How outrageous are the new North Carolina laws?

by on December 18, 2016 at 7:46 am in Current Affairs, History, Law, Music, Political Science | Permalink

Here is a summary from Politico:

The state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the bills this week during a special session. The new laws reduce the number of positions the governor can hire and fire at will from 1,500 to 300, strip the governor’s party of the power to control the state board of elections, require legislative approval of gubernatorial cabinet appointments, and move the power to appoint trustees for the University of North Carolina to the legislature.

The first sounds like a good change, as in general the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful, as it is in Western Europe.  The second clause — power over elections — sounds like a simple power grab, but can I say I find it an inferior arrangement to vest this responsibility with the legislature?  No, and note the new deal gives each party equal representation on the election commission (otherwise the Democrats would hold a majority).  The trustee appointment change I find it hard to get worked up about, though it does seem to me more naturally the prerogative of the executive, but the state constitution gives trustee appointment rights to the legislature.

How about “require legislative approval of gubernatorial cabinet appointments,” which sounds pretty severe?

Well, check out the North Carolina state constitution: “Appointments. The Governor shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of a majority of the Senators appoint all officers whose appointments are not otherwise provided for.”  [Later sections seem to cover the “appointments…otherwise provided for.”]  Furthermore, this seems like pretty standard practice at various levels of American government.

Perhaps the Republicans have good legal advice, and are likely to win this in the courts, as the source behind the last link is suggesting.  As a commentator, a good starting question is whether you have in fact read the North Carolina state constitution.

Overall the story seems to be that the legislature is — within the provisions of the state constitution — seizing more power for the legislature.  (You don’t have to like that, given some of the other Republican stances, but don’t confuse the different issues here.)  Don’t presidents and governors try to do the same?  Succeed in doing the same?  Is it perhaps worth criticizing the state constitution, rather than just condemning the Republicans for exercising constitutional powers?  Here is a link outlining many of the power grabs in previous North Carolina history, including by the Democrats.

Have your feelings about the filibuster changed as of late?

Is it so much worse if such shenanigans are done in a lame duck period?  Would it have been so awful if Clinton had won the presidential election and TPP had passed during the lame duck session, as many people were talking about?  Or if the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court had been approved?  Do we all condemn the flood of “midnight regulations” that come during each federal lame duck session?

I am very willing to consider limiting the power of lame duck sessions.  And I am very willing to believe that the North Carolina legislature made moves in the wrong direction from a utilitarian and also public legitimacy point of view.  Furthermore, I am also no expert in North Carolina constitutional law and I would gladly be set straight if I am overlooking some relevant facts on these issues.

In the meantime, I don’t quite see this as a coup d’etat, it seems like a pretty traditional power grab within established constitutional structures, it’s not the Republicans heralding the end of constitutional government in the United States, and I’m not sure that the critics are being entirely consistent in applying the principles articulated in their shrillness.  The critical commentary here really does need to up its game.  If your argument is simply “I don’t want groups I disagree with to take more power through legitimate means,” well by all means say so!

As for my summary view, the legislative actions do seem unwise to me, they seem to be coming at an especially fraught time, I don’t favor all of the other policy preferences of this legislature, and I think they are extending what is already a series of unwise precedents.

Here are my favorite things North Carolina, none of them refer to politics.

 

1 jd December 18, 2016 at 7:52 am

They also give the GOP control of election boards during election years. Given the amount of voter suppression in NC this is major.

2 RSaunders December 18, 2016 at 7:58 am

C’mon T, the issue isn’t that they are changing or the absolute level of these things, it’s that the legislature expanded the Gov’s power to the current level for their guy, and are now withdrawing it for the next guy, who isn’t their guy.

3 Kodachrome December 18, 2016 at 8:46 am

Yep. It’s absurd to just gloss over WHY they want to retain control over the election boards.These new laws have to be seen in context. They’re being used (quite successfully) to suppress the black vote.

You have an all-white party representing a small (and shrinking) minority of voters locking out the largely black party from ever taking power, even though they represent a large (and growing) majority in the state.

This is part of a national effort by whites to maintain power as they’re eclipsed by a growing non-white population.

4 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 10:44 am

The small but shrinking minority won a majority in both houses of the North Carolina legislature, 6 of the 10 elective state offices, 10 of 13 seats in the U.S. House, and holds both U.S. Senate seats.

Whites are about 70% of the population in North Carolina. Blacks are 22%. The black population nationally has about the same share of the population as it did in 1860, and a lower share of the Southern population.

5 Kodachrome December 18, 2016 at 10:54 am

Dems won 3 of 13 US house seats there despite getting 48% of the US house seat votes.

6 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 12:19 pm

The map is here:

https://www.ncsbe.gov/webapps/redistrict/uscongmaps.html

That’s not what a gerrymandered map looks like. The previous map had three strange looking districts, one of which was a max-black creation (as it has been for some time).

You run up 85% of the vote in inner-city areas and then lose by smaller margins elsewhere. Your votes are less efficient for that reason. Nothing any cartographer can do for you unless you contrive to break up inner-city zones among surrounding districts (which will scatter black voters, which in turn will run afoul of the federal Justice Department for that reason).

7 Urstoff December 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Raleigh and Durham being in different districts seems strange to me, especially when they toss the white, wealthy enclave of Chapel Hill in with Raleigh. Maybe they do that for population reasons, but it certainly seems odd.

8 Urstoff December 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Addendum: them being in separate districts is also the case in the current districting. Seems weird either way.

9 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 10:19 am

‘Voter suppression’ is code partisan Democrats use to refer to measures which disrupt their vote fraud schemes.

