Political events over the past few years in North Carolina have been quite depressing. Extreme gerrymandering diluted representation. In 2012, the Democrats won the popular vote for the federal House but lost most of the seats. In 2016, a 53% GOP margin for House votes won them 77% of seats; a 55% margin for state senate turned into 68% of the seats; in the state lower chamber, 53% of the vote got them 62% of the seats. (See here. For maps showing the power of gerrymandering in the state, see here.)
Then, when the Republican governor lost re-election in 2016, the legislature moved to strip the Governorship of most of its power.
But this is not unprecedented.
First, let us compare across space: Maryland is as gerrymandered as North Carolina, only in favor of Democrats. Is is true that Republicans benefit more nationally from gerrymandering (only Illinois and Maryland have a strong Democratic bias) but N.C. is not at all unique.
Second, the legislative power grab after the election is unique in the 21st century — the Maryland legislature did not try to strip Governor Hogan of his power in 2014 — but it is not unique across American history. First, consider Louisiana under Huey Long. For all the shenanigans, Governor McCrory did not move to destroy the opposition when he was in power the way Long did back in 1928-35.
More ominously, consider Redemption in North Carolina. In the 1868 election, Republicans solidly trounced the Conservative Party. In 1870, however, the Conservatives managed to come back by effectively casting themselves as the white people’s party ... and using terror tactics by the Ku Klux Klan. Governor William Holden called out the militia to fight the KKK, but the Conservative nonetheless won the legislative elections. They first moved to prevent legislators from being seated from districts where the state militia arrested KKK terrorists. They then impeached Governor Holden. In 1876, the Conservative Party renamed itself the Democratic Party, becoming part of the national Democratic coalition. It took them until 1898 to fully disenfranchise the black population. (See also here.)
By those standards, North Carolina has so far been quite civilized. No riots, no extrajudicial killings or warrantless arrests, no declarations of martial law, and the courts have reined in the lame duck power grab and may reverse the gerrymander. Vigilance is warranted. Protest is warranted. And political mobilization is needed. But worse things have happened and worse has been overcome.