The difference between laws and norms has been the subject of much recent conversation. In my mind, the difference is clear: Sharing one’s tax returns as a candidate for the U.S. presidency is a norm, whereas business conflicts of interest are recognized as coming under the law.
It is, however, unclear if Gov. Pat McCrory’s efforts to pre-emptively undermine incoming Gov.-elect Roy Cooper are legal, but it is blatantly clear that this maneuver violates longstanding norms that underpin our democracy and civil discourse.
Although the possibility for a disgruntled governor to kneecap an incoming administration has existed throughout history, in my experience it has not happened to such a degree.
It brings to mind the rules we teach young children – “use your inside voice” and “don’t hit your sister” – values that we hope children will eventually internalize making such rules unnecessary as they become adults. Unfortunately, such standards of conduct appear to have eroded in our society, and we have arrived at the point where we will need to enact laws to prohibit lame-duck governors from acting out their disappointment in the last months of office.
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Do we really need a law for this? The answer, unfortunately, appears to be yes.