooper, the state’s attorney general and a Democrat, defeated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in November. Thursday’s action featured party-line votes, hundreds of protesters and about 20 arrests.
The GOP bill would reduce the number of appointees exempt from civil service protection from 1500 – to which it was raised after McCrory took office – down to 300, so most McCrory’s appointees would become permanent jobs. It would also increase the state elections board from 5 to 8 members, and county boards from 3 to 4. Currently the governor’s party gets a majority on these boards; the new bill would split seats equally between Democrats and Republicans, but require GOP chairs in election years. Yes, really.
The bill would also eliminate appeal-by-right on constitutional issues to the state supreme court, forcing litigants to first go through the Republican-dominated state court of appeals.
All of this is being shoved through in a special session that was ostensibly called to pass hurricane relief funding. And the same state Republican legislators who passed the infamous HB2 to override the Charlotte City Council on LGBT rights and the minimum wage now say they’re undercutting the governor because they’re closer to the people:
Rep. Jeff Collins, a Rocky Mount Republican … said the legislature should have more power because its members are more accountable to citizens than the governor. “They don’t get to see the governor pumping gas in Rocky Mount,” he said. “Our legislators are the closest state officials to the electorate. I think anything we can do to balance the scales back in that direction is a good move.”
I would note that, by that logic, city councils “are more accountable to citizens” than state legislatures. But as we all know, God and the Founding Fathers said the ideal level of representation is … whatever office(s) Republicans hold.
Governor-elect Cooper is not impressed by that ‘logic’ either:
“Major changes in the way state government operates should be done deliberately, with input from all parties, particularly something as important as elections and making sure people have the opportunity to vote,” Cooper said. “They shouldn’t be pushed through in the dark of night.”
The ‘dark of night’ allusion is because Republicans are pushing all of this through in an ’emergency’ special session that was called to fund hurricane relief:
Expanding beyond the disaster recovery legislation the General Assembly approved Wednesday, Republican lawmakers quickly proposed sweeping changes to state government, including proposals that would diminish the governor’s authority to make appointments.
Plus they want to get it done before a federal court order forces them to redraw racially-gerrymandered districts and hold special elections. And Brad Freidman notes that Republicans in other states are copying these tactics:
With a similarly unprecedented coup at the federal level – for example, a stolen U.S. Supreme Court majority – Republicans in a number of other states are also quickly working to pass newly restrictive laws to make it harder for Democrats to even take part in elections around the nation.
It’s difficult to win a war when you’re fighting against a dishonest opponent who has no interest in playing fairly. The questions then remain: When will Democrats figure that out? What do they intend to do about it? And who, if anyone, will emerge to lead the way in the current Democratic power vacuum more than a month since Election Day?
Reconstruction and its ultimate abandonment should remind us that while political and racial polarization are terrible things, reconciliation without justice is worse. In 1877, our country overcame a genuine constitutional crisis over a contested presidential election via a grand bargain between the two parties in which (according to most historians, anyway) Reconstruction and with it the guarantee of basic rights for African-Americans were sacrificed.
We’re still a decade away from the sesquicentennial of that fateful event, celebrated at the time (and for many decades later, thanks to what we might call the Birth of a Nation/Gone With the Wind view of Reconstruction) as a national triumph. Yes, we could use a memorial that sets the record straight and warns us against the perpetual peril of denying full citizenship to anyone in our midst. As a white Southerner old enough to remember the Jim Crow system Reconstruction might have prevented, I hope President Obama acts before the opportunity disappears.
As Jonathan Chait wrote earlier this week, “Democrats need to stop fighting the last election and start planning to win the next one” – starting now – or our voters will have no chance in 2018 and 2020.
In other news, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler offers a list of 2016’s Biggest Lies. Not surprisingly – because ‘balance’ – his list opens with a statement by Hillary Clinton about her emails:
“Director Comey said my answers were truthful”
If there was any issue that caused Hillary Clinton to narrowly lose an election many expected she would win, it was the controversy over her private email server. In this statement, Clinton cherry-picked statements by FBI Director James B. Comey to skirt more disturbing findings about the FBI investigation. He said there was no evidence that she lied to the FBI, but he declined to say whether she told the truth to the American people. Clinton later admitted that she had “short-circuited” her answer.
For the record, Clinton was answering a question on whether she lied to the FBI. Kessler reframed that as “whether she told the truth to the American people” … and gave her response Four Pinocchios because it didn’t answer the question he made up. In a nutshell, he did this:
Q: Did you have macadamias for breakfast today?
Me: No, I didn’t have macadamias for breakfast.
Kessler: The Squirrel denies eating macadamias for breakfast, but he tweeted that he would ask the Chef to bake macadamia brownies for breakfast. We give this Four Pinocchios.
And you wonder why people don’t trust media fact-checkers….
Good day and good nuts