10 prior_test2 December 18, 2016 at 10:38 am

What federal judges say, when ordering a special election due to North Carolina citizens being deprived of the right to vote in fair elections, is ‘racial gerrymandering,’ as noted in the first page of their verdict, which can be found as a PDF here – http://www.southerncoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Ordering-New-Elections-11-29-2016-.pdf

11 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 10:46 am

Racial gerrymandering is favored by black politicians to create max-black district maps. That has implications for the composition of other districts. What’s next, you going to tell us that German manufacturers have figured out a way to transcend math?

12 Kodachrome December 18, 2016 at 10:51 am

The NC GOP openly stated that they were trying to suppress the Black vote.

13 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm

I’m sure in your fantasy life, they did.

14 RJ December 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Cite?

15 kb December 19, 2016 at 2:34 am
16 kb December 19, 2016 at 2:40 am

“The court said that in crafting the law, the Republican-controlled general assembly requested and received data on voters’ use of various voting practices by race. It found that African American voters in North Carolina are more likely to vote early, use same-day voter registration and straight-ticket voting. They were also disproportionately less likely to have an ID, more likely to cast a provisional ballot and take advantage of pre-registration….

“Then, the court, said, lawmakers restricted all of these voting options, and further narrowed the list of acceptable voter IDs. “… [W]ith race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans. As amended, the bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess.”

17 kb December 19, 2016 at 2:48 am

You want more? Maybe about how the NC legislature has adopted a habit of calling “special” sessions in order to pass bills that their constituents never really asked them to pass? Like the transgender bathroom bill? You must have a short, selective memory.

18 mulp December 18, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Voter fraud is the term Republicans use to describe Democratic candidates winning the majority. Ie, Clinton winning California by a huge margin.

19 aaron December 18, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Large scale voter fraud is a fiction designed by the GOP for the explicit purpose of suppressing Democratic leaning minority voters.

The the GOP actually cared about voter fraud they’d eliminate (Republican leaning) mail-in ballots.

20 Maximum Liberty December 18, 2016 at 7:53 pm

This actually made me laugh the first time I read about it. It was completely fair in form (the tie-breaking chair is a Republican 50% of the time and a Democrat 50% of the time), but completely unfair in substance (the Republicans’ 50% is election years). I say “unfair” as someone who has never voted for a Democrat and almost always voted Republican, in case you wonder.

21 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 18, 2016 at 9:40 pm

You are the exception that proves the rule, Maximum Liberty. Everyone else is convinced that theirs Is the only virtuous political tribe. Congratulations. You win the fairness award of the day.

22 prior_test2 December 18, 2016 at 7:58 am

‘No, and note the new deal gives each party equal representation on the election commission (otherwise the Democrats would hold a majority).

Isn’t this the point where you would advise the Democrats to give the Republicans a majority, so as to save democracy in North Carolina?

23 Millian December 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm

German-speaking Jews in the 1920s should have voted for anti-Semites to prevent National Socialism.

24 8 December 18, 2016 at 8:06 pm

It might not have prevented National Socialism, but it probably would have prevented the Holocaust.

25 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 18, 2016 at 9:41 pm

LOL, you are being sarcastic there, I hope. But many people are incredibly naive, and perhaps you are one of them.

26 The Original Other Jim December 18, 2016 at 8:05 am

It’s fake news. The fact that you even felt compelled to respond to these inane Dem talking points says nothing good about your ability to realize that. And the fact that you felt you could only make rational responses if you prefaced them with so many disclaimers is much worse. The depth of your bubble is remarkable.

If you want to hear about an actual insane partisan State power grab, check out the recent MA Dem legislature rewriting the rules about who gets to replace an empty US Senate seat. Twice.

27 cliff December 18, 2016 at 8:27 am

“The depth of your bubble is remarkable.”

well, maybe… but the general incoherence of TC’s post here struck me immediately — it’s almost unintelligible. Can someone decipher it into plain English? He seems to be perhaps possibly unhappy about something in North Carolina, but that’s unclear.

28 prior_test2 December 18, 2016 at 8:41 am

Here is what it is about –

‘Democrats won the fight for North Carolina’s governor’s mansion this fall — but they’re now in a knockdown, drag-out brawl with the Republican-controlled legislature about who actually gets to pull the levers of power.

In the waning hours of their hold on North Carolina’s executive branch, Republicans this week unveiled and quickly pushed through bills that would significantly curb Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s (D) power.

Republicans held a last-minute special session Thursday and moved bills that would, among other things, require the governor’s Cabinet appointments to be approved by the state Senate and effectively give Republicans control of the Board of Elections during election years. Other bills appeared to limit Democrats’ influence in the courts, like making North Carolina just one of several states that holds partisan elections for its state Supreme Court justices.’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/15/a-coup-a-power-grab-theres-some-serious-political-drama-in-north-carolina-right-now/

This in a state that must hold a special election in 2017, due to how the same legislature was found unable to actually provide equal voting opportunity to all of its citizens – ‘Federal judges have told the North Carolina legislature to redraw its own districts by mid-March to replace ones the court struck down and to hold a special election under redrawn maps in November 2017.

The ruling Tuesday means those elected to the state House and Senate a few weeks ago and who see their districts changed would serve just one year, not two.

The same three-judge panel last summer said nearly 30 legislative districts were illegal racial gerrymanders but decided it was too late to hold elections under new maps.

Attorneys representing legislative mapmakers wanted more time to redraw and the next election in 2018. Those lawmakers now say they’ll appeal Tuesday’s decision. A lawyer who successfully sued over the districts says a special election is best to protect the rights of North Carolina residents.’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/judges-order-new-legislative-maps-in-march-special-election/2016/11/29/5b5fb136-b69b-11e6-939c-91749443c5e5_story.html

So, maybe, in one year, the people currently in the NC legislature pushing such reforms will be able to experience the democratic process as directed towards them, if the majority party changes. However, one can be confident that their shrillness will be much better explained by Prof. Cowen.

