CAN JUSTICE IN NC STILL BE INDEPENDENT? IT MUST! Will North Carolina’s newly constituted State Supreme Court back some acts by the General Assembly just because legislative leaders say so? To hear state House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate leader Phil Berger’s reaction to the election of two new justices – giving the state’s high court five Republicans and two Democrats – that's what will be the new law of the land. But the job of the state’s courts – particularly the Supreme Court -- is not to do the bidding of the General Assembly’s leadership. It is, among other things, to make sure the General Assembly is doing the bidding of the people of North Carolina as set out in the Constitution. It is the court’s job to review what the legislature or the executive branch of government does on behalf of the people of the state and determine if those actions are in accord with the state Constitution. When these other branches of government fall short, it is the job of the courts to say so and order appropriate remedies. In the not-too-distant future these new justices and other judges on the state’s court of appeals will have their integrity and independence put to the test. How will they make sure the legislative and executive branches of state government – their co-equals – follow the law? They will be watched. Closely. And so will the General Assembly. We have learned the hard way that BergerMoore doesn't care about proper process and precedent, and "integrity" is simply not in their lexicon anymore, if it ever was. It may be that all we have left to defend us is the court of public opinion, and the resurgence of Moral Mondays.
THE WIDENING URBAN-RURAL DIVIDE IN NC: In North Carolina, the election turned out about like I expected. Ted Budd beat Cheri Beasley, the GOP took control of the Supreme Court, and Republicans added seats in both houses of the legislature. On the bright side, Wiley Nickel won the state’s one competitive Congressional seat and Democrats prevented a veto-proof majority in the state House. It’s tough to be a Democrat in North Carolina these days. Most disheartening for me is watching the rural-urban divide increasing in our state. Republicans won Anson County, where I grew up, for the first time in my lifetime. They won other once reliably Democratic counties like Gates, Perquimans, and Pasquotank in what we used to refer to as “the northeast corner.” Democrats only won twelve rural counties, and that includes Watauga, which is more of a college town than a rural community, and Chatham, where the more populous northern part includes Chapel Hill addresses. Just as Republicans run up margins in rural counties, Democrats are running them up in urban counties. Durham delivered 80% of its vote for Beasley. Counties in the west, those without many African American residents, delivered 75% or more for Budd. Those divides aren’t healthy and are creating bubbles that prevent either side from empathizing with the other. I think last night showed that the country, as a whole, wants the middle back. They’re tired of Trump and celebrity candidates like Mehmet Oz and Kari Lake. Inflammatory may still work with the base, but not so much with rank-and-file voters. In North Carolina, Republicans are dependent on an uneducated rural base continuing to move to the right. They can drive up margins in a low turnout year like this one, but they’ll probably have a harder time winning in high turnout years like 2024. Overall, their base is shrinking and the Democratic base is growing, albeit very slowly. While I was compiling my numbers for yesterday's post about the NC Senate, I was also trying to explain to my son that it wasn't just the money that concerned me about those unchallenged seats. It was also the (missed) opportunity to grow the party in rural areas. Give Dems in those districts somebody to vote for, work for, and talk about. And give Unaffiliated and (yes) Republican voters a choice on their ballots. What must cross a voter's mind when they see only one candidate? The other party has given up on them, they aren't worth the effort. That's not how you grow the party, it's how it dies.
DEMOCRATS NEED TO REFORM THEIR CAMPAIGN MESSAGING STRATEGY: “Hey Nico, it’s Nancy Pelosi. The Democrats MUST win the House if we want to save democracy. Can I count on you to donate in the next 10 minutes? If you don’t donate, I’ll burn your house to the ground.” It's election season, so if you live in a swing state, you’ve probably gotten a text or call along the lines of that message. Campaign technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last decade. If you were going to tell the campaign manager of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign that they’d be able to make 100,000 calls in one day, he’d probably call you crazy. I understand the trigger-happiness of the Democrats when it comes to using new technology like predictive dialers and text-banking software. I really do. But something has to change. On an average day, I get about eighty emails from Democratic campaigns and PACs of all kinds. Most of them are fundraising emails. They often ask me, a North Carolinian, to donate to a campaign out of state. In addition to the emails, I’m inundated with a near-constant barrage of texts from these PACs and campaigns. The messaging is weak at best and cringe at worst. They often leverage moral outrage and the language of movements to try and get a donation. Now, these emails and texts wouldn’t be that malicious if they were just annoying but ultimately harmless. That is unfortunately not the case. These texts and emails use countless resources that can siphon money away from other electoral projects that are more effective at turning out voters. And depending on the messaging, these texts and emails even slightly depress voter turnout in communities of color. While the 2017 study that cites this depression of turnout is just preliminary research, it highlights an important part of this conversation – political parties (such as the Democratic Party) have proven themselves unable to systematically use messaging to effectively turn out voters. I agree, this election season is the worst I've ever seen for e-mails and texts. And a special message to the DNC: "I see you haven't donated yet" is borderline stalky, and offensive as hell to those of us who may not have given to the DNC but have contributed directly to candidates. Dial that ish down, please.
