How is it that a 50-50 state — that most recently elected a Democrat governor, so maybe slightly tilted blue — had a Congressional delegation that skewed 10 to 3 Republican . . . and may soon have it again?

Trey Beck explains.

(I didn’t know what a homologue was, either, but that’s beside the point.)

Please meet me at the end (read just what I’ve bolded if time’s tight), because this is bigger than just North Carolina:

North Carolina GOP says fairness is for losers

For a few years now, the North Carolina state GOP has vied with their homologues in FloridaTexasWisconsinOhioMissouri, and Arizona to be the most obnoxious and checked out from the day-to-day needs of the people its members ostensibly serve. NC Republicans have alternatively expanded or circumscribed the governor’s powers, depending on who’s in office.

They have grossly interfered with the governance of the UNC System.

They have laughed in public hearings about how unfair their maps are. They have looked on passively as election workers have been hassled, or refused to certify election results, or both simultaneously. They passed HB 2, the so-called “bathroom bill,” which did much more than keep trans people out of the “wrong” bathroom, like overriding local ordinances that broadly protected LGBTQ rights. HB 2 was such a flop nationally and with local business leaders that it was incrementally watered down and ultimately repealed, but at a great economic cost to the state and a possibly greater toll on the emotional well-being of many individual North Carolinians.

With NC’s state supreme court now in conservative hands after the 2022 elections, Republicans there are again taking a pickaxe to democracy and the administrative state for partisan gain.

First, with the new conservative majority on the NC supreme court, NC Republicans are looking to basically undo the state supreme court’s abolition of partisan gerrymandering. In January, state GOP leadership asked the court to rehear a 2022 gerrymandering case (as well as a separate voter ID case). The gerrymandering case in question was to enforce court-drawn maps that were themselves the product of a pair of 2019 suits, one relating to U.S. House districts and another to state legislative districts, that had resulted in the court’s throwing out gerrymandered maps authored by state Republicans. The court’s then-liberal majority had agreed with the 2019 plaintiffs’ argument, among others, that partisan gerrymanders are plainly barred by the state’s constitution’s insistence on “free” elections. This provision is not included in the U.S. Constitution but is found in one form or another in many state constitutions, including in Pennsylvania’s, where litigants also were successful in having their supreme court throw out bad Republican maps. With fair maps, North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation magically went from a 3-10 D/R split in 2018 to its current 7-7 composition. (The state gained a U.S. House seat in 2020 reapportionment.)

This equitable outcome annoyed NC Republicans, and now they have a chance to fix that. It seems likely that Republicans will prevail in this new challenge given that the newly conservative court agreed in the first instance to take up the settled case, against jurisprudential custom seeing as the facts and governing law had not changed in the one month since the previous court’s ruling. If so, we can safely bank on the GOP trying to re-map their way to three to five marginal U.S. House seats—potentially enough on its own to alter the U.S. House majority in 2024—and to aggressively engineer impregnable supermajorities in both state legislative chambers. There will be no recourse to SCOTUS because in 2017 John Roberts & Friends told us that it would be too political for judges to stop politicians from drawing maps that advantage themselves, and therefore it’s up to voters to vote them out of their gerrymandered districts if they are unhappy. (I do not think this is an unfair distillation by me, as ridiculous as it may seem.)

Of course, partisan gerrymandering is already old hat in NC. More remarkable is the second Republican, um, “innovation,” which is pending legislation that would radically alter the structure of the state’s senate. Currently, the North Carolina senate, like NC’s lower house and best I can tell every other state legislative body, is apportioned on the basis of population. A GOP bill (oddly, introduced in the lower house) would amend the state constitution so that each of the upper chamber’s 50 senators would represent exactly two of the state’s 100 counties.

This is a naked attempt to further disenfranchise urban and suburban, Democratic-leaning North Carolinians. This would mean that Mecklenburg and Wake counties, which contain the cities of Charlotte and Raleigh respectively and which, at 1.1 million residents each, account for over 20% of NC’s total population, would be accorded the same senate representation as coastal Tyrell County, the home of about 4,000 people whose voters happened to go 57-42 for Trump in 2020. Who needs gerrymandering if you can rig an even redder senate this way?

North Carolina is a politically competitive state, as evidenced by Democrats’ regularly winning statewide office for governor, AG, and supreme court seats. It is not lost on state Republicans that, per Ballotpedia, about 47% of the state’s population resides in 22 solidly Democratic counties while 46% of the state’s population resides in 66 solidly Republican ones. Rather than compete for vote share by putting forth the most popular program, Republicans are openly seeking to cement hegemony through demographic sorting, whether through gerrymandering or per-county representation.

If the proposed constitutional amendment passes both chambers, it would in theory be on the statewide ballot in the 2024 election, although many legal experts doubt the measure would pass legal challenges under federal law, especially in connection with the “one person, one vote” principle enshrined in the Warren Court’s 1964 Reynolds v. Sims decision. But with this SCOTUS, we’re in uncharted waters.

The third terribly cute maneuver by NC Republicans is the February adoption of a lower house rule change (introduced by the very same speaker who gave us HB 2) to ditch the previous legislative session’s two-day notice requirement for a vote to override a governor’s veto. The Republicans already have a veto-proof supermajority in the upper chamber, and they are only one vote south of one in the lower chamber. By calling votes when they expect a mere two members of the house minority to be absent, however briefly (including literally on a bathroom break, hence some ridicule of this as a new form of “bathroom bill”), Republican leadership can connive to override any of Democratic Governor Cooper’s many expected vetoes this session. The Republicans have already been pressed by social conservatives to move bills to further restrict abortions and to expand gun access, so this technical change may result in bad laws that Cooper will be powerless to stop.

That’s all the good news I’ve got for today.

It’s one thing for Republicans to oppose Democratic policies and programs, like Social Security and Medicare or the Violence Against Women Act — that’s their brand.  But lately they’ve come to oppose democracy itself.

Don’t like the outcome of the most secure presidential election in history?  Fight to overturn it.

Don’t like Georgia prosecutors pursuing crimes committed by Republicans?  Give yourselves the power to remove them.

Lose the popular vote in 7 of the last 8 elections?  Make a rule that a Democratic president twice elected with a majority of the popular vote can’t fill a Supreme Court vacancy in the last 8 months of his term but that a Republican president who lost the popular vote can — in the last 8 days of his term.

Don’t like that nearly 64.5% of Floridians voted to restore most ex-cons’ voting rights once they’d paid their debt to society?  Find ways to thwart their will.

Want to suppress the black vote?  Sentence a Texas woman to five years for casting a provisional ballot that was never counted.

And on and on.

Some think-tank Republican intellectuals — appalled as they may be by Trump himself — have quietly conlcuded that democracy is too cumbersome a system to compete in today’s world.  China can build a skyscraper in 19 days; it took Bill Maher1,131 days to install solar panels.  Autocrats get things done.

And that’s a discussion to be had . . . but, I would argue, out in the open.  Those Republicans should say it: “We no longer think democracy is the best system for America.  The press is the enemy of the people.  The courts are rigged. We think Putin and Xi and Kim — and Orban! — have it right.  Freedom, shreedom:  We love the path Hungary is taking!



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