The North Carolina GOP’s Power Grab Represents the End of Democracy

Erika Heidewald
4 min readDec 16, 2016


What’s going on in North Carolina is not just a “power grab.” It’s not a “civil war,” as the New York Times is calling it (civil war falsely implies the other side is doing half the fighting). It’s the end of democracy. The North Carolina GOP has instituted one-party rule that the people cannot escape.

North Carolina has some of the most egregiously gerrymandered districts in the country. Their gerrymandering is so bad that a federal court found it unconstitutional and racist.

Map by Stephen Wolf,

North Carolina also has instituted some of the worst, most racist voter suppression laws in the country. A federal court found that they targeted black voters with “surgical precision.” Here are some examples:

From Stephen Wolf,

Despite the racist gerrymandering and voter suppression, Democrat Roy Cooper managed to win the governor’s race last month, unseating Pat McCrory. McCrory fought the election results for a month and tried to make the case that there was such widespread voter fraud that the race would have to be decided in the (Republican-dominated) state legislature. Thankfully, that effort to subvert the will of the people failed. But the North Carolina GOP is just getting started.

Today the North Carolina state legislature convened a special session to pass several laws to limit incoming Democratic Governor Cooper’s powers. These include:

  • For the first time ever requiring legislative approval of gubernatorial cabinet appointments
  • Reducing the number of appointments the governor gets to make from about 1500 to 425
  • Taking control of the election board away from the governor and to a bipartisan committee, which would be chaired by a Republican in election years
  • Enhancing the power of the Republican state superintendent of education

Some of these passed today in a frenzied special session intended to neuter Cooper before he can ever take office. Some of them will be voted on tomorrow.

But the outrage isn’t over. The legislature turned off all cameras and audio recording for a large portion of this special session and arrested protesters and journalists.

Here’s NC Policy Watch reporter Joe Killian being arrested for doing his job, along with two dozen peaceful protesters.

Photo from @Rob_Schofield, Director of Research at NC Policy Watch, posted on Twitter.
Arrests of protesters posted by the NC NAACP on Twitter

Why does this matter to you if you don’t live in North Carolina? Because if it works there — and it certainly seems it will — the GOP will try this in the rest of the country. Mike Pence is a master of these techniques. If the GOP doesn’t face consequences for their actions, then democracy is all but useless. When a democracy stops working like one, it isn’t one anymore. The democracy ceases to exist. And when North Carolinians are hamstrung by racist gerrymandering and voter suppression laws and a legislature that doesn’t feel constrained by democratic norms, they don’t live in a democracy anymore. The GOP, as evidenced for the past eight years under Obama, does not care to play by the rules. Their refusal to vote on Merrick Garland was an unconstitutional breach of duty. Democracy is not as important to them as their supremacy. Our democracy requires a certain amount of good faith to function. Our checks and balances are intended to rein in normal levels of disfunction and corruption — not intentional sabotage. As goes North Carolina, so goes America? We will see. Democrats and moderate Republicans everywhere should be prepared to fight back.

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