Jim Jenkins

In the wee hours, NC Senate Republicans act small

N.C. Senate President pro tem Phil Berger (Rep.), left front, and Sen. Harry Brown (Rep.), right front, and other senators listen during a Senate debate in March.
N.C. Senate President pro tem Phil Berger (Rep.), left front, and Sen. Harry Brown (Rep.), right front, and other senators listen during a Senate debate in March. cseward@newsobserver.com

The last time I was awake at 3 a.m., it was because my grands were in the middle of drawing Spider-Man and Power Rangers on my face in the middle of the night. It confirmed: Nothing good happens at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Following a peculiar state Senate meeting last week, in which a budget amendment cutting education programs in some Democratic counties was passed at 3 a.m., that statement stands.

This was nothing but Republican strong-arm stuff passed thanks to a substantial GOP majority, in the name of getting more money to fight the opioid epidemic. Democrats had kept the evening going with a series of proposed amendments. So, for spite, Republicans took away some education funding from Democratic districts and cut things for the N.C. Museum of Art and a general downtown revitalization program. This mischief passed at the aforementioned 3 a.m. To fight opioid addiction, the cuts had to come, GOP leaders said or else ... gasp ... there might have to be a tax hike. (Their budget is ridiculous in its failure to do enough for working families.)

Everybody was looking pretty tired, and no wonder. And, it made some want to ask – a la Donald Trump – for GOP birth certificates. Not to check citizenship, but to see if Republican leaders were 9 years old.

Most of their shenanigans – from Voter ID to redistricting to HB2 to this 3 a.m. surprise rejecting worthy ideas from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper – come about because Republicans are making up for years of Democratic control when GOP legislators were ignored and worse.

They always got lousy offices; their bills died before consideration. Legend has it that during one discussion decades ago of recognizing the Yom Kippur holiday, a lawmaker asked, “Now is this Mr. Kippur a Democrat or Republican?”

The Democrats were in charge for 100 years, and that was too long.

Yes, they often stood for the right things, education first among them. But long-term power created a attitude that ignored dissenting views, within and without the party. Even when voters sent Democrats a message by electing Republican Jim Holshouser and Republican Jim Martin as governors in 1972 and 1984, respectively, Democratic leaders still didn’t want to share power. (I changed my own registration to unaffiliated after a Democratic Party type criticized The N&O for endorsing a Republican idea.)

But Republicans took over after 2010. It’s easy to understand why they’d want some payback after 100 years. We all get that, and sometimes I think Democrats should, instead of complaining, get to work with some clear ideas and strong candidates to give the voters the fair choice they deserve.

But the Republican Party of 2017 is not the Republican Party of the 1980s. Hard-core ideologues rule now, and they’re not inclined toward moderation. They appear to be making up for 100 years out of power as quickly as possible – even if they have to stay up all night.

But being in a hurry, whether it’s legislating or trying to make the movie theater on time or get to a game before kickoff, leads to trouble, and for Republicans in the General Assembly, it’s led to one political fender-bender after another, whether it’s seemingly endless courtroom confrontations over voter rights or a “marriage amendment” or the HB2 law that did serious damage to the state’s reputation.

Republicans ought to relax and douse the midnight oil. They have the votes for the foreseeable future. They can guide the state in a conservative direction without screeching the tires. And their man is in the White House.

Hmmm ... now that might be a reason to be up late.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at jjenkins@newsobserver.com

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