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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

18
Since the election tsunami, Democrats have been scouring the rubble for answers. Liberals say the party needs to take on Wall Street. Moderates say retake the middle. Labor says raise the minimum wage and stop trade deals. Hispanics say push ahead with immigration reform. Millennials say get rid of the old crowd. The old crowd says bring in some gray hair. Obama fans say embrace the President. Clinton fans say embrace her.
 
Then consultants weigh in. Their solutions boil down to: hire me.
 
But if you look at the lessons of the last 50 years of American politics, it’s clear what Democrats really need is a great leader with a great story to tell.
 
After 1964, the Republican Party and the conservative movement were left for dead. But that campaign produced Ronald Reagan, who became the defining conservative President of the 20th Century (after the Nixon-Ford detour).
 
After 1980, 1984 and 1988, Democrats seemed incapable of ever winning the White House again. Then came Bill Clinton to define the New Democrats for the 1990s.
 
In retrospect, both Reagan and Clinton have the magic glow of charismatic inevitability. But that didn’t come until after they were elected President.
 
What they both had was a political philosophy that made sense, one that people could understand and that both explained present problems and promised a better future.
 
For Reagan, it was: government is the problem, not the solution. And America is the greatest country in the history of the world.
 
For Clinton, it was and is: We’re all in this together. And American is a still the home of hope and opportunity.
 
It’s not just the sum of individual issue positions. It’s not just the story of the man who would be President.
 
Jimmy Carter had a great story. He was an honest farmer who wasn’t from Washington – just what we needed after Watergate. But he couldn’t sustain a convincing narrative about where the nation was and where it needed to go.
 
Barack Obama has a great story, one that inspired millions to break down old racial barriers. But for all his accomplishments – wars ended, financial disaster avoided, banks and industries rescued, deficits reduced, stock market up, health care provided – one of the great orators of our time somehow has been unable to give us the kind of narrative framing that we yearn for.
 
Obviously, an inspirational candidate like a Reagan or Bill Clinton comes along rarely.  But they have a way of coming along when a party is lost in the desert and searching for a leader.

 

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17
Republican wins this year could make Governor McCrory’s reelection road rockier.
 
Over the past month, the Governor seemed to tack to the middle and away from the arch-conservative legislature. He reacted mildly to the gay-marriage court decisions. He suggested that he might support Medicaid expansion. Last week he sued the legislature over appointment powers.
 
The Empire struck back.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, blasted McCrory: "It is a shame when our governor is more interested in expanding his executive power than he is in actually protecting and defending a real threat to our Constitution — the overreach of power by a federal judge who enjoined the marriage amendment and forced same-sex marriage on our state.”
 
Fitzgerald, not incidentally, is the mother-in-law of newly reelected Senator Chad Barefoot, an ally of McCrory’s Number One nemesis, Senator Phil Berger.
 
Berger is as strong as ever. And McCrory’s ally Thom Tillis is gone from the House. Will the new Speaker side with the Governor the way Tillis did?
 
It obviously didn’t please some Republicans that McCrory enlisted former Democratic Governor Jim Hunt to his side on the appointments lawsuit.
 
McCrory knows he has to get back to the middle to get reelected. But does that lead to a tough legislative session for him next year – and maybe a primary challenge in 2016?

 

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14
Some two-score years ago, I started going to the National Governors Association winter meetings in Washington. These were at the time great bipartisan policy wonk-fests, three days of earnest discussions about issues, ideas and innovations, with plenty of after-hours barroom political gossip.
 
Three young governors stood out at the time (during the day sessions, at least; none of them drank): Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton and Jim Hunt.
 
So I was struck this year when Jerry Brown was elected to his fourth term as Governor of California, Bill Clinton campaigned gleefully across the country in anticipation of Hillary’s presidential run, and Jim Hunt was the most-sought after Democratic headliner across North Carolina.
 
All three have graduated from ambitious young men to senior statesmen, admired for what they did in office, emulated as political icons and still in demand.
 
What did they have – and still have?
 
First is a zest for politics. They live it and breathe it. They’ll stop only when their hearts stop beating. And they love it not just for the game, but for what you can do for people through politics.
 
Second is an innate gut feeling for what moves people, what people care about and what people want from their leaders. Hunt and Clinton always shared a human warmth; Brown was California Zen cool, but then he got a wife and a dog and became almost human.
 
Finally, they’re all smart, and they never stop learning. They read voraciously, vacuum up ideas and information, and think.
 
For any aspiring young pol who wants to be a four-term Governor, a President or at least a much-admired senior statesman in four decades, you’ve got your road map.

