Voters Lose in Political Games Convulsing Raleigh
You may have read about the latest political skirmish that happened earlier this month in the state legislature.
In a hastily called, utterly opaque midnight session, Republican leadership in the N.C. House dropped a political hammer on the state teachers association as retribution for their opposition in a prior political squabble.
Many people I talk to in the capital are feeling an increasing sense of frustration with how the state's political business is conducted. Democrats called the recent midnight session dirty pool, but it's tough for them to criticize when some of those same Democrats did similar stuff when they had the reins of power.
The back-and-forth between our two largest political parties has voters feeling like a rag doll being torn apart by two tantrum-ridden toddlers. The partisan battles go on, political scores are settled and the needs of average citizens are being ripped apart.
A big reason the Republicans were able to carry out their latest sortie on Democrats was because they came to power in 2010 after a brilliantly executed and well-funded campaign to "clean up Raleigh." And after a century of one-party control, the capital was in need of some reform.
The campaign was successful but the concept of reform didn't last long, as the new majority quickly learned to play the same old tired political game.
To say that the deep disappointment we feel in our government is only the result of a few politicians misses how truly discouraged voters have become with the political system itself. No wonder more and more of us tune out our democracy. When my kids at home bicker like this, I want to tune them out, too.
But much like being the parent of a child, voters are the guardians of our democracy. And good parenting demands that we pay close attention to how "the kids" are acting. We must reward good behavior and, when necessary, reprimand poor choices. Most of all, we have to keep an eye on what they are doing. Even if it's in the middle of the night, we need to know what games they are playing.
Just like when we send our own kids off to school, we need to send our politicians off to a capital that has certain expectations of behavior. Sending them to a capital that has been immersed in partisan warfare and political gamesmanship is no more responsible than sending our children to a nightclub for their education.
We need to be extra vigilant about not just what gets done, but how things get done in Raleigh. There is a right way and a wrong way to pursue political outcomes, and we can no longer accept the notion that the ends justify any means necessary.
So let's start here. Let's quit accepting that the only way to play politics is to play games with the process in order to win. Let's demand that our business be done in a way that is fair, transparent and inclusive. Even if this means that our preferred party doesn't get everything it wants.
Reasonable people can disagree on what policies our government should pursue, but at a bare minimum we should all agree that it is not acceptable to manipulate the process in pursuit of our favored policies. The concept of taking votes in the middle of the night with little or no notice may have been permissible by the rules, but if that's the case, the rules need to change.
While they have been going on for years now, it's far past time to quit playing political games where voters lose out.
Damon Circosta is the executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, a Raleigh-based nonprofit and nonpartisan organization.
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