There was a popular game making the rounds years ago called something along the lines of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” The object was to take a person’s name and connect that person to actor Kevin Bacon. It’s getting to the point where you can do something similar with GOP politics in 2024 and smack right into state senate president pro tem Phil Berger.
Let’s look at the GOP primary field for March. In the governor’s race, you can find the fingerprints of one Jim Blaine – Renfield to Berger’s Dracula – on the Mark Robinson campaign organization. In the lieutenant governor’s race, Sam Page – sheriff of Berger’s home county and a Berger political ally – is one of the leading candidates. Seth Woodall — a Berger business associate in Rockingham County – is also in the GOP field for the #2 job.
Congressman Dan Bishop – the likely GOP nominee for attorney general – is being advised by Blaine and was reportedly encouraged to run by Berger. Two of Blaine’s fellow UNC trustees — Brad Briner and David Boliek — are in the GOP fields, respectively, for treasurer and auditor. (Both men were reportedly recruited into those races by Blaine.) So, if ALL of those guys win in March and November, that gives the Berger political operation a serious amount of influence over FIVE of the ten Council of State votes.
Granted, those are only the ones we KNOW ABOUT. There could be more out there.
Hold on to that information as you recall all the recent efforts in the legislature to weaken the powers of the office of governor. (A lot of that is being fought out in the courts right now.)
Tim Moore is leaving the state House to head for DC. Berger, hanging around for at least one more term, will start 2024 as the most experienced and entrenched leader over on Jones Street. I started off as a Berger fan, thanks to his early efforts to try and be a check on then-Speaker Thom Tillis. But, as time went on, Berger began to evolve to Tim Moore’s M.O. : waiting hand-and-foot on moneyed special interests.
Berger and Moore gleefully worked out budgets in secret – well outside the public view. One hundred seventy people get elected to do the people’s business in Raleigh. But less than a handful get an actual say on the fine points of the state’s budget.
The whole casino brouhaha really showed a special kind of disrespect by Berger for his own voters. All kinds of rezonings and other deals got worked out behind the scenes. The people in Rockingham County flipped out as Berger pressed forward on the lucrative casino deal that was allegedly for *the people’s own good.*
The only reason Rockingham and whole other handful of counties didn’t get stuck with casinos was a tidal wave of grassroots outrage that caused a whole lot of Jones Street rats to abandon Captain Berger’s ship. (There is word that Moore and Berger may try again during the post-election lame-duck legislative short session.)
Let’s not forget Phil Berger, Jr.’s presence on the state Supreme Court and the senate president pr tem’s extra-close relations with surprisingly-political chief justice Paul Newby.
Supposedly, the GOP – the alleged conservative party – has been all about decentralizing government power. In recent years, Raleigh Republican leaders have been all about shifting power into the hands of legislative leaders on Jones Street.
That’s a lot of confidence on display — a belief that Republicans will hold on to the power that they have in perpetuity. I bet the pre-2010 Democrats thought something similar.
Giving yourself all the power does have a downside. Eventually, the other guys will find their way back on top.
It’s not a lot of fun living in an environment where a certain group calls all – or most all – the shots. Ask folks who have fled Commie China, North Korea, Cuba or Venezuela. Ask people who fled Eastern Europe or the former USSR pre-fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall.
“Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.” That’s what Britain’s Lord Acton once told us all.
We still have a lot of work to do. Folks controlling BOTH PARTIES have made it abundantly clear that they cannot be trusted with great power. We need to do a better job of keeping an eye on them, and giving them ONLY what they need to do their jobs.
Use that great power you have — freedom of information AND voting – to do some due diligence and therefore some real GOOD in 2024 for North Carolina and our country.