Jonathan Henley mug

Jonathan Henley

“Vengeance is boiling” is the line from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon.” That line has been on my mind ever since I heard the news about the trick pulled by the Republicans in the North Carolina House of Representatives. They voted to override Gov. Roy Moore’s veto of the state budget, but they did so while the vast majority of Democrats were at a 9/11 memorial service. To compound matters, the Democrats say that House Speaker Tim Moore had told them there would be no votes that morning. Moore says he never told them that.

I wish that Moore would have admitted it if he indeed had promised no votes, because, at this point, why even bother to lie unless your shrinking conscience knew that the procedure was wrong in itself. I am highly skeptical, bordering on cynical, of Moore’s account. Had they known about it, it is laughable to imagine that the Democrats would have missed a vote on a veto override, even for a 9/11 memorial service. Forgetting the conflicting accounts of what the Democrats were told, Moore’s insistence on having the vote was not mere partisan politics, it was sick and twisted vengeance. Nothing else explains the intentional exclusion of almost half of the state’s representatives.

Like it or not, democracy works in our republic only when leadership is held accountable and when all voices, not just the ones convenient to one party, are heard. If ideas are good enough, indeed if leadership is good enough, then they can withstand the heat of scrutiny and debate. It’s a Neanderthal idea to presume that whoever wins the procedural battles therefore had better ideas. The concept of propose, debate, deliberate, then vote is what makes the American experiment work. It gets destroyed when a majority use their power to silence that which truly makes America great — everyone’s voice matters.

The GOP majority in the General Assembly bullied the veto override in a sickening display of childishness. They didn’t have the votes for a veto override under legitimate circumstances, so they succumbed to their worst instincts and exploited the tragedy of 9/11 to their own partisan advantage. It was so blatant, so obvious, so painfully clear what they did. It makes me wonder if they did it because they are so arrogantly convinced that they are spiritually, intellectually and even existentially superior that it really doesn’t matter how they get their way. Or, did they do it because they are so consumed with vengeance that they never considered how petulant they look, how deceitful they look, and how insecure and afraid it makes them look.

Only hearts consumed with anger are willing to overlook morality, ethics and even more cynical concerns like how it might look. There was nothing noble or courageous in the actions of the House Republicans and their leader, Tim Moore. It makes me feel sorry for them because this tactic was so spiritually dark that it reveals the fear of a once great party who has been reduced to nothing but anger.

News Herald Correspondent Jonathan Henley is a United Methodist pastor, former host of Road Signs radio show, and a music fan. He writes a weekly column for The News Herald. Contact him at

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