 

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13
Carter and I spoke Wednesday at a post-election panel sponsored by the Public School Forum, a group of education advocates. I suggested they have nothing to worry about in the coming legislature, since Republicans ran as Democrats, promising to raise teacher pay to the national average and improve the public schools.
 
Tom Murry, who once called the NCAE “union trash,” even handed out Election Day cards saying he was endorsed by the NCAE. He wasn’t. He lost anyway.
 
On education, then, Republicans ran to the left. Now, will they govern to the left – higher teacher pay and more money for the schools? Or to the right – toward vouchers, charter schools and abandoning standards?
 
Governor McCrory’s post-election comments suggested he might go left on issues like Medicaid expansion.
 
But Senator Berger made clear which way he’s going. His first order of business is letting magistrates refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
 
Two years from now, in an expanded presidential-year turnout, Democrats will be sure to hold Republicans to promises made this year.
 
Education was the issue that kept Senator Hagan within two points of Thom Tillis. You can count on it being front and center in a year with a governor’s race.

 

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11
The would-be undertakers in the media and even within the Democratic Party need to cancel their burial plans. The patient’s charts show a strong pulse.
 
North Carolina is the only state in the South – and one of few nationally – where Democrats gained legislative seats despite the national wave. Check out this chart from Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies. He reports that Republicans gained 60 legislative seats in the South; North Carolina was their only net loss. And apparently New York was the only state in the nation where Democrats made more gains in the state House.  
 
Also, Democrats in House races here knocked off two rising GOP stars, potential speakers and top fundraisers - Tom Murry and Tom Moffitt. Rep. Paul Tine defied a Republican wave in Dare County to win reelection.
 
Also, consider the narrow margin of Senator Hagan’s loss, close finishes in state Senate races, the commissioners’ sweep in Wake County and statewide wins by Democratic judicial candidates.
 
None of this is to minimize that 2014 was a bad year for North Carolina Democrats. Nor underestimate how steep the climb back will be. But “all is lost,” as Harrison Hickman noted (see yesterday’s blog), is self-defeating and a vast overstatement.
 

 

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10
After last Tuesday, Democrats need a psychiatrist as much as a political strategist.
 
Here’s helpful advice from my old friend and pollster extraordinaire Harrison Hickman, titled Top 10 Least Helpful Democratic Excuses.” Harrison, an NC native and CEO of Hickman Analytics, Inc. in Washington, says, “To learn from our landslide defeat, Democrats should avoid excuses that divert attention from the tasks required to prepare for the next round of elections.” Among his 10 examples:
 
"’All hope is lost.’ Party fundraising emails may say so, but it's not. Ask anyone who went through 1984, 1994, and 2010. Elections are cyclical, and we need to be ready for the next opportunities by learning from our mistakes and moving forward.”
 
"’If only ... [fill in the blank].’ In a wipeout of this magnitude, no one factor would have changed the outcome. A multitude of factors were at play, including many completely beyond the control of the campaigns wrecked by the wave.”
 
"’There's nothing we could have done.’ Actually there are plenty of things we could have done, but most of them should have happened months or years ago. Maybe nothing tactical in the closing month would have changed the outcome, but better messaging and performance leading up to it could have helped. Besides, this type of thinking is self-destructive and presents a horrible image to the audience we most need to convince. Voters who expect courage and performance from their leaders are not going to cast their lot with a party of defeatists.”
 
"’It's all about race.’ Racial attitudes are part of it, but they are not the only reason we lost badly. If we want voters to put us in charge of their government, understand that they expect performance. We simply have not delivered in ways that meet their needs and expectations.”
 
And lastly: "’But so-and-so said ....’ Here's a dirty little secret. With some notable exceptions, most of the people opining about what went wrong and what needs to change are no longer paid to run or advise major campaigns -- if they ever were. You know more about these things than so-and-so does, and you have a helluva lot more at stake in coming up with the right answers. So do it.”
 
Dr. Pearce’s Rx: Take all 10 to heart. 

 

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06
“Anybody who says they knew this was coming – Democrat or Republican, pundit or pollster – is lying,” a veteran campaign operative said Wednesday
 
The polls all missed it. Close races turned into routs. Narrow Democratic wins turned into Republican wins. Turnout models missed the mark, Early-voting hype was misleading.
 
Tillis consultant Paul Shumaker did tell donors last week that internal polls showed Tillis had caught up with Hagan.
 
The instant analysis that it was an anti-Obama vote. But why did it turn so suddenly at the end, when Obama had been the focus of Republican campaigns all year?
 
