Blog Articles
31
If Democrats want to come back in North Carolina, they need to avoid their usual mistake of thinking it’s all about the issues.
 
It’s in Democrats’ DNA to do that. We’re issues people. We care a lot about things like Medicaid expansion, Common Core curriculum, growth strategies and infrastructure.
 
It’s not that voters don’t care. But they easily figure out which party is with them on issues.
 
What swings swing voters is character. That’s why negative ads and mailers work. They raise questions about politicians’ character, credibility, judgment and honesty. Swing voters ultimately vote for the candidate they trust most – or against the candidate they trust least.
 
Democrats will not beat Governor McCrory on Medicaid expansion. They can beat him for saying one thing and doing another. Like promising to do away with cronyism, then setting up a political patronage system. Like promising to cut “waste and fraud” in Medicaid, then paying two 24-year-olds $87,000 to help run Medicaid.
 
That’s about character, integrity and trust.
 
You won’t beat Republican legislators on a particular issue, but you can beat them on being mean, vindictive and uncaring to teachers, women, minorities, young people and anybody who’s having hard economic times.
 
Some Democrats get it. Like President Obama. His campaign relentlessly portrayed Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat with contempt for average folks.
 
Too many Democrats are like the fine candidate who had some serious image problems with voters, but just knew they’d come around when they heard his job-training ideas. Suffice it to say the voters were able to restrain their enthusiasm.

 

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30
Carter likes to say that politics is an exercise in human folly and error. Both parties seem set on proving it in Washington.
 
A few weeks ago, President Obama’s job ratings fell when the news was focused on Syria. But Washington Republicans came to his rescue. They shut down the government. Everybody forgot about Syria.
 
Now it was the Republicans’ turn to get whacked. Their ratings plunged as the shutdown dragged on. Obama’s ratings rose – not because of anything he did, but because he looked better than the Republicans.
 
Finally, Republicans surrendered on the shutdown. The spotlight immediately turned to Obamacare’s botched rollout. Once again, Obama has been taking the hits.
 
Not to worry. Congressional Republicans are riding to the rescue. They’re working themselves into a frothing frenzy attacking Obamacare. They look like hypocrites, complaining about problems implementing a law they worked so hard – in Washington and the states – to sabotage. Plus, they don’t realize how mean and hateful they look to voters who don’t suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome.
 
Politicians, especially in Congress, are incapable of just shutting up when silence would be the best strategy. An old political maxim says, “When your opponent is shooting himself in the foot, get out of the line of fire.”

 

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29
What’s the over/under on how many bad headlines and headaches will come from Governor McCrory’s plan to shift job recruitment from the N.C. Department of Commerce to a new “public-private nonprofit corporation”?
 
The N&O’s Rob Christensen reported that similar partnerships across the country have been criticized for “misuse of taxpayer money, conflicts of interest, excessive executive pay, and little public accountability.”
 
Sounds like an investigative journalist’s dream.
 
Sounds like exactly what has come out of McCrory’s drive to fix the “broken” Medicaid system.
 
Doesn’t the Governor have somebody him sounding the alarm on these things? Somebody who says: “Governor, remember what we said about the Rural Development Center? They’re going to say the same thing about this. And probably about the time 2016 rolls around.”
 
A historical note: Lt. Governor Bob Jordan proposed a public-private effort like this in 1988, when he ran against Governor Jim Martin. Governor Martin said then it was the worst idea he could imagine.

 

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28
The judge, after I asked about Eric Holder’s lawsuit, grunted and said, Whatever gave you the idea that law and justice are the same thing – the law can be a darn peculiar beast.
 
Not long ago the Attorney General of the whole United States sued the whole state of North Carolina to put a stone cold stop to the state’s new ‘voter laws.’
 
Republican legislators, outraged at being accused of trampling on the Constitution, but also unintimidated, shot back their new laws were not only 100% legal but, what’s more, were urgently needed to stop the state’s rampant voter fraud (which, oddly, hardly a soul seems to have seen or heard a word about before the new law passed).
 
The Attorney General didn’t flinch: He declared all that talk about voter fraud was a ruse hiding what legislators were really doing – scheming to make it harder for African Americans to vote.
 
Which was a pretty unkind thing to say.
 
It sounded more like Reverend Barber on a rant than a distinguished jurist solemnly defending the constitution.
 
But that’s not what’s odd about Eric Holder’s case.
 
