Leadership Lack Shows In Raleigh
North Carolina legislators left the state capital at the previously appointed time, meaning the republic should be safe for a few more weeks.
The results, though, may not say a lot about the state's political leadership, on either end of the political spectrum.
Gov. Beverly Perdue had five vetoes overturned, meaning that she saw six of her 15 vetoes this session reversed.
That first veto overridden, earlier in the summer, came on the state budget.
Perdue clearly saw political advantage to vetoing the budget bill, regardless of the outcome.
She was making a statement that state employee layoffs and program eliminations in that budget plan weren't her own, that the $19 billion spending plan belonged exclusively to the Republican-controlled legislature.
At that point, her other vetoes had held. Perdue had made the legislature look like the weaker political institution.
Then came the spate of reversals. Legislative Republicans - sometimes with a little Democratic help, sometimes with a lot - were able to reverse Perdue vetoes of abortion restrictions, medical malpractice limits, regulatory reform, Medicaid providers rules and reorganization of the state Employment Security Commission.
What was the political message being sent here with vetoes that couldn't be sustained? That the Democratic governor couldn't rely on the support of the members of her own party? That the legislature wasn't so weak after all?
After the abortion restrictions legislation had been overridden, the state Democratic Party sent around a "Thank You" note email praising Perdue for "standing up for women." The women for whom she stood up might have been happier if Perdue had managed to line up the votes needed to sustain her veto.
Over in the Legislative Building, Republicans slapped themselves on the back for dishing out some punishment to the governor.
That punishment, as it related to the abortion restrictions, was a bit like shattering every bone in your arm while delivering a black eye. "Wow, look at that shiner. Hey doc, you're not going to need to amputate the arm, are you?"
The top job duty of legislative leaders is to protect their fellow party members from votes that can do them political harm.
The job is easy enough when the opposition party is the one trying to foist potentially harmful votes onto the majority party.
It becomes tougher when you are trying to protect the politically foolish from themselves.
The override of the abortion restrictions veto showed once again that House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger either can't or won't protect their respective caucuses from politically harmful votes that paint all legislative Republicans as right-wing ideologues.
Maybe the vote satisfies the social conservatives who make up their base. But are those voters going to vote for Democrats if the issue dies? Are they critical to the GOP's fundraising plans?
Some moderate voters - those folks who actually decide elections and legislative majorities, and who don't want state politics descending into divisive social issues - will remember.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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