When Republicans assumed control of the North Carolina legislature in 2010 and the governorship last year, few predicted the result: a sharply conservative turn on key policies and an attempt to entrench the party's advantage. A story in The New York Times and a poll out on Wednesday show that voters are largely unhappy with the moves. As is often the case, there's absolutely nothing the voters can do about it until election day.
The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, should be humbling for the state's elected officials. Fifty-four percent of voters disapprove of the legislature's efforts, which include new abortion restrictions, redistricting to bolster Republican candidates, and limits on the ability to vote. Fixty-six percent oppose what the Republicans have done while having control of the state government. Half of the state thinks the legislature is an embarrassment. The New York Times reports more anecdotal responses to the state's new tack.
'This is a definite break from what I would consider normal behavior for North Carolina,'' said David French, 27, who is looking for a job in industrial design here in rural Rockingham County. ''The whole political system nowadays is becoming more extreme.'' …
''It shocked everybody,'' said Sam Hummell, a 76-year-old retired investment adviser who was arrested last month in Raleigh wearing an Uncle Sam costume and taking part in the protests that have come to be known as ''Moral Mondays.''
Those "Moral Mondays" have seen weekly protests on the grounds of the state capitol. During a separate protest, the state's governor declined protestors' request to meet, instead offering them cookies. Fifty-seven percent of voters thought that was inappropriate.
But what can they do? Impatient objection to elected officials behavior has become a recurring theme. The most recent example is San Diego's Bob Filner, who, fully cured of his unhappy habit of sexually assaulting women, faces a slow, tedious recall effort while he stays on as mayor. Such recalls seem to have been abundant recently — attempts to recall legislators in Colorado over gun control measures, last year's unsuccessful push to purge Wisconsin's Scott Walker. That Wisconsin recall effort culminated in an early June vote, but began 16 months previously. Slow, tedious, and — for recall backers — fruitless.
In North Carolina, even that isn't an option. The map at right shows those states in which recall of the executive or legislature is allowed (dark red) or only the executive (light red), using data from Ballotpedia. (Local laws may allow recall of local officials — which is what Filner faces in San Diego.) North Carolina, like much of the South and Northeast, remains stubbornly gray, despite some attempts to instantiate recalls in the state. Even if it were, attempting to recall the governor and enough of the legislature to restore what the state hails as the "middle way" would be an almost impossible task. This is essentially what was attempted in Wisconsin. The governor and a dozen members of the legislature faced recall. Only three members of the legislature lost.
For those in North Carolina who are unhappy with how things are going, there are only two courses of action. The first is to get the legislature to pass (and the governor to sign) new legislation allowing for the recall of state officials. Given the situation, that seems unlikely. The second is to wait. The next legislative elections are only 15 months away.