Some of us are pleased with the results of last week’s midterm elections in our nation. Some of us are distressed. Some of us are a bit of both, and a great many of us remain saddened by the ongoing levels of division and accompanying vitriol among some segments of our population.
Here are some points to ponder as we digest election results our community, our state and our nation.
The North Carolina General Assembly is no longer veto-proof. Democrats made enough gains in both the House and the Senate to sustain gubernatorial vetoes in the next session beginning in January. This means that if and when Gov. Cooper vetoes a bill, there will likely not be enough votes in both chambers to override his veto. Ours is a nation built on a system of checks and balances, and veto power is a check on legislative overreach. The same is now true in the U.S. Congress, as Democrats prepare to take control of the House of Representatives.
This is what our founders intended, even though both our state and our nation have been controlled by the Republican Party in recent years. A judge once told me that if one side left his courtroom cheering and the other side weeping, he did not do a good job. If both sides left “slightly miffed,” then he had probably made a good decision. Compromise is what greases our system of government, not one side strong-arming and simply overpowering the other.
Since the 2012 election cycle, North Carolina has been among the most gerrymandered states in the nation, and the midterms confirm that yet again despite years of lawsuits resulting in not much change.
Here is the proof for the 2018 cycle. Going into last week’s midterms, North Carolina had 13 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 10 Republicans and three Democrats. Even though both parties voted for congressional candidates at approximately the same rates, 50 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of Democrats, North Carolina came out of the midterms with 13 members of Congress, 10 Republicans and three Democrats.
How is that possible, many voters wonder? It is possible because Republican legislators doing the redistricting in 2011 crammed large numbers of Democrats into three districts and spread Republicans into the other 10 districts, practices known as “packing” and “cracking.” One redistricting committee chair, David Lewis of Dunn, even bragged that the only reason the districts are not more lopsided is that “I do not believe it is possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that North Carolina’s seven largest counties, including Cumberland, Durham, Guilford, Forsyth, Wake and Buncombe, elected African-American sheriffs, five of them for the first time in their histories. It is interesting to note that Buncombe County, whose largest city is Asheville, did so with a white population of 90 percent. Election observers and several of the newly elected sheriffs attributed their victories to avoiding hardline stances on immigration enforcement, which appealed to voters who felt fear or marginalization. Their elections highlight minority participation in law enforcement, as do minority women serving as chiefs of police\ in Fayetteville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Winston Salem.
Some see these outcomes as two steps forward and one step back, while others see the reverse. What does seem clear, though, is that the political pendulum is doing what it has always done in our nation’s history. It is arcing away from an extreme.