THE NEXT CONGRESS COULD CAUSE UKRAINE TO LOSE THE WAR: According to several lawmakers and senior congressional staffers, McCarthy and other GOP House leaders are already discussing how to alter the Ukraine aid package in the next Congress to respond to a wide array of concerns within their caucus. Some far-right lawmakers are calling for a complete cutoff of aid to Ukraine. But many Republicans are looking to cut much of the economic assistance while keeping or even increasing the military component — something of a compromise. But cutting the economic aid now, most of which is direct support to the Ukrainian government, would be ill-timed and dangerous, Ukrainian officials told me. The Ukrainian economy could break down without continued support from the United States, Europe and the International Monetary Fund. If that happens, their military can’t fight, they said. Ukraine needs $38 billion in direct economic support next year, Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s minister of economy and first vice prime minister, told me. Ukraine’s economy shrank by 35 percent this year and taxes cover only about half of the government’s budget, she said. Ukraine is also facing attacks on its energy grid and infrastructure even as it tries to launch “early recovery” efforts such as building houses for returning refugees and financing new businesses. “We really appreciate the help you provided, but for us it’s very important to keep our economic system running, and that is the most essential thing for us right now,” she said. Several GOP officials told me that they were confident, like Biden, that in the end both military and economic aid will continue. Others aren’t so sure. Attacks on the assistance program by allies of former president Donald Trump are continuing to erode GOP support, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told me. And with a slim majority, whoever becomes House speaker will face an internal GOP revolt if they don’t cut Ukraine aid, he said. “Putin has a backup plan if he can’t defeat Ukraine militarily,” Murphy said. “He is going to keep the war going long enough to bankrupt Ukraine and force them to sue for a humiliating peace. That means U.S. support for Ukraine is half-baked if it doesn’t address both the military and economic threats Russia presents.” If the GOP screws this up, they need to be made to own it. One of the reasons Madison Cawthorn lost his Primary race was his idiotic attacks on Zelenskyy, and tacit support for Vladimir Putin. We're watching, Kevin...
GRETCHEN WHITMER AND JOSH SHAPIRO ARE THE FUTURE OF POLITICS: Here’s my vote for the values that Americans endorsed in the 2022 elections: reasonableness, democracy, governing, progress and freedom. Here’s what they voted against: extremism, Trumpism, culture wars and intolerance. Okay, let’s stipulate that all this applies north of the Florida state line. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the top draft pick of those longing for Trumpism without Donald Trump, swept to a landslide victory there by playing on all the divisive themes his mentor-turned-enemy thought he had patented. No wonder Trump is going crazy. Like DeSantis, both Democrats won landslides in states that Trump carried in 2016. Both had coattails for down-ballot Democrats. Both linked progressive objectives, staunch support for the labor movement, a moderate tone and pragmatism about governing. Both showed how to isolate far-right culture warriors and broaden what you might call the live-and-let-live coalition. Their success reflects the inverse failure of the right-wing Republicans to reach beyond their strongholds. The anti-extremist vibe was felt in the near-universal rejection of election deniers in contests for secretary of state, and the inroads Democrats made in state legislatures. And it was especially obvious in two states where moderate Republicanism had thrived during the Trump years. There were earlier hints of how important governors will be to the next political era in the fights picked by California Gov. Gavin Newsom with two of his most conservative colleagues, DeSantis and Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas. But by repainting a purple state a surprisingly deep blue, Whitmer has earned equal billing with this trio and is now a plausible presidential candidate should President Biden decide not to run again. She won notoriety as one of Trump’s favorite punching bags during the pandemic, and, terrifyingly, as the target of a kidnapping effort by a right-wing paramilitary group. But Whitmer’s political savvy matters most. She built her big majority by immediately grasping the power of the abortion issue after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. A referendum to enshrine abortion rights in Michigan’s constitution undoubtedly brought out a big Democratic vote on Tuesday. Shapiro took on right-wing talking points about cleansing school libraries of books that offend some parents and turned them into an un-American idea. “It’s not freedom,” he declared, “to tell our children what books they’re allowed to read.” And he included in his acclamations about “real freedom” a bow to one of the oldest Democratic traditions. “It’s not freedom,” he insisted, “to say you can work a 40-hour work week but you can’t be a member of a union.” So don’t get too obsessed with a Trump-DeSantis rumble rooted in a tired, old cultural politics. “Fix the damn problems” is the sound of the future speaking. I sure hope so...
