One-party rule fails North Carolina

| July 31, 2013

Doug Clarkby Doug Clark, Greensboro News and Record, July 30, 2013.

I’ve gotten angry at our Republican governor and legislature this year. The voting changes they’ve imposed, from injecting partisan politics into our school board elections to eliminating registration options, make my blood boil.

And I’ve poked fun at them. I wrote a satirical blog post last week highlighting a newly approved bill “protecting North Carolinians from the Ten Commandments.” The measure really was meant to declare opposition to Sharia law but, rather than say so specifically, stated its intent as preventing the “application of foreign law” in our courts. Of course, “foreign law” could describe God’s edicts handed to Moses on Mount Sinai.

On the whole, though, I’m neither fuming nor laughing about what’s transpired in Raleigh since Gov. Pat McCrory took office in January and the 2013 General Assembly convened soon after. Mostly, I’m sad and disappointed.

That was the feeling I had when I ran into a young man, a friend of my son’s, at the bicycle races in High Point on Saturday. He’s been teaching for the past few years but he’s getting ready to go back to school to study for a business degree. He said it seems like a good time to get out of public education.

The next day at church, a woman told me she was going to take her 16-year-old daughter to the final Moral Monday demonstration in Raleigh. I’d never heard her express her political views, but she thought it was important to go and speak out.

It bothers me when bright young people leave teaching or ordinary citizens feel the need to demonstrate against their state government.

I also feel betrayed. You see, I voted for these people in Raleigh. The Democrats had not done a good job of running things, and I thought the other guys deserved a chance. As mayor of Charlotte, McCrory built a record as a pragmatic leader, working across party lines to enact sound policies that made his city a better place to live. That’s what was needed in North Carolina.

What we’ve gotten has been very different. The Republican majorities in the House and Senate seem to consist of the most conservative representatives of their party. Their abrupt policy changes have made my head spin. We needed a course correction; they’ve made a sharp right turn at high speed, with McCrory waving the green flag.

This is not compatible with North Carolina’s political character. This is a state whose leanings for the most part have been moderate-conservative, with the emphasis on moderate. While North Carolinians elected right-wing ideologue Jesse Helms to the Senate five times, his winning margins weren’t overwhelming. Meanwhile, voters also liked Republicans of the Jim Holshouser-Jim Martin variety, governors who could find common ground with moderate Democrats.

Now there’s little common ground or interest in finding any. Legislators vote almost exclusively along party lines on major issues. Republicans have the numbers, so they win. There’s little Democrats can do about it except complain. A few years ago, the situation was reversed and Democrats didn’t have to give Republicans the time of day. Now, Republicans delight in delivering political payback.

I think they’ve gone much too far. They’ve abused their power just as Democrats did in the past. And they’ve enacted voting laws and other measures meant to increase that power.

I’m not saying North Carolina should return to Democratic Party rule. In some ways, the problem isn’t only that the state is run by one party or the other. The problem is one-party rule by either party.

This is not a one-party state. There’s not even a true majority party — 43 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 31 percent are Republicans. So it’s almost inevitable that if one party gets its way on every issue — especially a partisan issue — most North Carolinians will disagree. We see that reflected in polls showing most voters disapprove of everyone in Raleigh.

What we really need are viable alternatives. If just a few independent legislators could get elected, and would align themselves with Democrats on one issue, Republicans the next based on its merits rather than ideology, better outcomes would follow. Both parties would have to moderate their positions to appeal to the independents.

The obstacles include ballot barriers that make it difficult for independent candidates to run for office.

But growing dissatisfaction with both major parties will create better opportunities to break their power.

Most voters don’t like one-party rule, extreme partisanship and abuse of power. Why should they keep electing representatives who stand for politics at its worst?

Were Democrats doing a great job in North Carolina? Are Republicans?

It’s time to build a state government that works for all North Carolinians.

© 2013 News-R

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

Comments (10)

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  1. dj anderson says:

    “He’s been teaching for the past few years but he’s getting ready to go back to school to study for a business degree. He said it seems like a good time to get out of public education. – blog

    Look before you leap!

    BTW – I was another one fooled by the title line, thinking it was going to be about the 140 year Democratic reign, not the 200 days of Republicans a’pippin.

  2. Bob Mulder says:

    Mr. Clark has made some good observations. Most voters on both sides of the aisle really don’t know what their candidates are really going to do once they are in office.

