We Need Not Elect the Governor's Cabinet
On July 17, 2012, we will spend a "fool's ransom" to decide who ought to go on the ballot for our Council of State.
This includes a Democratic primary held for the sole purpose of determining who will run for commissioner of labor. Republicans will decide who will run for lieutenant governor, commissioner of insurance, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction.
Very few people know much about these candidates or for what issues they take a stand. In fact, so little was known about the recent Republican race for state auditor this past May that The Pilot failed to endorse anyone based upon lack of information.
The Pilot described the process of voting for these offices as one where voters scratch their heads and yawn. Such will probably not be true in July, however. No head-scratching or yawning will occur. Most voters will simply not show up at the polls, although they may be fully awake and choosing to scratch another part of their anatomy.
Yet we ought not chide the uninterested citizens who fail to vote in our state's second primary. It would be easy to self-righteously call for greater voter education and scold those voters who would rather go to Myrtle Beach than choose a party's candidate for labor commissioner. These jobs are important, but mostly boring to the general public.
Both before and after the vote, most citizens know little or nothing about the candidates they elect to the Council of State. And, most citizens will continue to remain in ignorance about these officials until one of them makes headlines with a vocal gaffe or a corrupt mess.
It is about time for North Carolina to consider allowing our governor to appoint members of the Council of State, with the possible exception of attorney general. For well over 200 years, our federal government has allowed our president to select his "lieutenant president" and choose a Cabinet subject to upper house confirmation.
As for the position of attorney general, recent experience seems to require more independence of the chief executive, not less. As for the rest, our nation has done well with an appointive instead of elected Cabinet. It places both greater responsibility on the chief executive and creates a greater expectation of accountability.
If a labor rule harms industry or hurts workers, it should be placed at the feet of the governor, not some invisible labor commissioner. If the "buck stops" at the White House in Washington, it ought to also stop at the Governor's Mansion in Raleigh.
Tar Heels have always been adverse to concentrated power in the state's executive branch. Until the conclusion of the Civil War, our governors were never entrusted with more than two years in office. Until 1971, the governor could serve only one term. In 1996, ours was the last state in the Union to give the governor a veto.
This reluctance of North Carolinians to give power to the executive is generally traced to harsh treatment by our British Colonial governors and the prior eight Lords Proprietors, who essentially "owned the place." But in the 350 years since the Proprietors were awarded this land, clearly things have changed, and the structure of North Carolina's government needs to change too.
Democracy only works when people are interested. And, where there is disinterest by the voters, there will likely be mischief by the politicians. Our government is a political oxymoron.
Sometimes we favor democracy with its open votes by the people.
Sometimes we favor noblesse oblige, deferring to others we elect who are more knowledgeable than us the burden to make the decisions necessary to run the republic.
In the case of our Council of State and perhaps our judges, I suggest we lean on our "republican' predisposition rather than the "democratic." We ought to allow our elected governor, with the advice and consent of our state Senate, the privilege to appoint officials to the important Cabinet jobs we call our Council of State.
We expect these jobs to be done competently, professionally and with more forethought than an average voter has to give. And, we ought to hold accountable our elected officials to make the competent appointments Tar Heels have deferred to them.
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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