29 Jpe11 December 18, 2016 at 10:47 am

He’s simply looking at the various changes on the merits, apart from the partisan hysteria and vapors.

That’s welcome, and quite the opposite of unintelligible.

30 byomtov December 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Odd that those wonderfully meritorious changes didn’t happen until McCrory lost. If they are so great, why weren’t they adopted years ago by the same legislators.

31 Ben December 18, 2016 at 8:10 am

“Would it have been so awful if Clinton had won the presidential election and TPP had passed during the lame duck session, as many people were talking about? Or if the nomination of Winston Garland to the Supreme Court had been approved? Do we all condemn the flood of “midnight regulations” that come during each federal lame duck session?”

The difference is that these changes aren’t policy-oriented, they’re power-oriented. And as much as TC wants to ascribe good governance motives to the GA, actual GOP legislators are admitting it’s not really about principle. They lost an election, and rather than enact their preferred policies–not a breath of this during the outgoing governors term!–they’re attempting to (1) reduce the power that’s being lost, and (2) ensure they don’t lose it again (via the voting boards). Republicans in NC engage in voter suppression, and now there’s no stopping them.

32 Jpe11 December 18, 2016 at 10:49 am

“And as much as TC wants to ascribe good governance motives”

He is not doing that at all. Rather, he’s looking at them on their own terms and bracketing motive.

33 Cassiodorus December 18, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Another difference is that Garland’s nomination still sitting on the docket was only because of a power grab of this sort at the federal level in the first place.

34 Anon. December 18, 2016 at 8:20 am

>the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful

How does this fit in with libertarianism? The public choice implications of a powerful bureaucracy are quite clear…

35 EA December 18, 2016 at 8:27 am

Who is Winston Garland?

36 Pat December 18, 2016 at 8:36 am

Apparently with the reduction from 1500 political appointees to 300, the 1200 current seat holders get to keep their jobs. This isn’t a professionalization of NC government, it’s permanent R control of the higher levels.

37 Ricardo December 18, 2016 at 10:31 am

Exactly. As the Rob Christensen article Tyler linked to notes, the Republicans were the ones who previously passed a law giving themselves the power to appoint these 1,500 people in 2013. The article does note Democrats have engaged in similar shenanigans in the past. We can predict future will repeat itself without some constitutional overhaul or a new set of legislative norms that stops parties from playing “heads I win, tails you lose” with political appointments.

38 Meets December 18, 2016 at 11:13 am

So it’s been going on in NC for years.

Who cares then?

39 AlanG December 18, 2016 at 8:42 am

The big story in NC is not what Tyler writes about but the forced reapportionment of the State Legislative districts prior to the next election because of the terrible Gerrymandering. I could care less whether this is or is not a power grab by the Republicans, that is for the courts to adjudicate. The fact that we are making it more difficult for citizens to vote and that most states do not have an independent board that draws the district boundaries is for me the biggest crime here. North Carolina is one of the most egregious states in terms of voter suppression and reducing equal representation.

40 AlanG December 18, 2016 at 8:46 am

BTW, Tori Amos is a North Carolinian only by accident. The family lived in Georgetown (Washington DC) and she was born on a trip to NC while on a family visit. Here upbringing was in the Wash DC/Baltimore area and she studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. I don’t think it’s fair to include her on a list of things that are good about NC as Maryland can more likely claim her.

41 chuck martel December 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

The best thing that North Carolina ever produced was Ava Gardner and she left.

42 Mr. Econotarian December 18, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Agreed – Tori Amos is a DC / Maryland girl! She lived for a while in Baltimore, but her main upbringing was in Montgomery County – she developed her talents at Richard Montgomery High School.

43 slash1001 December 18, 2016 at 8:45 am

I come to this blog as a nominally center-left reader because I think the readers are a bunch of smart people with some interesting ideas, particularly about economics but even about politics, and that Tyler sometimes (not always) stimulates some thought-provoking dialogue. But this is the sort of post – and I’m now expecting the sort of exchanges – that make me question why I bother. This is so plainly a petty power grab that Tyler’s contrarianism really rings hollow. The argument is beyond weak sauce, and the comment thread is already stimulating the sort of whataboutism that conservatives always seem to turn to when their arguments can’t hold water on the surface or the deep merits. I mean, really! Would anyone really deny this is a raw power play in the extreme, and that it sets a horrible precedent?

I’m as open to what good can come of the Trump revolution as any pseudo-liberal is going to be. I haven’t been whiny or hysterical over any of this. But take it for what it’s worth: this kind of move has me and a bunch of other rational liberals (sure, joke if you want) getting super concerned that more of this junk is coming on a scale far beyond Massachusetts or wherever. I’m fairly confident that if something like this occurred in California, all you dudes would be up in arms. And that most of the freedom-oriented libertarians that hang out here are almost certainly full of it.

44 Nattering Nabob December 18, 2016 at 9:04 am

Forget it Slash, it’s Tylertown…

45 Tyler Cowen December 18, 2016 at 9:25 am

Slash, I *call it* a power grab, in exactly those words…and I say it extends some very bad precedents.

46 slash1001 December 18, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Re-reading your post, I think your reply is pretty fair. You do acknowledge the bad, even if I do think there’s too much tolerance of this sort of thing buried in both the post and the comments.

It is probably a reflection of how hot this one’s got me (and others) which I do think says something given how crazy the last six weeks have been. Up until now my feeling has been “you win some elections, you lose some elections.” Somehow that kind of rationale starts to lose salience when the victors are so clearly focused on locking in permanent advantages by (IMO) subverting democracy. And no, I wouldn’t cheerlead if California or one of the other 3 states with a democratic supermajority tried this. As a resident of Tennessee, I hope our state lege doesn’t get any bright ideas.

