I am aware this will sound like a white privilege whine. Please bear with me.
No one actually represents me in Congress or in the state capital. Oh, a number of elected officials will say they do, but they don’t. My voice isn’t heard, and I’m not alone. In North Carolina, there are millions of us. We’re Democrats.
Over the last 40 years, N.C. has usually been represented in the Senate by one Republican and one Democrat. Much of the time, I had confidence that my viewpoint would be registered in Washington. My argument may not have prevailed, but at least it was counted. Now, with the state having two GOP senators, about half of the state’s voters essentially have no reliable voice in Washington with the exception of President Obama. (In 2008, Obama won North Carolina. In 2012, Obama lost the state to Romney, 50-48. But both votes indicate how evenly split the state is.)
Normally, this wouldn’t disturb me because I know how representative civics works. But on the issue of the Supreme Court, it does. Neither of my senators has indicated they care what the state’s people want in terms of the Supreme Court vacancy. Almost as soon as Sen. McConnell handed down the party line, Sen. Burr and Sen. Tillis adopted it. They didn’t consult with their constituents then, and they aren’t listening to them now. (Polls are clear that most North Carolinians want a Senate hearing on the nomination.)
In Mississippi, U.S. Rep. Karl Oliver wrote the words to a constituent that I have to believe are similar to what North Carolina senators must think.
“I see you are not a native to the Great State of Mississippi nor do you and I have similar political views. The people of our Great State overwhelmingly share my same or similar views on Government responsibility. I appreciate you going to the trouble to share yours with me, but quite frankly, and with all due respect, I could care less. I would, however, recommend that there are a rather large number of like-minded citizens in Illinois that would love to see you return.”
(For the record, I wasn’t born in N.C., but neither were Sens. Burr or Tillis.)
The lack of representation doesn’t stop with the U.S. Senate. I live in Greensboro, which is a predominantly Democratic city. I have — and have had for years — Republican House members. Fair enough. They rarely vote as I would prefer. Best I can tell, the current House member does exactly what the House GOP leadership wants him to.
So, in Congress, I can get great constituent service and passes to all the sights in D.C. when I visit Washington. But if I want to weigh in on an issue of interest? I may as well be talking to my dog. And I don’t have a dog.
The same holds true in Raleigh, where the governor and both the state House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. OK, thanks to gerrymandering, that’s the way it falls. But there isn’t exactly a contingent of people making decisions in Raleigh that cares about what I or an awful lot of people who have a (D) after their name in the voting rolls think.
So, you might say, you have power at the local level where things that affect you most directly happen. Yes, Greensboro City Council has wonderfully caring and committed representatives. So does the local school board. Yet, the politicians in Raleigh get offended by things the local elected officials do and they start meddling. In my county, the General Assembly has changed the way the local council and school board are elected. Did the General Assembly ask the opinion of the school board or council or residents? No.
And Greensboro is hardly alone in being messed with by the General Assembly. Every sizable city in the state has felt the wrath of the bullies in Raleigh who somehow think that the best government is the one they control, regardless of whether local citizens want it.
Before you say that this is what Republicans faced for years under Democratic control, I’ll make two points:
- North Carolina has had at least one Republican U.S. senator since 1973.
- National politics didn’t used to be this polarized. Democrats and Republicans would negotiate and compromise. Things got done. Now, not so much.
I’ll say again, I’m a student of government and politics. I know how it works. Elections have consequences. The politicians dance with the ones that brung and fund them. But they represent me, too, and that representation only exists on an organizational diagram. And I crossed party lines and voted for some of them.
Do I have a voice? Of course. Please note, though, that despite dozens of protests and tens of thousands of protesters participating in Moral Mondays in Raleigh, little attention was paid by the legislature or the governor. In fact, at least one influential legislator called them Moron Mondays.
I know minorities have felt for years that their voices weren’t heard. I suspect Republicans have thought that, too. Well, now millions of Democrats in N.C. are right there with them.