Last week, North Carolina Republicans proved both why they can’t be trusted and why they’ve been in power for nearly a decade. This week, North Carolina Democrats decided to one-up them by showing a complete disinterest in ever having power again.
Following the North Carolina GOP’s takeover of the legislature in 2010, the party immediately set out to gerrymander permanent majorities for itself. Their attempts have repeatedly been rejected by the courts, but Republicans keep trying anyway.
Earlier this month, though, a Wake County court struck down the maps earlier this month and ordered the General Assembly to redraw them, and Republicans did something they almost never do: they complied. (This is presumably because Democrats have a large majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court and Republicans want to avoid a landmark state ruling against partisan gerrymandering.)
With the way the new districts are drawn, it’s still damn near impossible for Democrats to ever win a legislative majority in a state that is resolutely purple in nearly every other way. But Republicans agreed on protections for incumbent Democrats, even as some of the districts still remained gerrymandered.
As Daily Kos writer Stephen Wolf explained on Twitter:
This was apparently enough for Democrats in the state Senate to cosign the plan, as it passed with a 38-9 majority; some Democrats who voted against it did so out of desire to see an independent redistricting commission rather than having major objections to the way it went down.
At least some of the overwhelming support can be attributed to the fact that the state Senate Democratic leader praised the maps and encouraged his members to vote for it because, hey, isn’t it great to see everyone getting along? Per the News and Observer:
Raleigh Sen. Dan Blue, the top Democrat, vouched for the maps as well as Hise. Blue, a former N.C. Speaker of the House, has been involved in numerous redistricting efforts in past decades in North Carolina and was in the thick of this one as well.
“I think it was a remarkable experience, especially when you consider the current political climate,” he said.
Last week, by contrast, the North Carolina House passed new maps with little in the way of Democratic support. (The Senate is expected to vote on the House’s maps today.)
Looking at the way this went down, it’s difficult to arrive at any conclusion other than the Senate Democrats were more worried about keeping their own seats than actually having power at any point in the foreseeable future. And not only that, but they’re willing coalition partners to the Republicans in continuing to disenfranchise voters in the state. “It is totally illegitimate,” Winston-Salem area pastor Dr. Earl Johnson said during a public comment period on Monday. “The people of North Carolina deserve clean and fair elections. This is not a fair process.”
As prolific as they are in their fecklessness and willingness to fail vulnerable people in the state in order to avoid any sort of conflict, North Carolina Democrats aren’t alone by any means; a similar version of this played out in neighboring Virginia in 2011. But this instance is made all the more embarrassing when you recall that just last week, the GOP thoroughly ate the Democrats’ lunch by calling a vote to override the Democratic governor’s budget veto when no one was around, allegedly because they were told there was nothing happening at that time.
And even more than that, this time the Democrats have a weapon they almost never have: leverage. By cosigning the Senate’s bad maps, the legislature is almost making the Republicans’ case for them that these maps will be good enough for the lower court, and there’s no reason to get the state Supreme Court involved in all of this, right? Right?
Oh, and here’s one more thing: after almost a full decade of legal battles over gerrymandering in North Carolina culminating in whatever the hell this is, we’re likely going to get to do this all over again in two years, when new maps are drawn following the 2020 Census. If this debacle was any indication, Lucy will still be waiting patiently with the football by the time 2021 rolls around.