HILL: Unleash Hell

FILE - Phil Strach, an attorney for Republican legislators, questions state Rep. Destin Hall, a top Republican redistricting official, during a partisan gerrymandering trial on Jan. 5, 2022, at Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, N.C. A divided North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state's new maps for congressional and General Assembly seats Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, declaring that state courts had authority to throw out lines engineered to secure a long-term Republican advantage in an otherwise closely divided state. The court's decision reversed a ruling last month from a panel of three trial judges and declared partisan gerrymandering found in the redistricting approved by the legislature in November violated several provisions in the North Carolina Constitution. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, File)

The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned a lower court which previously had ruled that redistricting maps drawn by the North Carolina General Assembly for the 2022 elections were constitutional. The strictly partisan 4-3 decision by the Democratic majority on the court could turn this fall’s election into the most contentious election cycle in North Carolina since the 1984 Hunt-Helms U.S. Senate race. 

When I saw the news, my first thought was, “Have any of the Democratic majority on the bench ever read the U.S. and North Carolina state constitutions?” Anyone who can read can clearly see in both constitutions that the right to draw maps is delegated to state legislatures. Not the judicial branch. 

The second thing that flashed into my mind came from the opening scene from “Gladiator” where fictional Roman general Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, says to Quintus before their final battle to defeat the remaining Germanic hordes: “At my signal, unleash hell.”   

Lee Atwater was the general consultant for the 1986 re-election campaign of Congressman Alex McMillan for whom I worked for a decade. Were Lee alive today, he would convene a mass meeting of political campaign managers, pollsters and strategists, many of whom cut their teeth on the 1984 campaign cycle, and tell them to “unleash hell at his signal” as a result of this North Carolina Supreme Court decision.  

It is one thing to fight it out on the political battlefield and let the best organized side win. It is entirely another thing to have four judges make up constitutional law out of thin air and, at the same time, subvert and override legislative authority granted by both the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions. 

Such judicial activism infuriates conservatives, especially conservative political operatives. They are going to do everything possible to win the two Supreme Court seats now held by Democrats Sam Ervin and Robin Hudson to make sure this never happens again. 

Perhaps both justices believe — mistakenly — that only Republicans draw unfair redistricting maps. Perhaps both think the political tide is going against Democrats this year anyway so they were willing to simultaneously bite the bullet and fall on their sword to win one last big court case for their liberal socialist Democratic team supported by millions of dollars from George Soros and directed by Eric Holder. 

If there ever was a chance for a justice to exhibit “fairness and impartiality” in their application of constitutional principles, this redistricting case was it.  

Both failed to do so. 

Alexander Hamilton, no hearty defender of state supremacy himself, argued during the New York ratifying debates “…the true principle of a republic is, that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.” 

“People” meaning voters, and “whom they choose” meaning representatives and senators, not judges. The majority of North Carolina voters in 2020 decided to elect 69 Republican House members and 28 Republican senators to serve in the NCGA. They were elected to draw new maps, not the Supreme Court justices. If judges at any level want to draw legislative maps, they should resign and run for the state legislature so they can draw maps as duly-elected constitutional representatives of the people. 

The two state Supreme Court campaigns are now front-and-center for conservative Republican campaign strategists, operatives and contributors. 

Judicial races have their own code of conduct about what each candidate can say about themselves and their opponents. Not so with hundreds of independent committees which will be flooding the state with attack ads and money from now until November. They can say anything they want about judges up for re-election and the impact of their judicial over-reach on the state. 

And they will. 

Expect to see an overdose of ads and mailers decrying the encroachment of such Democratic judicial overreach and what it means for future cases brought before the court on crime, public education and business. 

By the time all hell is unleashed, the Hunt/Helms 1984 campaign may look like a church picnic in the rearview mirror.