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Saturday, May 18, 2013

The sky is not falling

It's one thing for Democrats in North Carolina to oppose Republicans. We should -- by fervent debate, by monetary contribution, and even by lawful protest. But it's something else to invoke memories of Hitler or the Nazi party when referring to Republicans. Such vilification is unwelcome, unhelpful, unwarranted, and un-American. I call on Democrats to cut it out and instead show some courage in your convictions and some faith in the political process.

People on the far-right are indeed worrisome, but there have always been lunatics on the far-right and there always will be. Let me add that there are also lunatics on the far-left, and they're just as worrisome. The difference is that the Democratic leadership, after 100 consecutive years of governing N.C., had learned how to manage the extremists in their ranks. At an annual convention of the Wake County Democratic Party I once heard a memorable and indicative plea, "Let's have a platform to run on, not to run from." Neophyte leaders of Republicans are still learning how to manage their extremists, but progress is being made. We haven't heard any absurd proposals at the General Assembly in the last four weeks. Now that crossover is past, I doubt we will hear any more.

Meanwhile, the reactions of many of my Democrat friends to the last four months make me wonder, how deep a coma did they just awake from? Did they not notice when two-thirds of N.C. counties approved Amendment One last year by huge margins of 70% plus? Did they not notice when white voters in some counties of the South voted 90% Republican in the last two presidential elections? The percentage of men in those counties voting Republican was even higher. Apparently the euphoria of having Obama in the White House for 8 years created an impression among some that Democratic Party principles and policies have taken root throughout this state. That is false! Only a few of the 100 counties in N.C. lean left. Some are evenly split (e.g. Wake County) and all the rest lean right. The magic of Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt is no more.

I hope that Republicans will lose ground in 2014 because of their reversal of long-established and prudent policies and the ongoing influence of big money. Give them enough rope to hang themselves. The difficulties of Democrats are many, however:

  • Many Republican voters like what's happening. Look at proposals to drop the requirement for motorcycle helmets and to curtail restrictions on smoking. These proposals appeal directly to libertarians within the Republican ranks. Your counter-argument about public health impacts doesn't persuade those who believe the government should not be involved in health.
  • Many lower-income Republicans like what's happening so much that they will ignore the shift of tax burden from upper-income households onto themselves.
  • As an organization, the North Carolina Democratic Party is deep in ventricular fibrillation. The reticent Kay Hagan is our standard-bearer.
  • Republican gerrymandering of election districts after 2010 gives them a tremendous advantage for the next several cycles.
Sounds like a perfect storm. Nevertheless, Democrats should fight the good fight. But remember: for every far-right lunatic in the General Assembly or the McCrory administration, there are at least ten intelligent, well-meaning, loyal Americans whose politics simply differ from mine. I will defend their rights, just as I am certain that they would defend mine.