47 widmerpool December 18, 2016 at 9:30 am

I’m sympathetic slash, but note that it’s also hard to find a left-of-center site that is not also prone to whataboutism from time to time. But I guess now I’m also guilty. I think you just have to try to sort through it. Acting on principle is hard.

48 Ryan December 18, 2016 at 10:45 am

+1 slash (and to Ricardo above for the context on appointments)

49 Anonymous December 18, 2016 at 10:46 am

Yes, it’s a power grab, but why should libertarians think power should be in the hands of the governor rather than the state legislature? The reason for the “whataboutism” is clear: if it were done by a Democratic administration you’d be applauding their restoration of democracy.

50 Cassiodorus December 18, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Considering that the legislative leadership has openly stated they’d change it back when a Republican wins the governorship, libertarians should be especially worried about the rule of law concerns.

51 Jpe11 December 18, 2016 at 11:07 am

” This is so plainly a petty power grab”

TC doesn’t deny that. However, he puts motive to the side and considers the proposals on their merits themselves. If you want to find the sort of conclusory non-reasoning that is of the form “this action was done by bad people with bad motives, therefore it’s bad,” you can go to virtually any other website or blog that discusses politics.

52 Ricardo December 19, 2016 at 2:26 am

“However, he puts motive to the side and considers the proposals on their merits themselves.”

OK. Staffing most of the government with career, non-partisan civil servants is good. Changing the rules in 2013 to allow one political party to appoint a record number of senior government employees and then changing the rules and moving the goalposts to lock many of these partisan appointees into their jobs is bad.

53 Harun December 18, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Actually, as a Californian, I’d pretty much expect this to happen if somehow a Republican won the governorship.

We’re thoroughly run by the democrats now, and out legislature is fairly corrupt.

54 Agammamon December 18, 2016 at 8:55 am

“The first sounds like a good change, as in general the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful, as it is in Western Europe.”

Wut? Yeah, because Western Europe is doing sooooo well with their meta-national professional body of regulators on top of their national ones. A nations that is run by ‘Top Men’ is a nation that calcifies and is unable to innovate or respond to change.

If not even the Governor can fire people then who can? You get ridiculousness like this.

https://youtu.be/-JVA8Ng78UU?t=13

55 albatross December 18, 2016 at 9:01 am

My outrage at the power grab in NC is somewhat diminished by my wish that something similar (legislative power grab to limit the power of the incoming executive) were happening at the federal level, too.

56 Jpe11 December 18, 2016 at 10:52 am

This exactly. I became a Democrat during the Bush II years when executive consolidation of power was viewed as a principle. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, taking power back from the executive is being characterized as a “coup,” which is simply insane.

57 Cassiodorus December 18, 2016 at 7:52 pm

It would be easier to accept this argument if the North Carolina legislature was a representative body.

58 DShea December 18, 2016 at 9:13 am
59 Tyler Cowen December 18, 2016 at 9:31 am

I recommend that very article!

60 DShea December 18, 2016 at 11:34 am

Yes, but he does a much better job of describing what’s typical and what’s unusual about what happened.

61 tony Cohen December 18, 2016 at 9:14 am

Mr Cowen,

If you don’t feel how changing the rules after you lose an election is anything more than a power grab than you and I have a profoundly different world view into what voting is for.

62 Harun December 18, 2016 at 4:06 pm

The issue is the lame duck session. This is a bipartisan “problem.”

I think the parties won’t ever fix it because they can get a lot done that otherwise couldn’t be done this way.

63 rayward December 18, 2016 at 9:16 am

Marbury v. Madison redux. Mr. Jefferson was unhinged, believing that the Federalists were traitors and determined to return the new republic to the British and everything must be done to stop them. Republicans in NC are unhinged, believing that the Democrats are traitors and determined to take the state down a socialist path and everything must be done to stop them. It was Jefferson and Madison who established the highly partisan politics that continue to be practiced today including in DC as well as in NC; Mr. Jefferson even tried to undermine the Washington administration while serving in it. As for Marbury v. Madison, Mr. Jefferson both won and lost: Marbury (who was appointed by the Federalist John Adams) failed to get his commission but in doing so the Court established the doctrine of judicial review (the Court is the final arbiter of what the law is) that has inflamed the partisan emotions and dominated our politics. The enmity between Jefferson and Adams continued until they began a regular correspondence when they were old men. Appropriately they both died on the same day, Independence Day, July 4, 1826.

64 Rich Berger December 18, 2016 at 9:41 am

The Republicans have large majorities in both houses in NC. If the voters do not like what they’ve done, replace them with Democrats and undo these changes. Compare this to how the Democrats foisted a semipermanent Obamacare on the nation as their 60 seat majority was slipping away. Tell me which move was more harmful.

Because Tyler’s reading consists almost exclusively of left-leaning sources, what he notices and what he is concerned about is what the left is concerned about. He needs to diversify his news gathering.

65 Kodachrome December 18, 2016 at 9:44 am

They have large majorities despite getting a small minority of the votes.

66 Careless December 18, 2016 at 9:55 am

Good luck explaining how that’s possible

67 Kodachrome December 18, 2016 at 10:10 am

Our political system awards more legislative seats to sparsely populated rural areas, and those areas are now mostly extremely white, and extremely republican. Plus gerrymandering.

So you end up with GOP majorities and even super-majorities in some states where they’re losing the popular vote. Same problem exists at the national level. We have a GOP president, senate, and house, despite Democratic candidates getting more votes for all three by large margins.

