North Carolina Republicans double down on attacking democracy

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Gene Nichol
·3 min read
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The North Carolina Republican Party enjoys deep and disproportionate representation in the Sedition Caucus. It’s also working to purge the non-committed from its membership.

Mark Meadows and Mick Mulvaney, of course, directly abetted Donald Trump’s efforts to dislodge democracy as chiefs of staff. Mark Martin, ever the rigid partisan, provided, according to the New York Times, absurd and indefensible legal advice on Vice President Pence’s authority to upend the presidential election and Texas’ lawsuit to disenfranchise an array of Democratic states. Sidney Powell’s democracy-defying legal claims have proven even loonier. (Mulvaney, Powell and Martin have hardly bathed the UNC law school in glory.)

More than two-thirds of North Carolina’s Republican delegation in the House of Representatives, last December, signed on to a shocking amicus brief in a Supreme Court case the Attorney General of Pennsylvania correctly labeled a “seditious abuse of the judicial process.” An even higher number voted, on Jan. 6, with 131 other House Republicans, to invalidate state-certified elections without a whiff of justification – in an effort to unconstitutionally install the loser of the presidential contest. After an unparalleled mob failed to overthrow the American democracy by force, most of our Republicans congressmen tried to do the same thing by a monstrous abuse of power, in defiance of their constitutionally-prescribed oaths of office.

Upon learning of Richard Burr’s courageous vote to hold Trump accountable for instigating insurrection, Thom Tillis explained the brave path was not for him – as if any sentient Tar Heel thought there was the remotest possibility our junior senator would stand up to the former president. The NC Republican Party then called an “emergency” meeting to unanimously censure Sen. Burr for his heresy. GOP Chairman Michael Whatley explained it was crucial to immediately address the Burr transgression.

Burr responded with irrefutable precision: “My party’s leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation.” Let none be in doubt, the Tar Heel partisans proclaimed, we’re soundly in league with the seditionists and their unsuccessful, congenitally dishonest, wannabe strong man.

I know some don’t want to hear this, but it is vital to recall what this crew stands for.

They have proven, through word and deed, they are willing to throw democracy aside to keep power in their hands – the ultimate governing transgression in the United States. They have shown themselves faithless to the central commitment of the nation. They have moved to reject the background conditions for democratic political work in a republic.

We, of course, have terrible and dividing disagreements on the facts these days. But this is a stunning step beyond that misfortune. The North Carolina sedition caucus, and their nationwide companions, don’t agree with the foundational principles of democracy itself. They don’t believe in what we are as a country, what we have committed to as a people. The rest of us need to understand that, to look it in the face, combat it, not gloss it over. An autocratic movement is alive and well in North Carolina. It is also powerfully positioned.

There is much talk now of “unity” and “bipartisanship” and compromise, in Washington and Raleigh. But there is no unity to be had with seditionists, with traitors to the American experiment. Meeting this crew half-way requires one to be complicit in the undermining of democracy. The sedition wing of the Republican Party should apologize and resign. If not, we’re required to run them out of the offices they’ve betrayed.

Nichol, a contributing columnist for the Editorial Board, is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina.