A Democratic representative from Charlotte-Mecklenberg, North Carolina, switched to the Republican Party this week. The move has fueled speculation about whether the Republicans can now override gubernatorial vetoes at will.
The North Carolina switch
The modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me and others across the state. I will not be controlled by anyone.
The turning point came when colleagues – and some voters – bawled her out for using American flag and praying-hands symbols on her social-media accounts, and applying those same symbols to her personal vehicles.
This move now gives Republicans supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Republicans, before the switch, held 71 of 120 seats in the North Carolina House; now they hold 72. They currently hold 30 seats in the Senate. In North Carolina – in contrast to the United States Congress – three-fifths constitute a supermajority. Recently Republicans overrode a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.) of a bill to establish permitless purchase of handguns. Rep. Cotham was absent for that vote. That absence provoked some of the insults that built tension in her mind. Then came the reaction to the flag and praying-hands symbols.
Whether Cotham would be a consistent “Republican” voter remains to be seen. She ran on a typical “woke” platform – though she does not mention her position on abortion. Gov. Cooper called on her to keep voting in “Democrat” fashion; other Democrats demanded her resignation.
But Republicans – including Rep. Tim Moore, House Speaker – welcomed her joining.
Other reasons for leaving
At a press conference, Rep. Cotham gave several reasons for leaving:
If you don’t do exactly what the Democrats want you to do, they will try to bully you, they will try to cast you aside. It became clear to me very early on in January that you better vote in line with what Gov. Cooper wants you to do.
In fact she feels her responsibility as a legislator is to:
learn everything I can, to ask questions, to hear perspectives before deciding how to vote.
On one hand, that explains why her caucus perhaps pushed her too far with personal insults. But it should also give pause to Speaker Moore, who cannot count on her slavishly following his orders, either. Nevertheless her willingness to caucus with Republicans might embolden Republicans to send more bills to Gov. Cooper and dare him to veto them. And, like a “swing Justice,” Rep. Cotham could become the most powerful member of the North Carolina legislature. Or at least, that will hold until next year’s elections, when all will depend on what Mecklenberg County will do.
The United States Supreme Court set the precedent for using cross-town busing of school pupils to balance the races in class, in a case coming out of that very region. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971). The region might well have become majority black by reason of “white flight” following that case.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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