America is slow-mo walking into an appartheid state, with a tiny white rural minority ruling a large multi-racial majority. That’s not going to end well.

68 derek December 18, 2016 at 10:32 am

Like Chicago?

69 y81 December 18, 2016 at 10:35 am

What Kodachrome says is mostly not true. The U.S. Senate awards disproportionate power to some sparsely populated rural states, like Nebraska, but the U.S. House and every single state legislative chamber in the land has districts of approximately equal population, as required by Supreme Court precedent. There are two factors helping Republicans at the legislative level: first, any system of first past the post election by districts will tend to turn small popular majorities into large legislative majorities; and second, the Democratic vote tends to be more concentrated, with the Democrats winning 90% of the vote in many inner city districts, and the Republicans winning 70% of the vote in many rural districts. In any case, the Republicans won a majority of the votes cast for the House of Representatives this election, so there is no monstrous injustice that I can see.

70 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 10:55 am

Our political system awards more legislative seats to sparsely populated rural areas,

Evidently Kodachrome has not read a newspaper since 1962, and cannot add and subtract.

Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives won in sum 1.3 million votes more than Democratic candidates. They have had a plurality in 8 of the last 12 U.S. House elections. In North Carolina, the Republican slate outpolled the Democratic slate by 260,000 votes.

71 Ricardo December 18, 2016 at 11:06 am

“the Democratic vote tends to be more concentrated, with the Democrats winning 90% of the vote in many inner city districts, and the Republicans winning 70% of the vote in many rural districts.”

If by “district,” you mean the set of 2010 Congressional districts chosen mostly by Republican-led state governments, this amounts to question-begging. Of course, any competently gerrymandered set of districts will leave the opposition party with larger margins in a smaller number of districts. The average population of a Congressional district is 710,000 so any city larger than that is almost invariably going to have its residents sharing a district with suburban, ex-urban or rural residents.

72 Careless December 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm

I’m lazy, so I’ll spare you the humiliation of pointing out exactly how much the Republican vote exceeded a small minority like 5%.

73 8 December 18, 2016 at 8:13 pm

It could end well if everyone agrees secession is a good idea.

74 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 10:49 am

They won 7 of the 11 statewide offices up for election this year, as well as the presidential electors. Think up a more creative (and less fraudulent) excuse.

75 prior_test2 December 18, 2016 at 10:12 am

‘The Republicans have large majorities in both houses in NC.’

Well, until the federal judge ordered special election in 2017 due to extreme racial gerrymandering. Let’s see how things look after that election, shall we? And if the Democrats win a majority, one can be confident of your support in having the Democrats treat the Republicans in similar fashion, right? That one can quote you – ‘If the voters do not like what they’ve done, replace them with Democrats and undo these changes.’

76 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 10:57 am

Well, until the federal judge ordered special election in 2017 due to extreme racial gerrymandering.

http://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/house/north-carolina/

You lost 7 of 11 statewide races. Explain to me how that’s a consequence of ‘gerrymandering’.

77 mulp December 18, 2016 at 2:07 pm

“Compare this to how the Democrats foisted a semipermanent Obamacare on the nation as their 60 seat majority was slipping away. Tell me which move was more harmful.”

Clearly passing Obamacare was way more harmful to Republicans.

Trump won by promising better health care, with fewer restrictions, at much lower costs than Obamacare.

No one is attacking Obamacare death panels with long lists or even just one or two patients Obamacare dictated needed to die.

Instead, every repeal brings forth huge trial lists of patients who will die as a result.

Every replacement is measured by the dual standard of how much it looks like Obamacare plus the characteristics of the list of people picked to suffer and die.

Trump promised virtually free universal health care without government.

Hey, why don’t Republicans promise universally affordable luxury SUVs or at least full size crew cab pickups? That would address the homeless problem: leftists would get the homeless into new SUVs which they could now afford and the police would not hassle them.

I could respect conservatives if they were arguing 1) life has value, the income the person can generate, 2) any life that costs more than its income stream should be creatively destroyed just as insolvent businesses are, 3) unless someone with sufficient excess income will pay for maintaining the life, but that should confer ownership, including bondage, 4) but no one should be forced to pay to maintain another life.

In other words, conservatives support abortion and euthanasia as critical to their economic theory.

Instead, conservatives must resort to promising free lunches because they never want to promise to do harm to those voters who elect them.

Consider, Obamacare, passed by almost entirely coastal elites, with Appalachian Democratic votes the most on the edge, has provided huge benefits in Appalachian Kentucky. It has significantly helped the Kentucky economy. It has improved the health of Kentucky working poor.

So, what is the Trump winning message: the coastal elites (of which Trump is an icon) have intentionally screwed over the white working class and it’s only gotten worse since Obama was elected.

He has to promise universal health care cheaper than Obamacare which is pretty cheap in Kentucky, with fewer restrictions on who you chose to treat you.

Obamacare is like the temporary Bush tax cuts. Obama and Democrats just could not end them for political reasons because too many of their supporters would turn against them. Or like the Republican Medicare payments reform that was delayed for about 15 years because repealing it cost too much in the budget, until Obama fixed it permanently by paying for repeal in a bipartisan budget deal that everyone hated then and hates today. The deal cost everyone, thus no winners. Except Obama who remained standing, not crushed in defeat.

Obamacare will remain, thus Obama will win, because Republicans will never be allowed to state the truth: Obamacare is the Republican health reform plan written into law and implemented.

Just like Medicare and Medicaid remain. And Social Security.

78 McMike December 18, 2016 at 2:32 pm

All this talk about ending ACA. Has anyone asked the insurers?

