Democratic Norms Are Under Attack, and Not Just by Trump

Governing: Shortly after last year’s election, Andrew Reynolds made a startling assertion. The University of North Carolina political scientist, who had helped devise a formula for measuring the vitality of democracies, wrote a newspaper column claiming his state’s restrictions on voting and its unwillingness to follow established rules “means our state government can no longer be classified as a full democracy.” Reynolds’ column was widely shared and reprinted by several national outlets, mostly but not exclusively liberal. He received some pushback. But the North Carolina legislature seems to be on a mission to prove him right. Immediately after last November’s election, in which Democrat Roy Cooper unseated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, the Republican-controlled legislature used a lame-duck session to strip the governor’s office of a number of key powers, including authority over some appointments. That effort has been held up in court, but legislators keep coming up with new variations. After the election -- which also cost conservatives their majority on the state Supreme Court -- it was widely reported that the GOP-dominated legislature would pack the court, adding two seats to create a new majority before Cooper could take office. But while they didn’t pack the Supreme Court, North Carolina legislators did tamper this year with the main appellate court, reducing its membership by three in order to prevent Cooper from appointing replacements for retiring Republican judges.

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