A theory: A combination of factors – in-state, national and international – came together in late October to exacerbate anti-Obama feeling, energize Republicans and swing most undecided voters to Tillis and the Republicans. Including gay marriage, ISIS, Ebola and the Hagan-stimulus issue, with “stimulus” being a code word for “Obama.”
 
A useful perspective came from a smart young field operative who, unlike many of us, spent a lot of time this year talking to real voters, especially undecided voters. Those voters have very little interest in politics, he noted. Consequently, “they don’t know the legislative candidates, they don’t follow the legislature, they don’t know much about Tillis and Hagan, they don’t know who holds the House or Senate. They know two big things: They’re not happy with the economy and the way things are going, and they know Obama is President.”

 

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05
North Carolina Democrats should push the pause, not panic, button.
 
It was, as George Bush famously said after the 2006 midterm, “a thumpin’.” It hurts like hell, especially when the other team spikes the ball and strikes a pose in the end zone. The temptation is to form up the circular firing squad and start shooting each other.
 
Instead, as Terry Sanford used to say, let’s have a council of war and figure out how to take the next hill.
 
Take it from a scarred old veteran: The seeds of victory often are sown in defeat. Democrats saw their boats swamped in 1984, 1994 and 2004. (What is it about years ending in 4?) Each time, two years later, a rising tide lifted all their boats to big victories.
 
Politics goes in waves these days, and the waves go national. As did this one. From the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast, it was a Republican tsunami. It was a vote of dissatisfaction and discontent with President Obama and the party that was seen as the Ins.
 
The miracle is that Kay Hagan came within less than 1.7 percent, while other Democrats were losing by 10 and 20 points or losing blue states like Maryland and Massachusetts. Legislative candidates like my man Tom Bradshaw came within less than 1 percent of surviving gerrymandering, incumbent money, tough voter laws and the national tide. State House candidates overcame those odds in Dare, Wake and Buncombe counties. Democratic judges, who didn’t have the burden of “Democrat” by their names on the ballot, won statewide. Four Democrats were elected county commissioners in Wake; all seven board seats are now held by Democrats.
 
In the Capitols in Raleigh and Washington, Republicans own it now. The euphoria of victory invites overreach, and there will be few Democrats to blame in 2016. Perhaps by then the public will be so enamored with the performance of state and national government, on the economy and education, that Republicans will win another big victory.
 
Or the tide may turn with a vengeance.

 

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04
When you read breathless stories about sophisticated high-tech voter-turnout operations, be skeptical.
 
I’ve been reading, with some concern, that Republicans are catching up with the vaunted Democratic ground operation. We’re told about canvassers fanning out 12 hours a day, seven days a week, armed with hand-held computers, linked in to a central brain that can access “a thousand of points of information about voters,” whatever the hell that means. (Is it like “a thousand points of light”?)
 
But, as Carter once aptly observed, campaigns are exercises in human error.
 
Case in point: Yesterday, the day before Election Day, a Republican field operative left on our mailbox a plastic bag containing about a dozen separate cards and sheets of paper. It had flyers for a number of GOP candidates and three long, text-heavy issue papers. There was enough material to cure insomnia for a week.
 
Now, it shouldn’t have taken a computer and a thousand points of information very long to determine that our household is about as reliably Democratic as it gets. First hint: We vote in every election, and we vote in every Democratic primary. We also contribute to Democratic candidates. All easily available information.
 
It also would not have taken much sophisticated targeting to determine that we had already voted this year – on the first day of early-voting, in fact.
 
Along with those valuable points of information, the canvasser might have noticed that we have three yard signs for Democratic candidates.
 
Nonetheless, the package was duly delivered, the end result of an expensive and complex GOTV operation.
 
Obviously, I was delighted that the Republican Party expended its time, resources and manpower on me.
 
Keep up the good work!

 

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03
“Voter shaming” is new. Hypocrisy is as old as politics. The North Carolina Republican Party found a way to engage in both last week.
 
A local voter received a card from the GOP with this warning: “The News and Observer reported last week that Barack Obama and Harry Reid’s operation plans to publish and share your voting record with your neighbors after this election.”
 
So the GOP published and shared neighbors’ voting records BEFORE the election. The card contained the 2010, 2012 and 2014 voting record of the recipient and four neighbors.
 
Of course, the card was just a public service: “The Republican Party wanted to make you aware of this, so Reid and Obama don’t have the chance to embarrass you for staying home on election day.”
 
Thanks for sparing us that embarrassment – by doing it now.
 
By the way, you might ask: Why do both parties engage in the obnoxious practice of voter shaming? Because, the GOTV experts say, it works.

 

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