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Elizabeth Cook: Whither the GOP?

Did you hear that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature is considering a bill to change the University of North Carolina’s mascot to an elephant? And that another measure would put Senate Leader Phil Berger’s face on a new coin of the realm?

I’m joking, of course, but you have to wonder what the leadership will do next to institutionalize GOP control of North Carolina. They’re doing their best to strip Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of power, But something else seems to be afoot, a push to make GOP rule inviolable.

This is nothing new, as Republicans have said many times. Democrats used similar maneuvers against Republican governors Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin.

Republican Phil Kirk, a Rowan County native who worked in both administrations, witnessed the Democrats’ work firsthand. “I recall at least 13 stripping bills aimed at Holshouser,” Phil said in a recent email. Not all of the losses were harmful, according to Phil.

“.A bill passed to take away the awesome power of the governor to assign license plates 1-200. I was actually happy about this because one of my jobs was to assign the tags and I made no one happy as I recall.”

Democrats wrote the book on partisan shenanigans and had most of a century to refine it.

It’s a wonder they didn’t put a donkey on the state seal. To be, rather than to  seem —hee-haw!

That makes me think of the Sodfather —  Rowan native Jim Graham, the state agriculture commissioner for more than 35 years. Graham’s signature moment at many a Democratic event was to take a deep breath and let out a full-throated donkey bray.

At one event in Winston-Salem, Graham handed his coat to then-candidate Jimmy Carter and let out the bray heard ’round the world —  or at least by anyone listening to that radio broadcast.

An exhibit at N.C. State University honored Graham several years ago, and the online archive is a treasure trove of Graham-isms.

They say Graham looked around for a donkey when he was visiting a small village in China. As he told a fellow traveler: “You climb the Great Wall and you, too, would look for a ride.”

Shortly afterwards the commissioner said: “Two things you don’t miss in China: One is the Great Wall and two is your plane home.”

Some people were looking for a plane to another state — or a table to hide beneath — when state Rep. Carl Ford of China Grove and other members of the House’s far-right wing co-sponsored a bill to make gay marriage illegal again in North Carolina. The bill says the Supreme Court ruling on the issue “exceeds the authority of the Court relative to the decree of Almighty God that ‘a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).”

As you can imagine, Ford has experienced a backlash from people on the left, and he says some have said vile things on his Facebook page.

Liberals are not tolerant, Ford says.

Rowan County has been tolerating Carl Ford for a long time — re-electing him, even — ever since he first won a seat on the county commission.   

House Bill 780 was immediately assigned to a committee where unpopular bills go to die. The “Uphold Historical Marriage Act,” as it is called, has gone the way of the dinosaur, the dodo and another Ford gem, the “Defense of Religion Act” which some interpreted as an effort to establish Christianity as the state religion.

There is also a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Harry Warren, a Salisbury Republican, to move municipal elections from odd-numbered years to even years. Voters would elect mayors and council members at the same time they are electing presidents, governors and more. Since 1971, 99 percent of city and town elections have been held in odd-numbered years.

The North Carolina ballot is already confusingly long; adding the races of council members and town board members would complicate voting.

What we most want now is clarity and involvement, regardless of which party gets credit — or who our mascot may be.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post, 704-797-4244.



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