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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

26
Thanksgiving is the best. Black Friday is the worst.
 
Thanksgiving is the best of all holidays. It’s family, food and football. It requires no angst and anxiety about giving and getting presents. It does require a lot of cooking, so a big thank-you to all who are spending today in the kitchen. Those of us who help so little will demonstrate our gratitude tomorrow. We can at least clean up the dishes.
 
Thanksgiving brings out the best in Americans, a genuine thankfulness for having the good fortune to live in a country where we can eat to our heart’s content, complain about the government and not worry about famine, disease or a midnight knock on the door from the thought police.
 
Black Friday, not so much. If you’ve ever had anyone close to you go to work at 3:30 a.m. Friday to be ready when the hordes of deal-hunters invade – or even worse, go in at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day – you’ll never get over resenting the consumerist frenzy involved.
 
Thankfulness is the noblest of human emotions. Greed – and the hunger to get something you don’t yet have – is the lowest. There’s a reason the Buddhists call that “dukkha,” meaning suffering, anxiety, stress and unsatisfactoriness.
 
For myself, I thank all of you who read this blog, and especially those who tell Carter and me that you read it.
 
For one day, let’s forget our political divisions and just be thankful we live in this country.

 

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24
One thing Democrats did right this year was push education onto the public agenda. But will it last? And the key question: Where do they take it now?
 
The Hagan campaign came close largely because they almost turned a United States Senate race into a school board election.
 
The same thing was true in many legislative races. Republicans who were running scared campaigned like Democrats, promising to improve the public schools and even to raise teacher pay to the national average.
 
One path for Democrats now will be to see whether Republicans keep that promise in what looks like a legislative session that will be dominated by a shortfall in revenues
 
But Democrats should be wary of falling into a trap that equates more money with better education.
 
Republicans are learning how to push back against the charge that they “cut $500 million from education.” And, if you Google that charge, you’ll find a series of fact checks that challenge its veracity.
 
Given their ideological preference for vouchers and charter schools, Republicans are not likely to appropriate much more money for the schools. Their position is more likely to be: “We’re spending more money than ever before on the schools, but they’re not getting better. We have to do something different.”
 
Democrats better figure out how to overcome that argument.
 
Same with the universities. Democrats can’t just criticize budget “cuts” – more accurately, cuts in per-pupil spending – when Republicans are already rolling out their riposte: “North Carolina spends more on its universities per pupil than all but three other states.”
 
I saw this movie in the 1990s with Governor Hunt. It’s why he didn’t just say: “Let’s raise teacher pay to the national average.” He also, always, said: “And let’s raise standards for teachers, students and schools.”
 
To win in 2016, Democrats will again have to propose more than more money.

 

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21
All American politics today – the battle over immigration, the election two weeks ago and even legislative elections in North Carolina – is all about Barack Obama.
 
Presidents always dominate the political scene. But this is a special case. Yes, it’s about race. But it’d also about something more, something deeper in America’s psyche.
 
Here’s a theory. The election of Obama in 2008 as our first African-American President was a shock to the American system, both pro and con. For blacks and for whites who cared about equal rights, even if they didn’t vote for Obama, it was an historic step forward. For many other people, well, not so much.
 
At the very same time, we went through another huge shock to the system: what felt and looked like an economic collapse. I know very smart and very affluent people who were so worried they were hoarding as much cold cash as they could. It’s as close as we’ve ever come to feeling the fear that our parents and grandparents felt in the Depression.
 
So we had a double-whammy: our first black President and an aggressive – and controversial – effort by the federal government to intervene in the economy and prevent a collapse. An effort begun, although this is totally forgotten today, by the Republican administration of President George W. Bush.
 
Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulsen, famously got down on one knee and begged then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to save his plan to save Wall Street.
 
Somehow in our minds, that all morphed into an image of Obama as a Welfare King, taking money away from honest, hard-working people and giving it to lazy, good-for-nothings who just want a handout – the Great Redistributor.
 
Which then led to Wall Street types like Mitt Romney, who were rescued by Paulsen’s plan, blasting Obama for raiding “makers” and rewarding “takers.”
 
Now that narrative has taken hold, and Democratic politicians and political operatives in North Carolina this year tell about voters – especially older white voters – who refuse to even talk with a candidate who is a Democrat, let alone vote for him or her.
 
As one consultant said, “White, working voters – young and old – see everybody else getting help. The government helps poor people, the government helps big banks and now Obama wants to help immigrants. Well, what about me? What about my job, my income, my retirement? What about my children graduating from college with a huge debt and not being able to get a job?”
 
The divide in the Democratic Party today is whether to try to answer their questions – or to simply drive up turnout among those people (judging from the Tillis-Hagan race, 47 percent this year) who have stuck with Obama.
 
The Republican Party has chosen its course: No to Obama, all the time, whatever he does.
 
But a party of No ultimately has no future. Especially if the other party figures out how to bridge the divide. And say Yes to everybody who’s trying to make it in America.

 

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20
Governor McCrory’s political instinct is right, but his choice of battlefield is puzzling.
 
The Governor seems to understand that the best way to get reelected is to pick a fight with the legislature. Governors are always more popular than legislatures. McCrory’s approval ratings are twice as high as this legislature.
 
But why not fight over something the public cares about? Nobody cares which politician appoints the coal ash commission.
 
And McCrory brings a glass jaw to this fight. As Senator Berger put it a while back: “The governor’s primary concern appears to be a desire to control the coal ash commission and avoid an independent barrier between his administration and former employer.”
 
“Former employer”! Yikes! Sounds like something a Democrat would say.
 
Or will say next year.

 

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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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