For the first time since the 1990s, North Carolinians will be casting their ballots for judicial candidates this fall based on party affiliation. Democrats across the state are up in arms and in the midst of a campaign where they’re calling for “Judicial independence for equality.” Now, here are are five words that I would never expect to say: I agree with North Carolina Democrats.
In May 2018, the North Carolina Supreme Court held two sessions in Morganton’s historic courthouse, where they were joined by protestors on behalf of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections and EqualityNC, two left-leaning organizations. One of the representatives of EqualityNC said during a press conference at the protest that, “We cannot allow them to cherry-pick the judges to tilt the scales based on their political ideology and not fairness.”
This is precisely the narrative that NC Democrats want making the rounds, but one that is clearly subverted by their true ambitions. How do we know this? Well, according to Longleaf Politics, “As North Carolina’s political environment began to shift and conservatives aligned more with the Republican Party, more Republican judges began to get elected in the late 1990s. Democrats who ran the General Assembly changed the rules to make races nonpartisan in order to help their party’s members get elected.”
Taking that information into account, we can begin to piece together the real point of contention those on the left in North Carolina have with partisan judicial elections: they’re likely going to lose. Now, of course, this is the last thing NC Democrats would like individuals to believe. They want people to believe that their concern is not Democrats winning or losing in the various judicial races occurring across the state, but that their only motivation is upholding judicial impartiality. This is a perfectly worthwhile stance to defend, however, that’s not what they’re defending. They’re only interested in their own electoral viability.
Look no further than one of Governor Roy Cooper’s proudest achievements so far, creating a political coalition called “Break The Majority” whose stated goal is to #TurnNCBlue. So, considering that Democratic-affiliated judges were being unseated at an increasing rate during the 90s, how exactly do Democrats in North Carolina think they can “Break The Majority” or #TurnNCBlue if partisan judicial elections are reinstated? The answer is that they can’t. Which is the real reason why they’re calling for judicial independence.
If the roles were reversed, and partisan judicial elections meant that Democratic-affiliated judges had a greater chance of winning, could we expect NC Democrats to be advocating for “judicial independence for equality?” Certainly not if their stated long-term political aspirations are to be realized.
It is for this exact reason that the sudden desire to champion an impartial judiciary by NC Democrats is particularly irritating. Maintaining a judicial branch that is shielded from the toxic influence of tribalistic party preferences is of the utmost importance. So for them to only be doing so in order to ensure judges endorsed by the North Carolina Democratic Party have a better chance at winning their respective elections completely undermines the message that they’re proselytizing.
In short, NC Democrats are right— judicial elections should be nonpartisan. But they need to be honest about why they believe that, instead of attempting to overtly deceive the voters across our state.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.