With all of the furor going on around the need to end Trumps presidency or at least check it to some degree, the happenings in my own North Carolina have gone almost completely unnoticed. If you really want to understand what the Alt-Reich is all about, you need look no further than North Carolina. I can tell you that anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of North Carolinians disapprove of their state government and the Trump Administration. However, the state is so effectively gerrymandered that somewhere between 30 and 35% of the state’s electorate has complete rule over the other 65 to 70%. The people on the right will tell you that the North Carolina Republican Party is not doing anything that the Democratic Party didn’t do 40 years ago. Aside from the obvious fact that the Republicans responsible for the gerrymandering were all Democrats 40 years ago, there’s another major difference in the situation today and that of 40 years ago. Forty years ago, the majority of North Carolinians were Democrats as they are today. Back then, they represented 80% of the electorate while today, the number is more like 55 or 60%, but still, firmly in the majority. And yet Republicans hold 10 of the 13 seats in the NC delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives – and not just any Republicans but the most radical that you can imagine.
If you ever wondered what America would look like if Trump had his way about everything on his agenda, you need look no further than North Carolina. They have completely eliminated all but people loyal to their reactionary agenda from all state boards and any state agency that requires appointment or approval from the legislature. They brazenly seek to disenfranchise minorities, particularly African Americans, and continue to do everything they can to criminalize any form of homosexuality. With all the insanity in the world related to gun violence, they have advocated encouraging toddlers and adolescents to own and shoot guns and for teenagers to carry guns into bars and public places that serve alcohol. They are anti-environmental protection, anti-woman’s rights, anti-public education and of course anti-immigration of people of color. They have used the letter of the law, frequently out of context to push through their agenda over the screaming objections of as much a 70% of everyone in the state. When the law doesn’t suite them, they use their veto proof majority to change the law. They realize they will probably never be able to elect a governor, who is elected by popular vote, so they have sought to usurp all of the governor’s power by changing the rules and the law when they can to strip the governor of his powers. Things they can’t change, they are attempting to change by ballot initiatives to change the state constitution to allow for their absolute control over government. They seek to confuse voters by using misleading language in those ballot initiatives to lure the less wary into voting against their own interests (language was recently struck down by North Carolina courts on 5 of their ballot initiatives on the grounds they were too ambiguous). Most of these initiatives don’t have a prayer of passing but serve to mobilize their more ignorant supporters, who ironically are the most negatively effected by these initiatives, but who blindly support anything their leadership puts forth out of the belief they are taking from minorities to give to white citizens.
When the law doesn’t work for them, they resort to intimidation. Their leadership threatened to impeach the judges that ruled against them in the ballot initiative case. They reasoned that by ruling against them, the judges were “obstructing the will of the people”. When faculty, students and a majority of alumni advocated removing a civil war monument from the UNC Chapel Hill campus, the Republican legislature refused. Young people being how they are took the initiative and tore down the monument without legislative approval. The Republican legislature was livid that people dared to defy them. They threatened to prosecute every student involved. The leader of the North Carolina Republican party went as far as to suggest that if such acts of civil disobedience against confederate monuments continued, the result might be an actual civil war. This marks the first time I’ve ever heard such words come out of the mouth of a legitimate public official and not from some neo-fascist extremist, as one would expect.
In past posts, I’ve quoted Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of How Democracies Die. They call what the North Carolina legislature is doing “Constitutional hardball”, a phrase they use describe when the party in power ignores traditional political norms and civility to impose their will on the opposition. Another words, they chose the narrowest interpretation of the law over negotiation with their adversaries to achieve their objectives. When this occurs, democracy and the democratic process are in real trouble. This is so important for you to understand that want to quote them directly:
“Polarization can destroy democratic norms. When socio-economic, racial, or religious differences give rise to extreme partisanship, in which societies sort themselves into political camps whose worldviews are not just different but mutually exclusive, toleration becomes harder to sustain. Some polarization is healthy – even necessary – for democracy. And indeed, the historical experience of democracies in Western Europe shows us that norms can be sustained even where parties are separated by considerable ideological differences. But when societies grow so deeply divided that parties become wedded to incompatible worldviews, and especially when their members are so socially segregated that they rarely interact, stable partisan rivalries eventually give way to perceptions of mutual threat. As mutual toleration disappears, politicians grow tempted to abandon forbearance and try to win at all costs. This may encourage the rise of anti-system groups that reject democracy’s rules altogether. When that happens, democracy is in trouble”.
The above statement crystalizes what is happening in North Carolina and what is at stake for North Carolinians in the 2018 elections. If Levitsky and Ziblatt are to be believed, and the Republican minority continues to exert absolute, un-tethered rule over the Democratic majority, the majority of North Carolinians will increasingly see it as an outlaw legislature. You will then begin to see acts of civil disobedience on an unprecedented scale. General strikes, government shutdowns and blocking of interstate highways will become commonplace. Eventually, there will be a statewide tax revolt that will throw the state into absolute financial chaos. And then will come the violence.
I’m not saying these things will happen and certainly not that I would like to see these things happen. My point is to get you to understand that they could happen unless was stop seeing the upcoming election as Republican vs. Democrat and start seeing it as a choice between democracy and dictatorship. The 2018 elections are a referendum on the North Carolina Republican legislature as well as on Donald Trump and everything he has done and how he continues to behave. The gerrymandered voting districts in North Carolina make it very difficult to cast a meaningful vote for democracy. Since the courts on all levels have ruled that North Carolina’s voting districts are illegal, you would think the courts would order we default back to the 2010 maps when the Democrats were in the majority and the Republican super majority was elected anyway. Apparently they either don’t have the authority or courage to do it. Whether we use the 2010 maps or the current maps, a lot the people who voted for Trump and the NC Republican legislature must vote against those same people to over turn their majority, on the state and the federal level. In spite of the best efforts of the Democratic Party, the fate of this state and the nation may be in the hands of the votes of a few democracy loving Republicans along with the votes of nearly every eligible Democrat voter in the state.