by Michael Lowrey
The left is angry at Republican control of state government and has resorted to questioning the legitimacy of the laws being passed by the GOP-dominated General Assembly. The result isn’y very pretty observes JLF head John Hood in a column that came out earlier this week. A highlight:
After the 2000 census, North Carolina Democrats used new voter data and increasingly sophisticated computer technology to attempt to engineer an old-school gerrymander in 2001. At this point state Republicans played a new card: redistricting litigation in state court rather than federal court. Citing the state constitution’s requirement that districts respect county lines, the GOP litigants won at trial and at the state supreme court. No longer would the Senate map skew outcomes by 15 percentage points. Democrats still managed to tilt the legislative districts a few points in their favor, an average of four in the House and six in the Senate, during the 2000s.
Here’s where today’s Democratic arguments about legitimacy run into major trouble. During these election cycles, the two parties were intensely competitive. Although federal and state courts had constrained Democratic gerrymandering, they hadn’t ended it altogether. When combined with close elections, the results were controversial. In both 2002 and 2004, Republicans received a majority of votes for the House and Senate – but ended up controlling neither chamber. In the 2002 Senate elections, for example, Republicans won 52 percent of the statewide vote but only 23 of the 50 seats.
Gerrymandering was the primary cause. But in the 2002 House elections, Republican even won a 61-59 majority of the seats on Election Day. Democrat Jim Black kept the job as Speaker of the House for the 2003-04 session by bribing a Republican lawmaker to switch parties, creating a 60-60 tie, and then picking off a few GOP dissidents to keep power mostly in Democratic hands.
If it is objectionable to use gerrymandering to pad a political party’s legislative majority, surely it is worse to use gerrymandering (or criminal behavior, in Black’s case) to put the legislature in the hands of the party that got fewer statewide votes. That’s true regardless of which party is the beneficiary.
But if you think such a result not just objectionable but illegitimate, making any legislation enacted by such a legislature illegitimate, that would make the following policies illegitimate: More at Four (now North Carolina Pre-K), Learn and Earn, the Clean Smokestack Act, the state lottery, early voting, and all the tax hikes, class-size reductions, public-employee pay raises, and other policies changes contained in every state budget from 2001 to 2006.
Should we just nullify all these illegitimate laws by unanimous consent?