As you may remember from high school, this special circle punishes sins involving fraud, with a hearty shout-out to (1) corrupt politicians immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, and (2) hypocrites who slog the circle, burdened by heavy lead cloaks of deception. In North Carolina politics, both are alive and well.
On the corruption side, Democrats have long held top honors with a record of greed that should be embarrassing to anyone claiming party membership. The list of known offenses is too long to recount, and I am proud to say that progressives remain at the forefront in the push for ethics and transparency. On the hypocrisy side, today's Republicans have no equal. Jane Pinsky makes the point well at NC Policy Watch.
During the closing days of session, the House Republican caucus (a group that normally meets in private) met in a room that is wired to stream the audio to the press and the public. Proving that they are not part of the tech-savvy generation, lawmakers accidentally left the microphones on. The meeting was not audible to the public, but it was to reporters in the legislative the press room. In the course of the meeting, leaders made it clear that despite all of the public talk about how Republicans were going to handle the state’s redistricting process differently from the Democrats (i.e. in a non-partisan, non-political way) that they had secretly chosen from the beginning to take a route that would avoid oversight by the US Justice Department. Their apparent hope is to cut a few districts that are largely African American, and likely to go Democratic, and make sure that the rest of the districts are likely to swing Republican. Most people guessed that was what they wanted to do, but it was striking and illuminating to learn of the contrast between their public statements and their actual intent.
Republicans have closed ranks on this, arguing that there isn't time to do the right thing. That's bullshit. There's plenty of time. There always has been, and there still is. But it won't happen without honest leadership.
Our experience tells us this is true. When we've acted the hypocrite, saying or doing the "right" thing knowing in our hearts it was wrong, we look wonderful on the outside, but inside we feel the heavy weight of our duplicity. And so the unsaved hypocrites parade around their circle of Hell dressed in splendid robes, lined with a crushing weight of lead.
It's probably time for Dante to resurrect himself and write a custom version of the Divine Comedy for the Tarheel Taliban, a version that removes hypocrisy and corruption from the eighth circle of hell.
Hypocrisy and corruption aren't sins in North Carolina politics. They are art forms. Not a single Republican leader has called publicly for fair, non-partisan redistricting. Not even Paul the Pious.