Opinion: CJ Opinion

WRAL’s weird Cooper coup proposal is lousy advice

Gov. Roy Cooper at a Jan. 6, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (Pool photo)
Gov. Roy Cooper at a Jan. 6, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (Pool photo)

A political coup in North Carolina? That seems to be the suggestion of a WRAL editorial published on June 24. It bemoans the fact that state legislators aren’t spending enough money on public education. Here’s an excerpt from the editorial, which labeled the state Senate budget a “manifesto of mediocrity”:

“It is an invitation to Gov. Roy Cooper to take control of the situation and order his budget office to provide for the needs of the state regardless of the legislature’s obstinance.”

To their credit, I guess, WRAL seems to realize that floating a proposed Cooper-led coup is illegal and undemocratic. The editorial goes on to suggest the coup plan would go to court, and Cooper — a former state attorney general for 16 years — can presumably make his case for violating the state constitution and the entire framework of our separation of powers.

Supposedly, the case that political partisans aren’t getting exactly the level of spending they want in the budget would triumph in court over the state constitution. Remember, the state’s governing document reads: “The budget as enacted by the General Assembly shall be administered by the Governor” (Article III, Section 5).

Apparently, in this instance, spending more taxpayer money is so sacred it trumps the rule of law.

Yet, Cooper has incessantly campaigned on government spending more than Republicans are willing to spend. It’s been his entire mantra while in office. Cooper was re-elected, but so, too, have Republicans prevailed at the ballot box with legislative majorities.

Suggesting Cooper illegally take control of the budget is a weird proposal, even more so coming from one of the most prominent news outlets in the state. Perhaps it’s a symptom of incessant executive orders since March 2020. They have handed unprecedented powers to governors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The thought of merely seeing the legislature resume its constitutional role in the appropriations process is debilitating for many on the left. When it comes to legislative elections here in North Carolina, they’ve certainly forgotten the slogan of former President Barack Obama, who once proclaimed, “We won, you lost, deal with it!”

At any rate, for the left, the editorial clearly signals the frustrating impatience with divided government and constitutional restraints. Maybe you’ve heard of them, too. The are the type of principles deeply embedded in America’s founding documents.

The left is hoping it can drum up enough outrage to force legislators to surrender on the budget. It hasn’t worked. Cooper gambled that his vetoing of 4.5% teacher pay raises in 2019 would work to his advantage at the ballot box in last year’s election. He thought outrage would fester and sweep Democrats into legislative control in 2021. For him politically, no raises were better than 4.5%. The outrage meter had to stay on full blast. The whole strategy has been to veto raises for teachers and then unleash the fury of the voters on Republicans. It never materialized.

When the gimmicks don’t work, they tend to get weirder. That’s what we saw with this WRAL call to violate the state constitution. Being an attorney and former state legislator — and state attorney general — one would hope Cooper knows enough to ignore WRAL’s terrible advice.