On Dec. 5, incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina conceded what had to that point been one of the tightest gubernatorial elections in the state's history to Democratic Attorney Gen. Roy Cooper.
Nine days later, on Dec. 14, the state’s Legislature held a special session to pass a disaster relief bill for Hurricane Matthew, but then quickly shifted focus to drafting a series of laws that would strip the governor-elect of several key executive powers. The bills were pushed through that night and, by Dec. 16, McCrory had signed the legislation.
When Cooper steps into office Jan. 7, he will have little control over the State Board of Elections, the state’s appellate courts (which stand to counter the governor) will be strengthened, Copper will have been robbed of his ability to appoint trustees to the University of North Carolina, and he will have his Cabinet appointees subjected to legislative approval.
This neutering of the governorship is unprecedented. North Carolina Republicans, rather than respect the democratic transition of power from one party to another (a tenet of modern representative democracy), decided, instead, to burn the house down.
But is this an isolated incident? Should Democrats across the country, and especially those in the federal government, view these actions as a possible preview of the Trump administration.
When President-elect Donald Trump takes office Jan. 20, he will enjoy a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress. His forthcoming Supreme Court nomination will undoubtedly keep the high court aligned with Conservative ideology. Furthermore, 25 states are fully controlled by Republicans -- meaning the GOP controls the Governor’s Mansion and both Legislative chambers in those states -- the Democrats, by comparison, hold only five states.
All this amounts to near-total freedom for the president-elect and Republican legislators to run the country as they see fit.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that what happened in North Carolina will happen across the nation, but Trump’s Cabinet nominees provide a glimpse of things to come.
In early December, Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, Republican Attorney General of oil-rich Oklahoma, to be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” said Pruitt, who has also called into question the validity of man-made climate change, according to the Washington Post.
For Secretary of Education, Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos, the billionaire chairwoman of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children. DeVos has dedicated the last 20 years of her life to privatizing public education, and to passing laws requiring public money be funneled into private school tuition.
And for Secretary of Energy, a position responsible for, among other things, overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.
During Perry’s failed 2012 presidential campaign, he vowed to shut down the Department of Energy should he be elected.
“The Rick Perry choice is so perplexing,” former Democratic Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, who oversaw years of the Energy Department’s budgeting, told the New York Times. “And Rick Perry suggested the agency should be abolished. That suggests he thinks it doesn’t have value.”
The GOP’s exact plans for the country in 2017 remain to be seen. Considering, however, years of obstructionism toward Democrats, renewed efforts by Republican lawmakers to deny civil rights to minority groups, and recent events in North Carolina, Democrats should stay vigilant at every step.