About a year ago, we introduced the term, “Hartmann’s Law,” on NC Spin. The definition of Hartmann’s Law is: Never create more enemies than you can handle at the time.
Hartmann’s Law is the political equivalent of other cliches such as: “Learn to walk before you run” or “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” or “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”!
Lee Jenkins, a fine sportswriter, recently wrote a great line that fits North Carolina politics after our 2013 short veto session. Lee wrote about the, “Side effects of extended futility.” In a political context, side effects equal unintended consequences.
After watching the Democrats manipulate politics to their advantage for a century, N.C. Republicans are a case study in extended futility. It seems to me that the Republicans in the House, Senate and Executive Branch are currently troubled by the side effects of extended futility and are close to violating Hartmann’s Law.
Now that the Republicans are in power, they are trying to reverse, or remove, about a 100 years of policies with which they disagree. Older Republicans remember being ignored in House and Senate organization, Democratic contempt of Republican positions, jibes in committees, sarcasm in responses to legitimate questions during floor debate and lampooning by press and television. Republicans justly want some retribution and they will make changes. That’s what party politics are all about and we are better off for the contest.
Republicans know that the Democrats have created a dependency among African-Americans that has lasted for decades. They know that educational interest groups generally support the Democratic Party, as do pro-choice activists, state employees and homosexuals. In the next decade, these voting blocs will continue to support Democratic Party candidates regardless of what Republicans do while in office. With respect to these voters, Republican actions in the 2013 General Assembly have no consequences for Republican candidates in 2014. The Republican margin is always in the middle.
However, the Republican responses to extended futility are beginning to stir the ”Swing Voters,” that unaffiliated/independent middle in North Carolina politics that accounts for about 20 percent of the vote. This cohort is beginning to get uneasy about some of the voting laws changes, about some of the education priorities, about some of the policy inconsistencies, about leadership, and about a lack of clarity. The side effects of extended futility are becoming a specter for Republicans.
There is a reason North Carolinians elect a new General Assembly every two years and Hartmann’s Law is always in play.
Mavretic is the former N.C. House Speaker and NC SPIN panelist.