NC Gov. Bev Perdue "jokes": Let's cancel congressional elections for a few years so that we can focus on the economy

The News-Observer claims in their headline that she was “joking” but I think that’s because they can’t quite believe a sitting governor would be so stupid as to say this publicly. In fact, in the story itself they note, “It’s unclear whether Perdue, a Democrat, is serious — but her tone was level and she asked others to support her on the idea.”

Hey, you know what would vastly improve American politics? Much less public accountability.

“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.”

The Republicans sure are taking it seriously as they look to score political points. Here’s a statement from GOP spokesman Rob Lockwood:

“Now is a time when politicians need to be held accountable more than ever. To suspend an election would be removing the surest mechanism that people have to hold politicians accountable: the right to vote. Does the Governor not believe that people of North Carolina have the ability to think for themselves about whether or not the actions of elected officials are working?”

Go figure that a Democrat like Perdue be worried about the next congressional elections. In case you’re keeping score, this makes twice in the past 24 hours that a prominent Dem has called for less democracy as the solution to America’s problems. The first was former Obama budget guru Peter Orszag, who argued yesterday in TNR that Congress should rely more heavily on independent commissions (like IPAB!) and automatic “triggers” of the sort that are guiding the Super Committee’s work on deficit reduction. His idea is much milder than Perdue’s — those commissions and triggers would, after all, be set by Congress itself, and therefore could be undone by Congress if need be — but the fact that you have former White House advisors and current Democratic governors now chattering idly about how to insulate Congress from angry voters is not, shall we say, a happy trend.

Maybe this has something to do with it:

Dissatisfaction with the country’s governance is at an all-time high, 15 points above where it stood even after Watergate. No doubt Orszag and Perdue think that’s because a gridlocked Congress has been too fearful of angering the base on each side to produce compromise economic solutions, but just imagine where those Gallup numbers would be if we followed the Perdue plan and took a pass on elections for a cycle or two. What’s most amazing to me about her and Orszag’s suggestions is how both take Congress’s gutlessness as an absolute fact of political life, to the point where Perdue thinks it’d be less disruptive to temporarily suspend America’s system of constitutional democracy than to ask Democrats and Republicans to cast a tough vote on, say, a big new stimulus package. Just this morning, Paul Ryan gave a speech doubling down on his free-market approach to solving the Medicare crisis. He’s risking a ferocious backlash from seniors and the end of his political career, but he’s enough of a patriot to accept that risk in the name of putting the country back on track to sustainability. How come he’s the exception in Congress rather than the rule? And if the answer is that he’s not the exception — if you believe, say, that Democrats vote their consciences on all things irrespective of the political consequences they might face — then Perdue’s plan would accomplish nothing. On the contrary, it would lock in the gridlocked Congress we have now instead of giving voters a chance to shake things loose next fall. Ah well. Expect more of this over the next year as Democrats get cranky about their dwindling chances of holding the Senate.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023