    A legislator who rides a motorcycle doesn’t like wearing a helmet so he introduces legislation that would let folks ride without helmets as long as they have $10,000 in health insurance. Depending on the injury, that $10,000 could be gone in a day. Who pays they rest? The taxpayers. What a joke! Another legislator doesn’t like the Lake Jordan rules because it means development restrictions in his district. His answer? Legislation to scuttle the rules and with a “we’ll try to fix the problem later attitude.” What a joke! Another legislator wants to be able to attract more garbage to North Carolina. What to do? Loosen environmental laws. What a joke! And yet another legislator doesn’t like the speed limit so he introduces a bill to raise the speed limit. Conservatives for many years have always said that they support the right of local rule. So why are they meddling in the local business of North Carolina towns and cities? Why are they hell bent on dismantling the public school system? The common theme running through most of the above examples is a selfish narrow interest. I’m looking forward to the next set of elections!

    • Richard Bunce says:

      Smaller government applies to State AND local governments. Governments of limited and defined powers is a founding principle of this nation. State Chartered Municipal Corporations are a creation of the State and have a limited and defined set of powers. Many municipalities grossly exceed their powers and need the State to reign them in. Just because a majority of those that bother to vote want their local government to do something it does not mean that government should and has the power to do so.

  3. Sherri Bauer says:

    I would just like to ask why the judgements are being made and everyone hates these decisions when they haven’t even had time to take effect. I don’t see a problem with requiring people to prove who they are before they vote, if the democrats can bus people to the polls why can’t they bus people to get an ID assuming many that vote don’t already have one. They are free you know. Also many of the teachers who are upset about the new law should only be worried if they aren’t good at their job. Why should they be allowed to underperform year after year and not suffer any consequences for poor performance. No other entity but the government rewards poor performing people. I think intelligent people should give things a chance to play out. It really can’t be worse than what the dems have done all these years. If they were so good we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    • Donald Ball says:

      Sherri: Let me get this straight: you would rely on the organizational efforts of the *North Carolina Democratic Party* to secure the franchise for the electorate? You really don’t care if people can vote or not, do you?

      It’s telling that in one of the most miserly states in the union with regard to teacher compensation, your prescription is: less job security. Why, exactly, do you imagine good teachers (and you do… want good teachers, don’t you?) will be lining up to replace the poor performers you would decimate? Fatuous nonsense.

      It would be wildly irresponsible for us to allow this radical agenda to be enacted, or not repealed at the earliest opportunity.

      • Richard Bunce says:

        Donald, let me get this straight, you believe that anybody can vote anywhere they want, anytime they want, and as often as they want… which is what you get if identification is not accurately verified. The folks with the private jets can have a field day flying around the country to vote. You probably don’t care that non resident property owners that pay the majority of the revenue in many NC beach towns do not get to vote in the municipal elections though…

        • Donald Ball says:

          I’m afraid you’re misrepresenting both my position and observed reality.

          The fraudulent scheme you suggest, by the way, would not be prohibited by authenticating voters at the polls. Your scheme relies on the voter being able to assert their identity as a registered, non-voting voter in several precincts. That requires fraudulent access to or creation of voter registrations in the several precincts. Authenticating identity instead of accepting an oath doesn’t reduce the difficulty of the scheme significantly, and in any case is trivially bypassed by voting absentee.

          • Richard Bunce says:

            So you are for verifying ID at the poll… matching to registration… easily looked up in NC on State website to get the persons name, address, voting participation history… and so you also believe the Federal, State, and Local governments should all accept oaths of a persons ID instead of having them prove it… will shorten the lines and Social Security and Medicare offices.

  4. Donald Ball says:

    Michael might do well to realize that the Moral Monday protestors enjoy a higher approval rating amongst the electorate than what I presume to be the legislature he admired. This governor, at least, ran on a moderate platform, not the hard-right agenda that was delivered. I may castigate anyone who fell for that pitch, given the way the political winds were and are blowing, but it’s reasonable to question that there was any mandate for the enacted agenda.

    As to the author’s point, given the political realities of our times, you have exactly three possible governments: traditional conservative (Democrat legislature and executive), gridlock (divided), or radical regressive (Republican legislature and executive). The Republican base has become polarized and radical, it’s all but impossible for moderates to survive their primaries, and when they do, they carry no weight in their party. Does anyone think McCrory has any constituency in his own party?

    Needless to say, I heartily agree with the author that this is unhealthy for our democracy. My prescription would be to look to a parliamentary political system, which unlike ours, is designed to operate in the presence of highly disciplined parties.

  5. Michael Kornegay says:

    How convenient for Mr. Clark to have this political epiphany only after the 100 years of Democrat majority rule in North Carolina has come to an end. The slim minority of Moral Monday protestors (or newspaper editorial boards) do not necessarily speak for “all of North Carolinians”, and is not an accurate reflection on the support for the legislature’s conservative agenda. Clark should look to the majority of NC voters who voted in these conservative legislators.