One-party rule fails North Carolina

Jul. 31, 2013 @ 01:19 PM

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.

Contact Doug Clark at dgclark@news-record.com or 373-7039.