My guess is they are perfectly happy as is. Making tons of money, premiums still shooting for the moon, deductibles through the roof, and with virtual monopolies with larger guaranteed & mandated markets. Sure, a few consumer-friendly changes were made by ACA, and promptly priced in. Medicare price negotiation is still toothless as well. And single payer is dead for a generation. What’s not to like?

Yes, they balked at the exchanges, and so walked away from them. And of course they’d be happy with a corporate welfare wish list legislation to send even more gravy their way and limit their accountabilities, as certainly every other crony industry is now lining up with pocketbooks open and armies of lobbyists.

Nevertheless, absent the inevitable doubling-down on additional subsidies and get-out-of-jail legislation, on net, I am willing to bet the insurers have no inclination to disrupt the gravy train and throw ACA open for renegotiation and renewed scrutiny.

79 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 18, 2016 at 3:12 pm

I hope you are right that Medicare and Medicaid remain, and Social Security. Trump is so unpredictable that he could do any crazy thing. Plus he admitted that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any support for that. So maybe he will shoot Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. We just don’t know yet. Surely the GOP dominated Congress would love to do so, and they may use that as a bargaining chip in negotiation with Trump– You scratch our back. We’ll scratch yours.”

You are right that the GOP can not campaign on reality. Its donors are the .01%. How could they control all 3 branches of government if they campaigned on a slogan of “We’ll take the .01% and screw over the 99.99%.” Not many people would vote for that. Thus they must use fake news and Right Wing news like Fox (only 90% fake news there.) Lies are the only way to convince the 99.99% to vote for them.

80 Cassiodorus December 18, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Except that the districts are cut in such a way that it’s impossible to replace them. Republicans won enough seats in the NC House to override a veto even though they lost the vote statewide.

81 Cassiodorus December 18, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Since I can’t edit, that happened in 2012. Concept remains, however.

82 derek December 18, 2016 at 9:49 am

While I was worried about who used what bathrooms, the whole country changed!

The State level legislatures have been moving Republican for a while. As well as the Governors. Oddly enough that means changes that diminish the power of Democrats; Wisconsin was a dramatic example. Democrats there tried to criminalize opposition to their power, but it didn’t work out so well.

Why are Democrats losing so consistently? Why do the electorate not rise up against these changes which lessen the power of Democrats?

83 mulp December 18, 2016 at 2:14 pm

A better question, is why do the States governed by Republicans blame coastal Democrats who on the whole shovel significant money to the rural poor where Republicans then divert it to the middle class. Cash welfare was block granted so today disable poor go homeless because they can’t qualify for aid, while the Federal money that once provided cash pays for marriage counseling and parenting classes for married couples.

84 y81 December 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm

I doubt very much that the blue states shovel more money to the heartland than they cost it in excessive regulation. It’s clear, at a state level, that upstate New York loses much more economically from it’s City-imposed regime of high taxes, extensive mandates, and heavy regulation than it gains in transfer payments.

85 McMike December 18, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Maybe. Maybe not.

But indirect opportunity costs don’t vote.

86 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 18, 2016 at 3:15 pm

“why do the States governed by Republicans blame coastal Democrats”

Because bashing Dems, and lying constantly, wins elections for them. If they told the truth, no one would vote for them.

87 GMF December 18, 2016 at 9:58 am

A districting plan that provided the Republican supermajority was ruled unconstitutional, and redistricting was only turned down because it was too close to the election to do it. The purpose of the special session legislation is to preserve that same unconstitutional districting and the people who put it in place. Tyler’s points are arguing about process when purpose is the glaring concern.

Since I’m not a lawyer I can’t say how this will play out in court. The legislature is indeed performing tasks granted to it under the state constitution, but if the legislation is in pursuit of (or will result in) an unconstitutional purpose can it be legitimate?

88 jdm December 18, 2016 at 10:06 am

“Overall the story seems to be that the legislature is — within the provisions of the state constitution — seizing more power for the legislature.”

I sometimes wonder if Tyler uses events like these – the more outrageous the better – primarily to hone his considerable rhetorical skills.

If the legistlature’s actions were not conditional on who won the governor’s race, framing the story as the legislature seizing more power for the legislature would be fine. But its actions were conditional, so it’s not a power grab by the legislature but a power grab by a party. As the Senate reminds us daily, when one party acts badly, the other invariably follows. Overall the story seems to be about the continuing erosion of democratic norms and the rule of law.

89 Ricardo December 18, 2016 at 10:09 am

The full context behind restricting the governor’s power to choose appointees: “When Gov. Pat McCrory took office in 2013, the GOP legislature expanded the number of positions exempt from civil service protections from 400 under Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue to 1,500 – the highest cap ever. This allowed McCrory to hire more Republicans. Now, under a bill awaiting McCrory’s signature or veto, lawmakers are proposing to reduce the number to 425 in what is apparently an effort to protect Republican state employees and prevent the hiring of Democrats. But Democrats invented this practice. The 1985 Democratic legislature placed the first cap ever on newly elected Republican Gov. Jim Martin, limiting him to 325 exempt positions. The whole business of mass firings in state government pretty much began with the election of Democrat Kerr Scott in 1948, a Jacksonian figure who beat the more conservative machine. North Carolina was a one-party state then so this was factional Democratic warfare.”

You could say both sides do it and the article notes a few more times between 1948 and the present when one party has sought to expand or contract the governor’s authority over hiring and firing decisions for partisan reasons. But comparing this to Western European governance? Please. Among many problems is the fact that most Western European countries are parliamentary democracies often ruled by coalition governments. Independent, non-partisan bureaucrats exist within a system where the ruling coalition has a clear right to appoint the highest level ministers. This move appears to be about keeping partisan appointees in power rather than professionalizing the senior levels of the state civil service.

Prof. Cowen’s post also does not mention the move toward partisan elections for Supreme Court justices. That’s also hardly a move toward the governance norms of, say, Sweden or Denmark, although it does appear to be a reversion to an earlier North Carolina norm.

