Commentary, Defending Democracy

Lazy editorial shows why North Carolinians need to pay closer attention to Raleigh debates

It’s an understandable sentiment. In these difficult and quarrelsome times, it’s not surprising that a lot of people are tempted to throw up their hands in disgust at all politicians and political parties and mutter “a pox on all their houses.” In some instances, such a sentiment might even be warranted.

But right now, in the case of the debate over six constitutional amendments that will appear on the November ballot in North Carolina, it’s simply flat out wrong to blame all parties equally. Unfortunately, however, that’s what a clunky and poorly researched editorial does this morning in the Hickory Daily Record.

The editorial actually starts off okay — it has a solid headline (“Keep politics out of ballot wording”) and a nice opening paragraph that calls for making the ballot language as clear to voters as possible — but after that, the authors lose their way in a fashion that is sadly typical of many North Carolinians who need to be paying closer attention to what’s going on in their government. This is especially the case in the concluding paragraph, which reads as follows:

“Frankly, it’s hard not to be disappointed by both parties on this one. Instead of fighting among themselves, the Democrats and Republicans should craft a ballot message that can be read and understood by all constituents. Sometimes, it seems, both sides forget they are in Raleigh on our behalf, not their own.”

Say what? How are the Democrats supposed to play any role in this when Republican legislative leaders won’t allow it to take place? Badly outnumbered Democrats at the General Assembly have been accorded literally zero role in the process. The only fighting they’ve done is for an opportunity to be heard — something that they’re often unsuccessful in obtaining.

And while it’s true that two of the three Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission members are Democrats, that commission hasn’t taken any action that could be characterized as anything other than open and transparent. The editorial even acknowledges this.

So what gives with the editorial’s “pox on all their houses” conclusion? Blaming Democrats for the current mess surrounding the six constitutional amendments makes about as much sense as blaming Robert Mueller for Donald Trump’s serial dishonesty.

The bottom line: There have been a lot of instances down through the years in which North Carolina Democrats have deserved criticism for their actions and failures to act. This, however, is certainly not one of them. As Kareem Crayton, Interim Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice noted in a statement late yesterday, Republican leaders are the architects of the current crisis:

“Legislative leaders have made clear their intention to keep the voters in the dark about the true impact of the proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on this November’s ballot. Free and fair elections depend on voters knowing exactly what they are being asked to decide. The vague and deceptive ballot language mandated by this legislature undercuts the work of a bipartisan commission whose duty it is to assist voters in understanding proposed amendments.

“These desperate, last-minute efforts by this legislature to sugar-coat their scheme to disenfranchise voters undermines the principle of checks and balances and erodes public confidence in elections. Their expensive effort at rule-rigging is shameful, petty politics at its very worst.”

Let’s hope all North Carolinians are soon alerted to these hard truths — especially members of the news media who ought to be helping to spread the word.

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