Struggling to remember the many twists and turns of the state’s polarizing legislature? Gene Nichol can do it for you.
Four years ago, I published a “Bill of Particulars” in The News & Observer laying out what I thought to be the principal transgressions of our Republican General Assembly.
It triggered some modest annoyance.
With the approaching election, a number of lost souls have requested an updated list. Here goes.
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Over the last decade, Republican lawmakers have:
1. Embraced Race Discrimination as a Primary Political Tool: The Republican caucus is constituted, and governs as, a white people’s party. It has created “the largest racial gerrymanders ever confronted by a court;” used “surgical precision” to discriminate against black voters; and done more, faster, than “any other legislature to restrict the franchise.” As the world undergoes a modern reckoning, our Republicans stick with racism, old school.
2. Waged War on Poor Tar Heels: By denying Medicaid to 460,000 impoverished citizens, enacting the largest cut to an unemployment compensation program in history, becoming the only state to abolish its earned income tax credit, and kicking thousands of qualifying kids off food stamps, Republicans launched America’s stoutest crusade against poor people. They’ve kept at it even after COVID-19, multiplying our wounds.
3. Attacked the Equal Dignity and Autonomy of Women: Republican lawmakers passed a shocking mandatory sonogram law — enlisting a woman’s body, physician and pocketbook in a coercive effort to intimidate her from exercising protected reproductive freedoms. They required doctors to recite a state-mandated script, like Stalinist apparatchiks, to bully potentially traumatized woman.
4. Used State Power to Disparage and Humiliate the LGBTQ Community: Through the passage of bathroom bills, the licensing of state officers to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and equality-denying marriage laws, Republicans pursued what The NY Times calls “North Carolina’s pioneering work in bigotry.”
5. Acted to Crush Public Education: Lawmakers have starved, disparaged, over-regulated, and eliminated essential prerogatives of traditional public schools; while massively investing in unaccountable, uncredentialed and discriminatory private schools. And by intensely politicizing its Board of Governors, Republicans have potently wounded one of the country’s best university systems.
6. Made a Humiliating Mockery of Natural Resources Regulation: Republicans have (notoriously) “outlawed” climate change, passed the nation’s worst “ag-gag” law, shielded corporate hog farms from accountability, embraced fracking and off-shore drilling, and slashed funding for state parks and environmental enforcement. As ever, they favored the powerful and abused the powerless.
7. Leveled Stunning Attacks on the Courts: Our leaders required judges’ races to be partisan, abolished public funding of campaigns, manipulated the size of the Court of Appeals for partisan purposes, interfered with Supreme Court elections, threatened disobedient judges with impeachment, attempted to limit Democratic gubernatorial appointment powers, and intervened to put Phil Berger’s son at the top of the ballot in a Court of Appeals race. They’ve been persistent enemies of the rule of law.
8. Assaulted Democracy Itself: To entrench power, Republicans enacted the most extreme political gerrymanders in American history, enthusiastically limited the right to vote, overturned local elections, and stripped traditional powers from officeholders when Democrats were elected. National commentators say it’s “a legislative coup one might expect in Venezuela, not a U.S. state.”
9. Embraced Government by Perjury: Much of the Republican dreamed-for agenda is unconstitutional. So leaders cannot be candid about their motivations. Reviewing courts have dismissed proffered state justifications as “untrue,” as “pretext”, “unpersuasive,” and “aimed at problems that don’t exist.” Honesty, along with constitutionalism, has been abandoned.
10. Aided and Abetted the Most Dangerous and Incompetent President in American history: (No explanation required.)
In 2020 we face a fight for equality, for democracy, for constitutionalism, and for our own decency.
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