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
ALISSA REDMOND: WE CAN NO LONGER TOLERATE RACIST SYMBOLS: I am writing as several of my neighbors and I continue to engage with Confederate “preservationists” and their corporate sponsors over Rowan County’s event guidelines. Readers may have viewed Salisbury’s city council member Anthony Smith and I on CNN in October; our town was profiled two years after city officials removed a Confederate monument from our town square. We are grateful for local – and national – attention, as tremendous work remains in Rowan County to combat racism. I recently joined others at Faith’s town council meeting to voice our concerns about Confederate “soldiers” marching in their 4th of July parade, firing weapons, and handing out Dixie flag stickers and fans to children in the audience. We were invited to return to Faith’s town hall on the evening of November 17 for a public forum, which is a rare occurrence in Faith, and I urge other concerned folks to consider attending as well. We aim to provide Faith’s city officials with tools to amend their parade ordinance without fear of retaliation through lawsuits. For example, according to an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals June 2020 ruling, “governments are not obliged under the 1st or 14th Amendments to permit the presence of a rebellious army’s battle flag in the pro-Veterans parades they fund and organize.” No veteran remains alive on this earth who fought in the American Civil War, and – even if they did – they would have no place marching to celebrate the continuity of a republic they attempted to destroy. Let's be abundantly clear: there is nothing about the Confederacy that should make anybody proud. Racism and white supremacy were baked into its Constitution, and the rebellion cost 3/4 of a million deaths. Romanticizing such a horror, especially in front of children, should not be allowed.
ERIC LOCKLEAR: LUMBEE NEED TO WAKE UP: On behalf of the Lumbee People who got up off their behinds and voted for our fellow tribal member, I thank Charles Graham for stepping forward to blaze new opportunities for Southeastern North Carolina and the people of the Lumbee Tribe. In being an American Indian tribe, we are actually all related. It disgusts me that blood was easily covered by dollar bills as Lumbee People voted REPUBLICAN. There is a sadness at the core of the brown people of Robeson County having voted Republican this past Tuesday. If those same brown people showed up on the doorsteps of Trump or the RNC, police or the Proud Boys or the KKK or some white supremacists would be called to run those brown people of Robeson County back to their “S**t HOLE country” as Trump so famously gaffawed. I am keeping my eyes and ears open to learn if the REPUBLICAN LUMBEE Koolaid Coilition plans to build their Pembroke KKK Chapter House beside Old Main. Lumbee you are tumbling backward instead of progressing forward. Bring those burlap cotton sacks back out for the re-opening of Britt and Stone Plantation. I don't understand it. This race should have been at least close, but it wasn't. *sigh*
JENNIFER BRIGHT: ELECTION WORKERS ARE HEROES: Election workers, whether volunteer or paid, conduct painstaking and time-consuming work to ensure the integrity, transparency and efficiency of all elections. They are unsung heroes of democracy and an undervalued resource in our communities. Over more than 20 years of service as an election officer in Alexandria, I’ve been privileged to be part of the consistent excellence of conducting elections, despite changes in leadership, laws, methods and resources used to conduct elections. Over the years, I’ve seen movement from paper everything to electronic everything. The primary benefit has been efficiency and reporting with speed and accuracy. I’ve also witnessed this change drive suspicions of negligence, fraud or error in our democratic process. Mechanical issues will arise — systems will slow, printers will break, scanners will be finicky — but the system requires dedicated, thinking humans to oversee and administer free and fair elections. On Tuesday, I was pleased to see high turnout for a midterm, not-high-profile congressional election, because often over the years that hasn’t been the case. Progress! But I continue to mourn that we celebrate less than half of registered voters turning out. I urge those who didn’t bother to vote to do better. If you pay taxes, have kids in school, use roads and social services, care about police and emergency services or health care, then you have a stake in our democracy. That demands participation. Every time. Civil discourse about issues and the processes that govern our democracy is under assault. I’m a voice from the front lines to remind everyone that our system works. It works because of millions of dedicated poll workers and election administrative teams across the country. What Jennifer said. Election workers are the epitome of selfless public servants, and those who harass them should be (deeply) ashamed of themselves.