Democrats, democracy suffering under GOP control

By Paul T. O'Connor | Jun 23, 2014

RALEIGH – That Republicans express disdain for the Democratic Party is not unexpected. That they refuse to refer to it by its proper name, instead calling it the “Democrat Party,” is just rather childish.


What is concerning, however, now two terms into GOP legislative control, is their disdain for the related common noun, “democratic.” This legislature has shown a scary disposition to discount the principles of democratic government in at least three important areas.


One. As noted a week or so ago, the ruling party has decided that it knows better than local officials when it comes to running local affairs. The power grabs of the Charlotte airport and Asheville water system, the annexation law changes and the repeal of the business privilege tax show a dismissive legislative attitude toward local officials, people elected by local voters to run local affairs.


In a truly democratic society, government is kept as close to the people as possible. That was once a core argument of Republican politicians here. In North Carolina today, legislators prefer to rule from Raleigh, far from local voters.


Two. The political right disdainfully calls our public schools “government schools.” Their preference is for private and charter schools, which are publicly funded schools run by a charter’s board of directors and not by the local elected school board.


Charters can be an effective alternative to public schools when they provide a course of study aimed at a defined segment of students who can’t be served in a bigger system. But there is something inherently undemocratic about charters in that they spend public money while providing the public no say in how they are run. The elected school board is shut out.


Citizens pay their taxes, and that money flows to the charter schools. But citizens have no say in how that charter is run. And taxpayers have no say whatsoever in how private schools are run, either. But this legislature wants to provide millions for private school vouchers.


One might argue that parents have a greater say in charters and private schools, and there may be some truth to that. But, parents are not the only taxpayers with a stake in how well publicly funded schools operate. Every taxpayer contributes, and every resident is affected considerably, by the output of a publicly funded school system. As taxpayers, we all deserve our one vote on school policy, and we don’t get it with charters or private schools.


Three. Legislators passed an inexcusable voter identification law last year. It’s a voter suppression law, not one designed to ensure the integrity of our voting. It is designed to make it difficult for certain groups to vote, notably the poor, elderly and racial minorities.


Additionally, this legislature cut the hours that we can vote before Election Day. Democracies seek to increase citizen participation in their government, not reduce it.


It’s clear that today’s Republicans, long starved of power, have inebriated themselves with it, even if democracy is damned in the process.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 24, 2014 06:29

"charters in that they spend public money while providing the public no say in how they are run. The elected school board is shut out" -- Bingo!  The "public" get to say how they are run with their voluntary participation.  If the school isn't any good, nobody would go there.  That's the ultimate "vote".  I want politicians deciding how my children are educated as much as I want politicians deciding how my healthcare ought to be.  No thanks!  I thought "freedom" and "liberty" was being free?  How is government telling me what I must and must not do "freedom"?


"Democracies seek to increase citizen participation in their government, not reduce it." -- Is that really true?  A true "democracy" fails because "the people" simply vote for the politician that will give them the most stuff.  We're SUPPOSED to be a Republic more than a Democracy.  That means there are LIMITS of what the government can and cannot do.  When we were founded, only property owners voted.  There was some smarts to that if you think about it.  It was to protect property owners from having their property voted away from them.  Inherently in the system, the "republican" part of the republic was built-in.  Not so today.  Membership in the Democrat party :-) today means: I want to gang up with likeminded people, take money from others, and decide how "other people's money" will be spent.  That's democracy.


If you ask me, we ought to turn that dial back a bit and protect We The People from government.  Thomas Jefferson would flip in his grave if he knew the federal government were to decide how my child would be educated, how I have to take care of my health, and how long I have to remain in the workforce before retiring.


Mr. O'Connor's writings are reliably shallow.  The guy that preceded him (I think retired) wrote more thought-provoking columns.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Jun 26, 2014 14:26

            Jefferson was most certainly opposed to any prosylitizing or any private use of public money. Perhaps you might want to actually read his Act For establishing Religious Freedom for yourself. It was his opinion that if the public schools taught the lessons of a republic the nations youth would be Unitarian.

             "No Taxation without Representation" was the battlecry of OUR revolutionary soldiers. We the people have a right to be represented as to how OUR money is spent.

              We the people have a right to have those not of the age of consent taught in a certain and proper man.

              But of course you would disagree.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 26, 2014 14:44

"But of course you would disagree." -- Maybe not for the reasons you might think.  Growing up, I had many friends that went to Carolina Day school in Asheville.  I don't recall there being any kind of religious affiliation with that school.  I do not want school choice so that people can attend religious schools.  However, I do not oppose religious schools either and would certainly think it's valid to consider a religious school in a free society with school choice.


If you think I would object to the "private use of public money", that's just not a reasonable position to take.  Social Security payments are "private use of public money".  As is food stamps and any other safety net program.  Those are necessary to live in a descent society.


If We The People are represented by those that make into law a system that provides a quality education by public or private enterprises, that is entirely legitimate.  It is as legitimate as our government paying a private company for processing our trash.


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