Subtlety at work in state politics

By Jeff Linville -

Jeff Linville News Editor

Every day my email inbox is flooded with political messages from one group or another. Every little thing done by one party is scrutinized and criticized by the other until our heads are all spinning, which of course is the point.

This “mountain out of a mole hill” response has left many of us numb to the actions of either side. We start to ignore what is going on because we reckon that none of it is anything more than a mole hill. And that’s dangerous thinking.

Long after I’d learned the basics of chess, I was still only a halfway decent chess player because I was sloppy. My opponent would make a subtle move, and I would be too busy doing my own thing to notice. Then suddenly a massive strike would crumble my defense and leave my mouth hanging open. How did I miss that? If I were playing on the computer, this is the point when I would back up a few steps and try to figure out when I’d screwed up.

In a sports column I wrote a year ago I mentioned that players do lots of subtle things to get an advantage, and if the officials don’t notice, then one team suffers.

Gaylord Perry used to rub Vasoline on the baseball to make it curve more in the air. Mike Scott hid sandpaper inside his glove to scuff the balls.

Football receivers used to put pine resin on their hands to help them catch the ball, while defensive linemen were known to spritz Pam cooking spray on their jerseys to make them slippery.

Much of that type of cheating has been eliminated today, but a common sight on Sundays is a cornerback putting one hand on a player’s hip as he reaches toward the ball with the other arm. Why is his hand on the guy’s hip? To gently twist the receiver sideways so he can’t catch the ball properly. So why doesn’t this get called more often as pass interference? Beats me.

What does this have to do with politics? Because they do the same thing.

We get an Education Lottery to bring in additional money for schools — only to see a smaller portion of the state budget going to education, as the General Assembly redirects money to other concerns (6.7 percentage points less according to a report from WRAL TV last year, 43.7 to 37.0).

We all saw how much of the nation looked down on our state after the passing of HB2 last year. The funny thing is, that was a law that was openly about bathroom protection, but subtly about so much, much more; however, it was the bathroom part that drew so much ire.

The Republican Party knew it could sell bathroom protection to the public, then slide in parts about cities not being able to pass their own anti-discrimination policies, set their own local minimum wage or regulate child labor. It also limited where people could file to sue in anti-discrimination suits.

Look at what we just discovered in the past couple of months with House Bill 56. The majority of the bill (which has since been voted into law over the governor’s veto) has to do with providing funding to Wilmington-area utilities and UNC Wilmington to help treat and remove chemicals from the Cape Fear River.

However, like so many laws, this one contained passages that have nothing to do with the main purpose. The part that affects us here relates to landfill regulations.

Obviously, this was some sort of bribe added to the bill to get it passed. “If you want my vote on GenX funding, you better pass something for me on landfills.” The two have nothing to do with each other, yet this is how politicians operate, and we as the public are just supposed to be okay with it.

Now look at the newest veto the GOP has overridden.

A new law has done away with primaries for judicial races. At first glance, I might be tempted to say, “Who cares? Do we really know enough about all of the judge candidates to need a primary? We probably know the one we’re going to vote for, and we aren’t likely to change our minds, so who needs a primary?”

But then I think back to those chess games when a single pawn is inched forward a square. “So what? Who cares? He’s the weakest piece on the board and takes forever to get anywhere. What can he do?” Then I got my butt kicked.

There is a broader game at play.

According to an Associated Press report, some GOP members have implied that they want a state constitutional amendment to change how judges are selected. They don’t want an election; they want to pick a judge themselves.

Doing away with a primary in the spring gives the General Assembly all the way until next November’s election to pass such an amendment.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he believes the GOP wants to do away with judicial elections because “the legislature is angry that their bad laws continue to be overturned by the courts.”

If the General Assembly could appoint judges, then whichever party controlled the state government could select judges that lean the same way.

Between selecting the judges it wants and redrawing voting districts as it pleases, either political party can have too much power at any given time, and that isn’t a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Jeff Linville News Editor Linville News Editor

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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