The GOP spin machine is overheating this week as Republican legislative leaders continue to scramble to distract attention from the fact that the U.S Supreme Court, with a Republican majority that includes President Trump’s appointee, unanimously ruled that they violated the constitution by racially gerrymandering state legislative districts.
Thursday, they refused a call by Governor Roy Cooper to convene a special session to draw new districts to replace the ones the court threw out while feigning outrage that he would even suggest it.
Never mind that the court ruling means that the General Assembly is currently operating while representing districts that violate the constitution or that the voters of the state, and potential candidates, deserve to know what the new districts look like as soon as possible.
Legislative leaders instead mounted an all-out rhetorical attack on Gov. Cooper for suggesting that they abide by the court’s ruling and draw new and legal districts.
There were dozens of ridiculous claims made, but statements by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest were the most absurd. Berger said that he didn’t make the decision lightly to refuse Cooper’s call of a special session—that’s reassuring— and then added this gem.
“We need to be serious about what the Constitution requires.”
The U.S. Supreme Court says what the Constitution requires are legislative districts that are not racially gerrymandered. Maybe Berger should try addressing that—if he wants to be serious.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released a slick video (who paid for that you have to wonder) as part of his ongoing campaign for governor in 2020 because he thought the public “might want to know why” he ruled Cooper’s request for a special session unconstitutional.
The reason he ruled that way of course is that he is the presiding officer of the Senate and Senate leaders told him to.
He ends the well-lit appearance with this deep philosophical thought.
“Be reminded, what the progressive movement cannot attain at the ballot box, they are attempting to attain from the courts”
Nice of him to remind us. But that’s an odd thing to say about a ruling from the conservative U.S. Supreme Court that Republicans violated the constitution to stay in power with their racial gerrymandering.
It is actually Republicans in North Carolina who are trying to thwart the will of the people at the ballot box by violating the Constitution they have sworn to uphold.
The late week histrionics are not surprising considering the immediate reaction of GOP leaders when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision Monday to uphold a lower court ruling and affirm that the racially gerrymandered General Assembly districts drawn by Republican legislative leaders were illegal.
The court did not agree with the lower court that the state should hold special legislative elections in 2017 under new districts, but that is still possibility. The remedy to address the unconstitutional districts will be decided by the lower court.
Not long after the news of the ruling broke, NC GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse tweeted that “Supreme Court Issues Brutal Takedown of 4th Circuit Call for Special Elections.”
Two key Republican legislators involved in redistricting issues, Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise, issued an equally bewildering statement, celebrating the court’s decision not to order a special election in 2017, even though the ruling left open that possibility.
The statement didn’t mention that the conservative Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Republican legislative leaders violated the Constitution by racially gerrymandering the districts.
The right-wing groups that support them haven’t addressed it much either, focusing instead on the election date and dissecting Cooper’s call for a special session.
None of that is an accident of course. It is all part of a plan not to talk about their efforts to stay in power as long as they can with their illegal districts. They would rather rail against Cooper than admit they violated the Constitution.
But the charade can only last so long. The Supreme Court has spoken. The districts have to be changed.
The voters deserve to have it done as soon as possible.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of NC Policy Watch.