Children in Power

We are in the middle of a very embarrassing chapter of our country’s history. And I wish we could simply flip to the end of it. Our country’s political maturity has regressed from a juvenile stage to elementary.

The partisan rift has become so deep that just the thought of a party other than our own being in power is one we cannot bear. After the votes are counted, and recounted, we look for ways in which we can deny the other party that which they have rightfully earned. In that resistance, we are blind to the long-term consequences of any potential short-term gains. Our government was not designed to operate with these spokes in the wheel. So it doesn’t.

A ninth-inning scheme to thwart a Trump presidency included convincing those in the Electoral College representing red states to change their vote. Go against the people whom you represent, who believed, in good faith, they had elected the Republican nominee. An enormous usurpation of the people’s voice and vote. And a terrible blueprint for future political clashes which would inevitably arise in subsequent elections. Ultimately, the movement failed to gain traction and, for all intents and purposes, the Electoral College came to do what our founding fathers designed it to do.

But others have not gone so quietly.

Politically inverse to the presidential election, North Carolina Republican incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory called for a recount after he was upended by the state’s Attorney General and Democratic candidate, Roy Cooper. Shortly after the recount began, it ended. In his concession, Gov. McCrory stated: “I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken, and we now should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper.” Then Gov. McCrory, with the assistance of a Republican state legislature, set out to do exactly the opposite.

Under the guise of establishing “hurricane and wildfire relief” for victims of the most recent disasters, Gov. McCrory called a special session with the real purpose of systematically depriving his successor of any power he could. Under bills that were passed by the republican legislature, the Governor-elect Cooper would be stripped of the power to appoint a majority of commissioners to the state’s board of elections and the number of government employees he could appoint would be cut from 1,500 to fewer than 500. Gov. McCrory has essentially agreed to hand over the keys to the house to Governor-elect Cooper, but only after changing the locks.

While the state House debated one of the bills, North Carolina’s citizens protested from the gallery overlooking the legislature, adamantly opposing the power grab in which Republicans were engaged. Many of them were arrested and carted away in handcuffs, ironically, while the only crime — theft — was being committed on the floor beneath them.

Equally as concerning are the actions of those who perpetuate partisan ignorance is the inaction of those who sit idle across the aisle. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

When prior, elementary spats had broken out in the U.S. Senate, we turned our attention to the adults in the room, those who could not only hear the voice of reason but listen to it, too. At one point, we could rely on Sen. John McCain to break with his own political party and call out the misdeeds of the same, to call a spade a spade. Now, there are no good men, not even the Maverick that can save us.

To date, Sen. John McCain refuses to break rank with republicans, declining to afford Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nomination to fill the late Justice Scalia’s seat, so much as a confirmation hearing. But it was never just about President Obama. Running up to the election, on October 17, 2016, Sen. McCain vowed to block anyone Hillary Clinton would nominate should she win. Anyone.

In the real world, this behavior is expected to occur only within children’s play areas. When a small child opts to smash a toy instead of surrendering, we are disappointed but not always surprised; but when political leaders do the same, we should be both. Sadly, it has become all too common.

This past weekend, my two nieces, ages 3 and 5, were playing in the hammock in my backyard. When it was apparent they could not fit, much less play, cooperatively, in it together, the older was ordered out. With her younger sister in the hammock, she quietly left. She did not elect to cut the hammock down. Nor did she set it on fire. She peacefully made her exit and resumed playing elsewhere.

Being witness to this interaction, my initial thought was how much our country’s political leadership could learn from their own peers.

-Joe K. Cunningham