One of the latest developments in the through-the-looking-glass world that is the 2016 North Carolina General Assembly is the utterly absurd claim from various voices on the right that progressives are somehow blameworthy for preemptively protesting plans to pack the state Supreme Court with two additional justices. You see, once state lawmakers finally realized yesterday that they didn’t have the stomach and/or the votes to ram through such a plan, social media lit up with right wing mouthpieces and Internet trolls attacking progressives for having “made up” the scheme.
Here are three reasons why this is utter baloney:
#1 – There is no doubt that GOP lawmakers seriously considered the idea. Multiple members admitted that it was under consideration at various times. A conservative group funded by Art Pope was one of the first to report on and examine the issue. Several conservatives (including a staffer in Senator Berger’s office) made the point of raising past Democratic actions to expand the Court of Appeals as a matter lawmakers would be “carefully reviewing” during the special session. The issue is still listed as a priority on the website of a group with close ties to Berger.
#2- Legislative leaders have made no attempt to hide their plans to expand the special session beyond hurricane and wildfire relief. And, of course, court-packing isn’t the only troubling scheme percolating on Jones Street. It’s also clear that lawmakers are, among other things, seriously considering plans to limit the powers of Gov.-elect Cooper. Given such a reality (and the demonstrable fact that legislative leaders have been skulking around behind closed doors and refusing to provide a clear and open forecast of what would be considered during the session), what the heck else were concerned people supposed to do? As we learned with HB2 (and from years of abused process under conservative rule), North Carolina’s current legislative leadership will pursue lightning-fast action without any meaningful public input whenever it thinks it can get away with it.
#3 – If court-packing wasn’t being seriously considered, legislators could have definitively and publicly said so weeks ago. As has been reported multiple times in dozens of places, however, Senate and House leaders have constantly equivocated on the issue by saying things like they “didn’t expect it to come up.” Again, in such an environment, progressives had no choice but to yell loudly.
All of which brings us to what really appears to be taking place with the court-packing scheme: Progressives have won an important victory. Faced with an undemocratic plot to, in effect, overturn an election, activists rallied to the cause and spoke out forcefully in opposition. The voices were so loud and numerous that would-be authors of the plan were forced to back down. To save face, legislative leaders are now denying that anything was ever up. If only caring and thinking people had spoken out so loudly and forcefully last March prior to the enactment if HB2.
Going forward, there’s a lesson in all this for caring and thinking North Carolinians worried about their state’s right-wing legislature and the intentions of the Trump junta that’s coming together in Washington.