The Arrogance of Abusive Power in NC

Charlotte Observer, Gene Nichol – The English historian, Lord John Acton, said famously: “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He said other things as well. Like, “despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality” and “authority that does not exist for liberty is not authority but force.”

Lord Acton never met the Republicans in our General Assembly. If he had, he might have added a few new aphorisms. Like “concentrated power leads to unyielding, intolerable, and honor-destroying arrogance.” He’d recognize, right readily, our petty, partisan, present day Tar Heel tyrants. I wish I could introduce them.

A few days ago I watched a tape of N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson’s Oct. 31 speech to his Senate colleagues. I commend it to all – not just for its stirring content, but also for the Republican senators’ reaction to it. The minute and a half tape says everything you need to know about the humiliating state of 2019 North Carolina Republican politics.

Sen. Jackson, the young Afghanistan war veteran from Mecklenburg County, rose to protest the continuing, months-long vote manipulation by Senate leader Phil Berger. Suffice to say, Jackson is scarcely intimidated by the likes of this crew. He said:

“You need to call the vote. The entire state is waiting. All 50 of us are here. There are only 50 members in this body. As I look around I count 50.”

“The (budget veto override) was on the calendar for the last three days. You’ve canceled it all three days for one reason – not because people are absent but because people are present. The fair vote is the one with everyone present, you’re hoping to get an unfair vote. Don’t you see that’s an integrity issue? Have you been here so long you’re blind to the basics? Do the right thing. You don’t have any excuse. You’re playing games. We all see it. Call the vote.”

Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman of Randolph County then rose, with a sneer on his face, asking “for a moment of personal privilege.” Facing Jackson, Tillman said:

“I might expect some criticism about calling the vote from many people. But you’d be the last one to advise me on that. I don’t believe we need your advice on when to call the vote. We’ll call the vote at the right time. I hope you’ll miss it. But nevertheless we’ll call it.”

When Tillman said “I hope you’ll miss it” the Republican senators erupted in derisive laughter. Jackson stood tall. The Republicans oozed slime. Sen. Berger deemed Jackson’s opposition to vote manipulation “infantile.” Watch the tape. Decide which camp disgusts.

It might be helpful to recall that this Republican General Assembly has repeatedly been found by every kind of court in the land – federal, state, trial, appellate, Republican, Democrat and bi-partisan – to have boldly and deliberately abused its power and prerogative. Judges have consistently determined that Republican leaders have lied about proffered justifications for their constitutionally violative schemes. On the House side, they misled and cheated their Democratic colleagues to get an override vote. And both chambers have forced Tar Heel taxpayers to pay millions of dollars to defend their illicit ventures in federal and state tribunals. Yet they remain, apparently, unchastened.

Tillman’s profane arrogance is, of course, his own. His leader, and his Republican colleagues, no doubt, enjoyed sharing the fun. But this dishonorable train wreck demeans us all, not just the Republican senators who demonstrated how despicable they can be.

We can’t allow the nation to believe, one minute longer, that this represents North Carolina.

Read this article at the Charlotte Observer here.