It seems, according to the newspapers, the law is crystal clear on one fact: Making it harder for African Americans to vote because they’re African Americans is taboo. That’s discrimination. Pure and simple. And it’s illegal.
 
But, and this is the odd fact, passing a law to make it harder for Democrats to vote because they’re Democrats is fine. That’s not racial discrimination. It’s just hardball politics. And, strange as it sounds, it’s perfectly legal.
 
That’s odd, you say.
 
Well, I thought so too – but the newspaper gave an example it’s hard to get around: Redistricting.
 
For the better part of a century Democrats redistricted to make it harder for Republican voters to elect Republican candidates then, when the shoe was on the other foot, Republicans did the same thing (only the other way around). And every bit of that political-advantage-grabbing by one party over the other was perfectly legal.
 
In fact, a three judge panel just bluntly told a group of Democrats who’d sued because they didn’t like being on the receiving end of the Republican redistricting plan: Political losses and partisan disadvantages are not the proper subject for judicial review.
 
So there it is.
 
Which in the inerrant logic of the law means: Republicans requiring voters to have IDs, because they figured out that Democrats are less likely to have them, is fine. That’s perfectly legal.
 
Now, of course, like most logic there’s a limit to how much light it can shed. And that’s where the high-minded workings of law and logic run afoul of a murky kind of devilment in the form of a series of shoal-like facts, including: a) African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates; and b) African Americans are less likely to have IDs; so c) targeting Democrats without IDs also means targeting African Americans.
 
So here’s how the law works: If you want fewer African Americans to vote because they’re African Americans, it’s illegal. But if you want fewer Democrats to vote because they’re Democrats, and as a result fewer African Americans vote, it’s legal.
 
Which was the judges’ point about the law: It’s a peculiar beast.
 
 
 

 

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28
We all are shocked – shocked, I say – that Governor McCrory and the Republican Party are putting political cronies in state jobs. Like that has never happened before.
 
I’m reminded of the Jim Hunt supporter who wanted to get a state job for a local boy. The Governor’s patronage chief, Joe Pell, asked, “Is he qualified?” The supporter said, “Hell, Joe, if he was qualified we wouldn’t need you down here.”
 
But here is the catch: Governor McCrory promised to hold himself and his administration to a higher standard. He promised to do away with the old crony-ridden, “good old boy and good old girl” system. No more politics as usual, he said.
 
Yes, he could say, “Everybody did it.” But the fact remains: He broke his promise.

 

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25
Republicans couldn’t defund Obamacare, and Democrats seemingly can’t defend it. Some states (where there’s competition) are seeing lower insurance rates, and some (where Republicans blocked competition) are having sticker shock.
 
Nobody understands what Obamacare is, but everybody understands a website that won’t work, so we’re obsessing about that.
 
Maybe we’re overcomplicating this. Maybe there’s a simpler way to fix the whole system.
 
One thing seems to work: Medicare. It works so well that everybody on it is ready to throttle anybody who tinkers with it.
 
So why don’t we just put everybody – everybody, regardless of age – on Medicare?
 
Why go through the agony and confusion of “reform”? Why try to fix a broken system? Why not just throw out what everybody seems to hate and replace it with what everybody seems to like?
 
I don’t mind if you disagree. Soon, I’ll be on Medicare. And it looks good. I just thought I’d give you the same opportunity.

 

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24
Matt Brown did what digital experts would run over their grandmothers to do. He got a half a million people to read his message, and it didn’t cost him a cent.
 
North Carolina politicians better take notice.
 
Think about those numbers for a second. A half-million readers. In a state where 4.5 million people voted in last year’s presidential election. That is 500,000 people who took the time to click on a link and read what Matt Brown had to say.
 
What he had to say was about teachers. He said he was glad his wife Haley was quitting teaching.
 
You might not agree with what he said. But The News & Observer says Brown’s missive is the most-read story on its website this year. A half-million people paid attention to it. So you should too. Here, in part, is what Brown wrote:
 
“After nearly seven years of her passion for teaching turning to dread, she is free to live her life unburdened by the oppressive hands of incompetent legislators and school board members who wish to micromanage education without actually getting involved with the people in it.
 
“As each passing year of new policies and tests fails to deliver the results they desire, rather than reform their thinking, these officials create new policies and new tests and pile them on top of the old ones. They, with the raising of a hand and a stroke of a signature, applaud themselves for their feigned ingenuity without thought or regard for those who will have to bear the burden of it….
 
