SCOTT MOONEYHAM: What If GOP Took Over Legislature?
That's the question asked by an article in a quarterly magazine produced by the conservative John William Pope Civitas Institute.
For more than a year, the organization, funded by Republican Party financier and retailer Art Pope, has been conducting monthly polls and holding forums. The magazine is its latest endeavor.
As a tax-exempt non-profit, the organization apparently couldn't ask the more accurate, albeit partisan question: What if Democrats didn't control the General Assembly?
The fact that it couldn't ask this question creates a few problems, chiefly that liberals don't control the General Assembly.
If you don't believe me, go ask Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham or Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of Carrboro. These true liberals would probably acknowledge that their views aren't widely reflected among their fellow legislative Democrats.
Yes, House Majority Leader Joe Hackney could certainly be called a liberal, although he has risen to his current leadership position because he has proven to be more pragmatic than fellow liberals like Luebke and Kinnaird. But even with his pragmatism, it's somewhat doubtful that he will ever rise to the position of House speaker exactly because he is philosophically to the left of the moderates who make up the majority of House Democrats.
But let's not quibble. Instead, let's get back to the real question posed by the magazine article: What if Republicans took control of the legislature?
The magazine article concludes, "Electing a conservative speaker would be the most important thing a conservative majority could do -- ensure fairness in committees and on the floor, equal treatment of legislative proposals and open debate on all issues."
The writer seems to equate "conservative" with "ethical" and "liberal" with "unethical." Apparently his home and office are censored of all news coming out of Washington.
But enough on the article. Let us suppose that Republicans gained majorities in the House and Senate following the November elections.
The fact is that even a four- or six-seat Republican majority would not ensure the election of a Republican speaker because of the ongoing feuding within the ranks. Finding any speaker candidate who could unite Republicans would prove difficult. And while party officials talked publicly about uniting behind a caucus nominee, all factions would be engaged in backroom wheeling and dealing.
It's the kind of scenario that a conservative Democrat could take advantage of.
On the Senate side, even a slim Republican majority would lead to a GOP chamber leader. Senate Republicans aren't all love and kisses behind closed doors, but they're a much less dysfunctional group than House Republicans.
But obviously a GOP majority, whether or not it resulted in unified Republican House leadership, would lead to more conservative public policy. Some of the social conservative agenda, like a constitutional ban on gay marriage, would probably pass. True liberals would be marginalized.
But notions that ethical behavior and fiscal restraint would reign, as GOP rule in Washington has shown, is a nave take indeed.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association. Contact him at email@example.com
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