One bright spot for progressives in the 2016 elections was the victory of Democrat Roy Cooper over incumbent North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. But before Cooper could take office, the Republican-controlled legislature called a special session (supposedly to consider relief for Hurricane Matthew victims) and used it to ram through laws limiting the new governor’s authority.
This past week, hundreds of protesters chanting “power grab” filled the state Capitol building in Raleigh to protest Republican-created measures to slash the number of state employees appointed by the governor, to require Senate approval for all of the governor’s Cabinet picks, and strip the governor of the power to appoint University of North Carolina trustees. Other bills would weaken the governor’s control over the state Board of Election, and strip some power away from the Democratic governor and give it to the lieutenant governor, who happens to be a Republican. None of these bills were being considered until after Republican Governor Pat McCrory conceded defeat, by the way.
In North Carolina, the Moral Mondays movement has been fighting back, bringing together working-class whites, black people disempowered by voting restrictions, LGBT people subject to discriminatory new laws, public school advocates, and everyone else who has a stake in maintaining a vibrant public sector.
In a recent interview on Democracy Now, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, Moral Mondays leader and president of the North Carolina NAACP, put all these attempts by the Republicans in a new light:
"I believe all of the pushback we’re seeing—the voter suppression, the redistricting—is because the extremists see the possibility of a third Reconstruction ... They know that we have beat them in voter suppression. We beat them over redistricting. And they see this tide rising. They see, if you look at the pictures yesterday, black and white and Latino people standing together in the Deep South. And they know that if we have policy movement along with this kind of moral movement, it will not only energize North Carolina, but it could energize the rest of the South and cause people to stand up and see that we are no longer in the minority, if we engage in real fusion politics. This is ... the politics of Herod. Herod, if you remember in the Christian story, was so scared of his power, so scared it was going to be taken, that he engaged in the most mean-spirited and vicious kind of attempts to hold onto power. We have a Herod Legislature, rather than a Legislature that is acting like the democracy that we live in."
Here is video from Rev. Barber's Facebook page speaking at the North Carolina state capitol about the right to speak out for democracy.