Bev Perdue Probably Won’t Suspend Any Elections, Folks

ROCKINGHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 07: The Governor of North Carolina, Bev Perdue, announces the addition of 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Rockingham Speedway on September 7, 2011 in Rockingham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR

Let’s not go easy on North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue. When she mused about how nice it would be for Congress not to be up for election in 2012, she said something that a Republican would have been blistered for. If Rick Scott had said it, I can imagine the Mother Jones headline: “The Secret Republican Plot to Cancel the Election.”

But what did Perdue actually say? Reporter John Frank, who broke the story of Perdue’s comments, has provided the full audio.

You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It’s a little bit more contentious now but it’s not impossible to try to do what’s right in this state. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.

Perdue’s team botched the spin, calling this a “joke.” Jokes are usually funny, and people usually laugh at them. (This is what I hear.) The audio reveals that no one laughed at the joke. It was a thought experiment; we can take the word of the governor’s staff on this, because what she’s suggesting is 1) constitutionally impossible and 2) not backed up by any gubernatorial action whatsoever. And as thought experiments go, it’s stupid. But is it any stupider than the constant “gotta fill column inches today” thought experiments about how a third party candidate for president could solve all of our problems? Perdue’s comment and the Tom Friedman daydream have the same root concept: Golly, wouldn’t American politics be better if we could surgically remove the politics, and have people agree with me?

Left unsaid: The reason that the North Carolina GOP is teeing off so hard on this. In 2010, Republicans won total control of the North Carolina legislature, which gave them total control of congressional redistricting. (Poor luck for Dems: The governor plays no rule in this process.) Republicans produced a map with a partisan purpose: To reduce the number of districts that Democrats can win in. Most Democrats would be packed into three out of thirteen districts, which would mean that a state that voted narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008 would send 10 Republicans and three Democrats to Congress. (In actuality, Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre remain strong candidates for their redder districts; the breakdown might become 8-5 Republican.) Surely, Perdue had the ultra-partisan redistricting fight in mind when she rambled about her dream of a 2012 without congressional elections. Note that she’s up in 2012, and only talked about congressional elections, not her own.

The gerrymandering of North Carolina has remained a pretty obscure story for anyone who’s not a politics geek. Thanks to Perdue’s stupidity, it’s now totally forgotten: The story about North Carolina is that its governor wants to cancel elections. It’s a fabulous distraction. The lesson here is that it hurts to be undemocratic and stupid, and pays to be undemocratic and smart.