North Carolina Republicans have done us a big favor, if Democrats are willing to respond. They've shown the lengths to which Republicans are willing to go to seize and retain power—and if you think it could only happen in North Carolina, you haven't been paying attention to Republicans. In their legislative coup there, the Republican legislature has overturned the will of the people who elected a Democratic governor. They stripped incoming Democratic governor Roy Cooper of much of his authority, including rigging the state and county boards of elections to make sure they can continue their attacks on voting rights.
This is not going to be the limit of Republican chicanery in the immediate future, and it's not going to be limited to North Carolina.
This should be viewed as a potential test run for the nation as a whole. Republicans have near-unprecedented dominance across all levels of governance in the United States. But their party and their president-elect are actually quite unpopular. The agenda taking shape for a Trump administration is even more so. Chances of an electoral backlash are very good. So to cling to power, Republicans will likely cheat.
Let us recall some basic political principles. A democracy is a nation in which the government is chosen by a free vote of citizens. To ensure a free vote, democratic rights are protected—freedom of speech, assembly, and the press; freedom from unreasonable searches and police intimidation, a guarantee of fair trials, and so on. Without a real and freely made choice between competing candidates, there can be no true democracy. […]
Finally, as we're seeing in North Carolina, any inconveniently lost elections can be overturned so long as the GOP controls enough other chunks of government. Legislatures can core out a governor's power, or Supreme Court decisions can overturn legislation with reverse-engineered legal argle-bargle. Who knows where it will stop. And from there it's really quite a short distance to stuffing ballot boxes or rigging the election counts. It has all happened before.
Our rights are only as good as the courts that are constitutionally charged with upholding them, and you don't really need to look further than the U.S. Supreme Court, and President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to witness the extreme lengths to which Republicans will go to subvert democracy. Republican senators refused to do the job to which they were democratically elected and approve a nomination to the court by a duly-elected president. That's unprecedented. And with the dangerous Trump administration looming, it's a horrifying glimpse into the future.
This is why it is essential that President Obama, Vice President Biden and Senate Democrats confirm a renominated Merrick Garland.
It sounds like a radical idea, and for normally cautious Democrats, it is. But it would be a perfectly lawful and responsible action to take. It would take President Obama renominating Garland, Vice President Biden recognizing the Democratic leader of what will be a Democratic majority in the Senate before he swears in the 66 new and re-elected Senators, and then that Democratic majority to confirm Garland.
It would be a perfectly legitimate use of elected officials' power. It could also save our democracy.