The following is from a scene of the Tim Burton version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
Veruca Salt: Daddy, I want a squirrel. Get me one of those squirrels, I want one!
Daddy Salt: Veruca dear, you have many marvelous pets.
Veruca Salt: All I’ve got at home is one pony and two dogs and four cats and six bunny rabbits and two parakeets and three canaries and a green parrot and a turtle, and a silly old hamster! I WANT a SQUIRREL!
Daddy Salt: All right, pet. Daddy’ll get you a squirrel just as soon as he possibly can.
Veruca Salt: But I don’t want any old squirrel! I want a *trained* squirrel!
Daddy Salt:[wearily] Very well. Mr. Wonka? How much do you want for one of these squirrels? Name your price.
Willy Wonka: Oh they’re not for sale. She can’t have one.
Veruca Salt: Daddy!
Willy Wonka: [imitating Mr. Salt] I’m sorry, darling. Mr. Wonka’s being unreasonable.
This instance of enabling between a powerful businessman and his child is not an unreasonable stretch from reality as it is being played out every day. Take the following dialogue based on the fictional scene above and substitute real people and one can see yet another example of how art really does imitate reality.
Phil Berger, Jr.: Daddy, I want to win the election for the Court of Appeals. Get me one of those elected offices, I want one!
Phil Berger, Sr.: Junior, you have many professional accomplishments.
Phil Berger, Jr.: All I’ve been is one former district attorney with a lost bid for the state’s 6th Congressional District seat in 2014 and board position for a charter school in our home county of Rockingham! I WANT an elected office!
Phil Berger, Sr.: All right, son. Daddy’ll get you an elected office just as soon as he possibly can.
Phil Berger, Jr.: But I don’t want any old office! I want the Court of Appeals Office!
Phil Berger, Sr.: [wearily] Very well. Governor? How much do you want for signing Senate Bill 667? Name your price.
Gov. McCrory: Oh , well I am on vacation!
Phil Berger, Jr.: Daddy!
Gov. McCrory: I’ll sign. I always sign for you. I never veto.
While the above script may not be word for word of what really transpired, it does seem to summarize what S667 does, which is allow for names to be listed on ballots in such a way that Phil Berger, Jr.’s name would come first on the ballot against a democratic incumbent.
Since it is not one of the higher profiled offices on the election docket, having one’s name first can create an advantage in getting elected. A WUNC.org post entitled, “New State Law Could Benefit Son Of Powerful Lawmaker”, former WFDD (Winston-Salem) reporter Jeff Tiberii reports (http://wunc.org/post/new-state-law-could-benefit-son-powerful-lawmaker#stream/0) :
Among the policies passed hastily in the final days of the legislative session is Senate Bill 667, a measure that would implement a new procedure for listing names on the ballot in the Court of Appeals race. Berger Jr. would be listed first, a placement that many experts say is advantageous. Incumbents are typically listed in that top slot on ballots.
“There are a host of studies on this and they are fairly consistent that being listed first on the ballot is an advantage,” said Chris Cooper, a political science and public affairs professor at Western Carolina, adding that the size of the advantage varies from about 0.7 percentage points at the low end to over 5 percentage points at the high end.
The effects tend to be greater in “lower information elections,” such as elections where the voters don’t know as much about the candidates, Cooper explained.
With HB2, education, and TABOR still on the table, this rapid act of nepotism and enabling could add another Berger to the rungs of the powerful, yet this time one will be in the judicial side of government with another still entrenched in the legislative side.
And this is not the first time the Berger, Sr. has maneuvered for Berger, Jr.
Sen. Berger has also been a proponent for charter schools. In 2014, there was a report that Berger, Sr. was helping his own son set up a charter school in Rockingham County (home district) while the very public schools there were suffering from lack of resources because of the very budget Berger, Sr. championed. Needless to say, that same budget was also very generous to charter school construction like the one Berger, Jr. wanted to start.
Danielle Battaglia reported that the Rockingham County school system was at the time literally having to rob “Peter to pay Paul” just to keep schools open and functioning. Classes lacked textbooks; copy paper was unaffordable; basic janitorial supplies could not be bought. You can read about that here: http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/rockingham-county-schools-short-on-the-basics/article_61b15a34-bcfd-5407-83a4-86a2830c5ab2.html.
That particular charter school, Providence Charter (co-founded by Phil Berger, Jr.), gained final approval from the state board in 2014 to open in Rockingham County and would have possibly enrolled 500 students. Who helps appoint the state board? The NC General Assembly of which Berger, Sr. is considered the most powerful. You can read about that here: http://www.newsadvance.com/rockingham_now/news/providence-charter-officially-approved-to-open/article_06f3390c-7976-11e3-904c-0019bb30f31a.html?mode=jqm. That article also explains how that charter school would have further hurt the ability of the traditional public schools in Rockingham County to operate.
Providence Charter in Eden, NC would have been the first charter high school in Rockingham County, but there already existed a charter middle school, Bethany Community Middle School. Who is on the board of that school? Yes, Phil Berger, Jr. In essence, Sen. Berger, Sr. was allowing and enabling his own son to weaken the very public schools in his home district.
Luckily, Providence Charter did not happen. Willy Wonka told Mr. Salt, “NO!”
But here comes Veruca, I mean, Phil Berger, Jr. again wanting something that an act of enabling and nepotism might actually create.
I just hope that Charlie and Mr. Wonka can stop this either through an actual, although rare, veto from a timid governor or a state population who will not vote for someone whose dad hoarded enough Willy Wonka Chocolate Bars to find a golden ticket to get on the ballot in the first place.