“To add insult to injury, North Carolina has not one time since my wife has been teaching given teachers the pay increases promised them. In fact, they have been given no pay increases except for a single, 1 percent increase a couple of years ago. Given that the average rate of inflation over the past 10 years has been 2.3 percent, by not giving teachers pay increases that at least match inflation, the state is essentially saying, ‘We will expect more and more of you with each passing year, but your services are worth less and less to us with each passing year’.”

 

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24
The Pachyderms, or Supreme Republican Leaders in Washington, have a natural animus to Democrats – but, these days, who they dislike even more is Ted Cruz and Tea Partiers.
 
It’s time Ted Cruz, one Pachyderm snorted in the newspaper, started acting like an adult.
 
Talking about Senator Mike Lee, another added, He’s so immature.
 
Now the Pachyderms feel about the Grand Old Party the same way Eskimos feel about totem poles – that it’s a lofty and, in some ways, sacred institution. And their heart’s desire boils down to making the GOP more powerful. By electing more Pachyderms. And Ted Cruz is no blind-loyal-party-firster.
 
Even worse, Cruz has a pesky creed. He just plain loves spending cuts. And he actually believes if Washington keeps on running up debt the economy is going to flip over and tank.
 
But to Pachyderms, after a fortnight of getting out-foxed by President Obama on government shutdowns and debt ceiling votes, Cruz’s infatuation with spending cuts is spawning storm clouds with alarming swiftness.
 
To a Pachyderm cutting spending’s a fine sentiment. And saving the economy is a lofty goal. But electing Republicans comes first.
 
So, post-shutdown, Pachyderms are out for Ted Cruz’s scalp. But, for all their guile and cunning,  they’ve missed an important fact: Miles from the Pachyderms’ homeland in Washington, in the hamlets and small towns out in Republican Primaryland, Ted Cruz is Horatio at the Bridge – battling the villains on Capitol Hill single-handedly.

 

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23
Roy Cooper has made strong moves to clear the 2016 Democratic primary field for Governor. But he also may be putting a big obstacle in his path.
 
The AG is adamant that he can go into court and defend Republican-supported laws on voter identification and same-sex marriage, even though he adamantly opposes those laws.
 
Maybe he can. But why would he? And is that smart politics?
 
Conventional wisdom says Cooper leads the Democratic pack today. He’s a proven vote-getter. He comes right out of the Sanford-Hunt central casting school for Democratic governors. He straddles the worlds of small-town values and big-city polish.
 
But Cooper is in the same position as Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Clinton has to worry about an Elizabeth Warren-type challenge from the left. Cooper, too, has to worry about a credible challenge from the left. Anthony Foxx, say.
 
Call them “the left,” call them liberals, call them progressives, there is a large cohort of Democrats in North Carolina who were first energized by Howard Dean in 2004, then mobilized by Obama in 2008 and 2012 and now enraged by Republicans in Raleigh.
 
How will they react when a primary opponent confronts Cooper in a debate: “Roy, you said that as a matter of conscience you could not support laws the Republican legislature passed on voter ID and same-sex marriage. But you went into court and defended the constitutionality of both those laws. Why?”
 
Lawyers might understand defending a law you think is wrong. But laymen – and voters who feel passionately about those issues – may not.

 

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23
Every now and then Gary and I venture out of our respective sanctuaries to journey out into the broader world and, just the other day, we meandered all the way across Raleigh to speak to a very nice group of folks about politics (from our different perspectives).
 
And, sure enough, during the meeting a hand went up and someone asked: With all these polls showing the Republican Party at its lowest popularity ever – how many Republican candidates could lose next election?
 
Gary, gentleman that he is, felt it was only fair I answer the question.
 
Now there’s no doubt a fair amount of people are unhappy with Republican politicians. They’re not in love with Democrats either. But the polls do show they’re more unhappy with Republicans.
 
I said, Imagine, off the shores of Africa a hurricane’s forming. Then imagine you could put all the Republican candidates on the tip of the beach in Wilmington. Now that hurricane may dissipate. It may roar across the ocean and turn north and swamp Boston. Or it might roar straight ashore in Wilmington.
 
And if you’re a Republican candidate standing on the beach, the same person asked, what do you do?
 
I said, Prepare for the worst.
 

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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