90 chuck martel December 18, 2016 at 10:25 am

Some of the commenters probably aren’t citizens of North Carolina. Why do they care about what the North Carolina voters and elected legislators do?

91 Kodachrome December 18, 2016 at 10:49 am

Because it’s part of a national movement to disenfranchise non-white voters as we head towards a majority-minority nation?

I live in Montana, and a month before the election, the GOP had staff going through voter registration info on the Indian reservations (and only there), pointing out all the people who didn’t list addresses, claiming it was evidence of mass voter fraud, and calling for changes to the law next legislative session that would prevent all those Indians from voting.

92 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 10:58 am

You might benefit from examining actual vote totals, assuming you’re not comprehensively innumerate.

93 prior_test2 December 18, 2016 at 11:06 am

You might really want to read that federal court verdict, if you are not comprehensively illiterate.

Clever people do not attempt to confuse an issue that is so clearly documented in multiple court cases. For example, this one (which is distinct from the special election issue, by the way) – ‘U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs slammed an ongoing North Carolinian voter purge during a dramatic Wednesday hearing, telling county attorneys that she was “horrified” by the “insane” process by which voters could be removed from the rolls without their knowledge. “It almost looks like a cattle call, the way people are being purged,” Biggs said. “This sounds like something that was put together in 1901,” when the state used Jim Crow laws to prevent black citizens from casting a ballot.

Biggs called a hearing after the NAACP sued several North Carolina counties for purging nearly 6,700 voters—most of them black Democrats—from the rolls. These purges were legal under a state law that permits any person to revoke any other person’s voting rights. The process is simple: An individual gathers mail that was returned as undeliverable, then challenges the voter registration of residents at those addresses. If those voters do not appear at a county board of elections or return a notarized form, their voting rights are nullified.

In several North Carolina counties, Republican activists have used this process to revoke thousands of people’s voting rights at once, a majority of them minorities. But as the Justice Department noted in supporting the NAACP’s lawsuit, this process is illegal under federal law, which trumps state law when the two clash.’ http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/11/03/federal_judge_slams_north_carolina_voter_purge.html

94 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 12:23 pm

You might really want to read that federal court verdict, if you are not comprehensively illiterate.

They redrew the districts and the Democrats still won only 3 of 13 seats. Get over it.

95 Alain December 18, 2016 at 11:07 am

He’s replied twice with the same incorrect, progressive, nonsense. He’s clearly innumerate and a partisan who is here simply to shout out his gospel.

96 prior_test2 December 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm

And yet, strangely, as noted in a federal court case, Republicans were doing their best to use Jim Crow era laws to disenfranchise voters in North Carolina.

Whether every single case of proven or suspected or rumored voter disenfranchisement any where in the U.S. is relevant to cases occurring North Carolina is certainly open to discussion. The actual documented cases from North Carolina are relevant to a discussion concerning how that state’s legislature, which will only serve a one year session, is involved in actions intended to deprive voters of their rights, including attempting to restrict the powers of a newly elected governor after he won the election.

One should further note, however, that rampant voter fraud in the U.S. has yet to be documented anywhere.

97 chuck martel December 18, 2016 at 11:16 am

The reservation natives are probably required to supply addresses for their driver’s licenses, W-4 forms, and Vanity Fair subscriptions, why not voter registration? Although why they’d care to be involved in a supposedly democratic process that has involved the seizure of their property and their relegation to rural ghettos is a mystery.

98 prior_test2 December 18, 2016 at 10:59 am

Interesting question. My answer is that as a Virginian with some knowledge of the Commonwealth’s history when it comes to disenfrachising black voters, there is no reason to find such things acceptable simply because it is occurring in a neighboring state, with a similar historical background.

Though Richmond’s loser’s lane statues, including Jefferson Davis, are probably grander than anything found in the Tarheel State. And as suspected, North Carolina does not have a Jefferson Davis statue at its state capitol, either – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_memorials_to_Jefferson_Davis.

However, the Republicans in North Carolina, as already shown in documents used as evidence in a federal court, are not standing still when it comes to ensuring that their political vision need worry that voters can overturn it. And now demonstrating they will be able to act promptly and forthrightly if anything other democratic decision is made they do not agree with. And possibly even aware of what happened in Virginia, where a black man was elected governor. Though in the Commonwealth, after Wilder was elected (3 decades ago, no less), no one suggested that the governor of Virginia needed to have their powers curtailed. Virginians, for good or ill, respect tradition, and regardless of what they might have called Wilder before or after his election, he was ‘sir’ as long as he was the Commonwealth’s governor.

Yes, Virginians can be bit smug when looking at North Carolina. After all, note the number of comments disparaging North Carolina above.

99 Anonymous December 18, 2016 at 10:42 am

“The first sounds like a good change, as in general the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful, as it is in Western Europe.”

What Tyler is doing with that sentence:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOt83AouoGU

100 Millian December 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm

I agree that these are good things. The correct response is to accept them, but to scream that they are a criminal power grab by the party of the illegitimate womanising Kremlin stooge president, because that is how you win.

101 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 18, 2016 at 3:19 pm

The fact that 5 intelligence agencies agree that Russia influenced our election can be ignored, as can all GOP power grabs, including the one in N.C. Because you know ahead of time the the GOP is always right. Because you are completely deluded into believing that yours Is the only virtuous political tribe.

102 Millian December 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Hang on, the post was totally sincere. If Democrats don’t learn how to talk angry human going too far, they will lose.

103 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 18, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Sorry. I thought you were being sarcastic. Yes, I agree. Angry talk wins elections.

