Hypocrisy on Display in Coverage of North Carolina Legislature

Massachusetts Dems did same thing and it was not seen as 'legislative coup'

Pat McCrory
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory / AP

All the critics had something to say about North Carolina Republicans and their decision a week ago to hold a special legislative session to enact new laws before incoming Democratic governor Roy Cooper takes office.

"Republicans have turned North Carolina into a laboratory for subverting democracy," wrote The Nation. Slate labeled it an "alarming departure from basic democratic norms" and a "disturbing legislative coup." The New York Times editorial board called it a "novel strategy to subvert the will of the voters." The Boston Globe said it was "terrifying," noting that it will mark "the moment when democracy in America began to disappear. "

No outlet mentioned that the Democrat-controlled legislature in Massachusetts acted similarly twice in recent years—first voting to strip a Republican governor of his powers and then turning around to give powers back once Democrats controlled the executive branch.

In 2004, Democrats, fearing that sitting Sen. John Kerry (D.) was about to win the presidency, passed legislation that stripped Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of his power to appoint the replacement for a Senate vacancy. Romney vetoed the bill but it was overridden by the Democrats.

The New York Times covered the Democrat action, noting that "political opportunism just might be playing a part."

"It is clearly partisan," Romney said. "This is coming up because there is a Republican governor."

Kerry lost, leaving no vacancy to fill, but Democrats realized shortly after that their rule-change might have been short-sighted.

Left with a Senate vacancy in 2009 after the death of Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick was unable to fill the vacancy because of the legislature's action five years earlier.

The Democratic-controlled legislature quickly voted to restore appointment powers to the executive, allowing for Patrick to appoint former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul Kirk to the Senate.

The Kirk appointment made a difference.

In December 2009, Kirk supplied a crucial Senate vote needed to pass Obamacare, which would have been impossible if the seat remained vacant as it would have following the 2004 election if Kerry won.

The next month, voters decided to replace Kirk with Republican Scott Brown.