Opinion

The NC GOP — Grand Old Prevaricators

There’s been a lot of talk about “lying” since the ultra-controversial House override of the governor’s budget veto. With most of the Democrats absent, the House voted 55-9 to swamp Governor Cooper’s veto.

Democrats explained Republican leader David Lewis had told them there would be no morning votes taken. Lewis offered two or three conflicting explanations. He’ll likely have a couple more next week. He may be distracted – still worrying he’ll be held in contempt for lying to the redistricting court.

A righteously indignant Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) called out Tim Moore: “How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker, it’s a travesty and you know it.” Moore sneered in response, cutting off her microphone. Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) later called on Moore to resign. Cooper told a press conference the move was an assault on democracy: “there was no confusion about what happened here, this was a lie.” You’ve got to work mighty hard to get the governor that mad.

Moore derided his critics: “I made it clear if an opportunity arose I’m going to do it. If they didn’t want it to pass, all (they) had to do is show up for work.” Cheat and taunt. Taunt and cheat.

To make the point in a small, but illustrative way. A couple years ago, the NC Senate passed a measure requiring schools to display “In God We Trust” in a prominent place. Republican prayer caucus members explained the proposal didn’t “promote religion in general or Christianity in particular.” Really? It turns out the Supreme Court has long held a state law must have a secular purpose and can’t promote religion. So, the night must become the day. Lying for Jesus.

We know well the more ambitious ventures. Our voter ID law was purportedly “designed to eliminate voter fraud and assure accuracy of the ballot.” But the federal court ruled, invalidating it, “the state has failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with in person voter fraud in NC.” Legislators “could not conceal (their) true motivation, no other state has ever done so much, so fast, to restrict access to the franchise.”

Pat McCrory claimed HB2 was “a necessary safety measure that keeps predatory men out of women’s restrooms.” Dan Bishop, the law’s sponsor, said “the safety of women is being subverted and sacrificed.” The nation’s leading organizations dedicated to stopping violence against women protested: “we speak from experience when we say these claims are false.”

When Republicans redrew the Wake County Commissioners districts in 2015 because Democrats had won the elections, sponsor Chad Barefoot said it had nothing to do with politics. The federal court ruled Barefoot’s claim was mere “pretext,” a lie. In 2018, state judges threw two of the legislature’s proposed constitutional amendments off the ballot because the descriptions were so deceptive “they failed to meet the constitutional standard for submission to the voters.” Lawyers for Moore and Berger argued the courts had no power to intervene no matter how dishonest the descriptions were. The recent Common Cause political gerrymandering court found Republican leaders’ assertions that they hadn’t lied to the tribunals about work carried out on the districts “highly improbable” and “unpersuasive.”

It’s fair to say the Republicans have had an odd relationship with truth since they took over in 2010. I’m not arguing they’re Trumpian – lying when they breathe. But a great deal of the lusted for NC Republican agenda is actually unconstitutional, so adjustments have had to be made. Apparently habits have formed.

Contributing columnist Gene Nichol is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina.
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