104 8 December 18, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Trump voters think what comes out of the MSM and “mainstream” Democrats is angry talk. Trump and his voters were reacting to it. Turning up the volume is going to produce a bigger reaction, not tamp it down.

105 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 18, 2016 at 10:01 pm

No problem. Many Trump voters are thin skinned types, just like Trump himself. That’s why they like him. Dems can’t be quiet mice, just to avoid upsetting them. And Dems could never get those people’s votes anyway. Trump voters can dish it out but they can’t take it. Well, they are going to have to take a dose of their own medicine anyway, because they are not the kings of the world.

106 Ben Muse December 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm

I would have begun with the next to the last paragraph, otherwise a useful post.

107 The Anti-Gnostic December 18, 2016 at 1:02 pm

The first sounds like a good change, as in general the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful, as it is in Western Europe.

They have the launch codes and segue effortlessly between government and commerce. Lower down the ranks, they have practically life tenure so long as they don’t steal or blow up something. I’m trying to figure out how they “should be more powerful.”

108 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I’m trying to figure out how they “should be more powerful.”

He identifies with friends who have public sector jobs in Washington, not with the real estate agent from Utica who just got elected to Congress. Mrs. Bryan Caplan is a lawyer for Freddie Mac.

109 Mcmike December 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Seems to me that some changes should not take effect until after another election cycle.

Legislative pay
Term changes
Election changes
Redistricting

The sitting legislature makes a change, but it doesnt take effect until an appreciable number of seats have stood for election

110 Harun December 18, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Yes. Its not 1800 anymore. Election should result in immediate transfer of power…say a week after the election.

111 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 3:01 pm

NO!. The president had about 4 cabinet secretaries in 1800 presiding over a government with about 3,000 employees. Parliamentary systems have a shadow cabinet and a limited menu of positions to fill (in Britain, just the minister and the parliamentary undersecretary). Here, you have to build an administration from scratch, more or less. If you spend 3 days a piece picking your cabinet (as did Richard Nixon, who was the most deliberative about it), and devote that attention to all senior appointments, 4 months from election to inauguration is not excessive.

Re Congress, you could cut the time to convene from 60 days to 30 days. New members do need time to fill senior staff positions.

112 chuck martel December 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

At the least, cabinet secretaries should be named during the election campaign since they’ll be the ones implementing executive policies and enforcing whatever laws they feel are most important.

113 AL December 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I’m thinking Frog in Pot of Soon-To-Be-Boiling Water, here, Tyler. But maybe your take is the more accurate. I sure hope so.

114 Art Deco December 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm

The first sounds like a good change, as in general the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful, as it is in Western Europe.

It’s important that all but a small sliver of public employees be recruited and promoted via examination. It is not important that incumbents have tenure. Something close to at-will employment (with whistle-blower protections and some ancillaries) is what you should strive for in public employment.

As for the number of discretionary employees, the question is complicated in North Carolina by the large number of state officers elected (10). Is the legislature restricting just the governor’s corps of patronage employees, or is every official’s core restricted?

Your conception of the number of patronage employees there should be seems truncated. If places I’ve worked are any guide, about 3% of an office workforce will consist of confidential secretaries. These people are properly hired at the discretion of their face-to-face supervisor and employed by him at-will. That’s not the governor’s discretion, but that’s not the tenured civil service, either. Also, senior executives have use for a staff corps attuned to their particular interests: press agents, legal counsel, legislative liaisons, policy consultants. It’s defensible that a state commissioner also have discretion over his bureaux chiefs and the sub-commissioners who may supervise his bureau chiefs. Also, during the EIsenhower administration, the Congress created the category of ‘Schedule C’ employee to make for positions for loyalists at lower levels of the bureaucracy. I’ll wager headquarters staff in the North Carolina state government is about 13,000 or so. A corps of 1,500 discretionary employees may be excessive, but 900 might not be. A corps of 300 is niggardly.

115 Sasquatch December 19, 2016 at 9:41 pm

>gasp<

You said "nigger"! Racist!

116 Sasquatch December 18, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Tori Amos gave me a rim-job, took the dingle-berries off my hairy asshole with her teeth. Definitely don’t want to kiss that bitch after that.

117 Andrew December 19, 2016 at 3:40 pm

To hopefully be concise in response to your overall points:

“The first sounds like a good change, as in general the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful, as it is in Western Europe.”

Maybe it would be, but those extra 1200 will NOT be professional bureaucrats but 1200 of McCrory’s political appointees that will remain in place. So there will actually still be 1500 political appointees in the state government, 300 appointed by the existing governor and 1200 by the previous one.

“The second clause — power over elections — sounds like a simple power grab, but can I say I find it an inferior arrangement to vest this responsibility with the legislature? No, and note the new deal gives each party equal representation on the election commission (otherwise the Democrats would hold a majority). The trustee appointment change I find it hard to get worked up about, though it does seem to me more naturally the prerogative of the executive, but the state constitution gives trustee appointment rights to the legislature.”

The election commission will have a tie-breaking chair. It will be a Democrat in odd years and a Republican in even years (i.e. federal and state election years).

Both of these were designed to look as you described, but in reality do aggressively tilt power to Republicans.

118 Mark Bahner December 19, 2016 at 11:36 pm

“Here are my favorite things North Carolina, none of them refer to politics.”

Good Christmas trees!

“4. Movie, set in: I hate Bull Durham, so you will have to help me out here…Is part of Sherman’s March set in the state?”

“Cold Mountain”!!!

P.S. And of course, if you want “filmed in” NC, there’s Last of the Mohicans. Some tremendously beautiful scenes in that one.

119 Urethra Franklin December 20, 2016 at 2:37 am

What does this have to do with the price of a good escort in Maryland? Absolutely nothing.

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