Opinion

How long will we allow a dictator to rule?

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a StarMed clinic in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, June 3, 2021.
Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a StarMed clinic in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, June 3, 2021.

Gov. Cooper is a dictator

On March 10, 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper declared what became an unlawful state of emergency that has now lasted over 19 months with no end in sight. For those who think the term dictator is hyperbole, consider the following. To date, he has issued 83 executive orders that have limited the free exercise of religion by forbidding gatherings, the right to free speech by curtailing the operation of government, the right to peaceably assemble unless you were doing so for one of his favored causes (e.g. BLM protests), the right to personal property by forcing business closures or restrictions, and the right to bodily autonomy with mask and vaccine mandates, all without legislative input, due process, or equal protection. In addition, Cooper has issued a record 64 vetoes, more than all other N.C. governors combined (35), while politically intimidating Democratic members of the legislature to prevent a veto override. Finally, under state law, “A state of emergency declared pursuant to this section shall expire when it is rescinded by the authority that issued it.” Therefore, Cooper has absolute rule as the head of the executive branch, can block any bill he does not like from the legislative branch, and has the protection of a Democrat majority on the State Supreme Court in the judicial branch.

We the people are responsible

Having learned the lessons of tyranny under British rule, our state forefathers and their successors intentionally made our governor one of the weakest in the nation. In the first N.C. state constitution of 1776, the governor was elected by the legislature for one-year terms with very little authority. But like the nation of Israel in the Old Testament who wanted a king, over time, we too wanted to be like other states. Since then, we began popular elections in 1836 with single two-year terms, expanded to single four-year terms in 1868, allowed governors to serve two successive terms starting in 1971, first passed the Emergency Management Act in 1977, and was the last state in the union to give our governor veto power in 1997.

We the people are sovereign

According to Article I, Section 2 of our state constitution, “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” Therefore, as a government instituted by the consent of the governed, we do not have to accept this state of tyranny, nor should we.

In a recent opinion piece, state house majority leader, Rep. John Bell, concludes correctly that “while it is expected the governor will veto this bill (to limit the governor’s state of emergency powers), the legislature (and I would add local officials as well) still has a duty to act and protect the people of North Carolina from future overreach.” However, he provides no indication in the article of any forthcoming protection beyond the bill the governor is expected to veto. Yet, there is a viable solution within the legislature’s control.

As Bell indicated at the top of his article, Cooper has executed the current state of emergency “without following statutory mandates to consult with the Council of State.” Therefore, given the damage done to our state by his executive orders, blatant disregard for the separation of powers, “malfeasance in office, and willful neglect of duty,” the state legislature should take immediate action to impeach him.

Now before you dismiss the idea due to the lack of a two-thirds majority of senate Republicans needed to convict, you need to know that state law on impeachment has one critically important wrinkle from the presidential impeachment process. As Dallas Woodhouse pointed out in his recent article on the State Supreme Court recusal issue, once a state official is impeached by a simple majority vote in the House, state law stipulates that “every officer impeached shall be suspended from the exercise of his office until his acquittal.” In other words, once the Republican-controlled House votes to impeach Gov. Cooper, Lt. Governor Mark Robinson would become acting governor until the Senate trial is over. And that is how we end this. We impeach Cooper, have Robinson end the state of emergency, and sign the Emergency Powers Accountability Act Rep. Bell mentioned, and the dictatorship is over.

I realize some will consider this the nuclear option and one that should be avoided at all costs. But how much more of our freedom must we lose? Must more lives be ruined? How many more children must be abused before we draw the line? Failure to resist tyranny is an open invitation for more. We the people are sovereign, and we will live under this dictator for only as long as we are willing.

P. Jason Phibbs is an analytics professional for an investment firm and actively working to protect freedom in N.C.