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For a brief moment, I thought my campaign against yard signs was gaining ground. One big-name candidate in Charlotte joined the cause.

Her campaign manager said, “As part of our commitment to a more sustainable Charlotte, we’ve decided not to pollute Charlotte’s roads, our right-of-ways, and our green spaces with yard signs, and we’re calling on our opponents to cut down on yard sign pollution as well.”

The candidate? Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who lost her primary the next day.

Her loss surprised a lot of smart people. They blamed low turnout, the HB2 controversy and her handling of a police shooting.

But yard-sign fans know why she lost.

Clearly, nobody took my advice in Raleigh. There are ugly yard signs along roads and streets all over town.

Most of them are awful, even if you like yard signs. Empty space. Weak pastel colors. Names too small to make out. (I’m talking about you, Stacy Miller.)

If you’re driving any speed at all, you can’t even read most of them. Especially us geezers, who are most likely to vote.

If your signs aren’t big and bold, what’s the point?

(Note: It helps to have a name made for yard signs. “Jim Hunt” was perfect. Seven letters.)

The last nail in the coffin came from a TAPster here in Raleigh, who left this message:

“While I generally agree with you, there is one set of circumstances in which yard signs are extremely valuable, and I just encountered that circumstance in my neighborhood. I’ve been debating who to vote for in the at-large City Council races, and I just passed one of my neighbors’ homes. She has a yard sign for one candidate. Knowing her politics and knowing her views about things generally, the fact that she is supporting this candidate means that I absolutely, positively will never vote for that candidate.

“So there is a good use for a yard sign. My neighbor has solved my dilemma for me quite easily.”

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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Hillary Clinton’s book scrolls through a long list of reasons why she lost. But the real reason may boil down to one simple fact: race.

Specifically, the fact that the President she wanted to succeed – the President who endorsed her and enthusiastically campaigned for her – was black. Plus the fact that her opponent was (and is) an overt and unabashed white racist.

A lengthy, provocative article in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The First White President,” sums it up: “The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.”

Coates writes:

“For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own….Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president….”

Coates demolishes the story that the “white working class” elected Trump, which he sees as willful blindness on the part of Democrats and liberals who want politics to always be about economics:

“Trump’s white support was not determined by income. According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker. So when white pundits cast the elevation of Trump as the handiwork of an inscrutable white working class, they are being too modest, declining to claim credit for their own economic class. Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to NASCAR dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant.”

And Coates isn’t optimistic about the future:

“The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off ‘moderate’ whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump.

“It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was ‘singularly disastrous for modern civilization’ or James Baldwin claims that whites have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,’ the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.”

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Some Democrats are popping corks over two stories.

First, Steve Bannon promised a civil war in the Republican Party.

Second, in North Carolina, the number of Unaffiliated voters exceeds Republicans for the first time:

  • Democrats: 2,640,470
  • Unaffiliated: 2,055,548
  • Republicans: 2,055,493

Hold the champagne.

First, we’ve got our own civil war – between Clinton Democrats and Sanders Democrats. You see the bitterness in the reaction to Hillary Clinton’s new book.

Second, we’ve got a challenge among Unaffiliateds. A recent statewide poll showed that they break down this way ideologically:

  • Liberal 24%
  • Moderate 22%
  • Conservative 42%

If you assume the conservative Unaffiliateds vote Republican, then Democrats have to win virtually all the liberals AND moderates. Democrats should keep that in mind as they decide which way to go now.

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Hillary is getting pilloried. Again.

This time for having the effrontery to write a book about the election, “What Happened.”

Even Democrats are jumping and dumping on her for “reopening old wounds,” “refighting old battles” and making them relive the awful experience of seeing Trump elected President.

Lay off her.

Three points here:

First, she earned the right to write a book.

Second, I want to read her book. I haven’t. Nor, I suspect, have many of the people jumping and dumping on her.

Third, in politics, as in life, you learn more from your setbacks than your successes. When you win in politics, you assume that everything you did was right. You take a bow, you move on, and you don’t look back. When you lose, you relive it, rethink it and refight it endlessly.

Believe me, I know. I’m still reliving, rethinking and refighting our loss to Jesse Helms (and Carter) in 1984.

So it’s good for her, and us, to learn from 2016.

I also suspect Hillary is being too hard on herself. She surely made many mistakes. But she had a lot going against her – mainly, trying to become the first female President right after the first African-American President.

Then throw in Putin, Comey, Sanders, Clinton fatigue, the media obsession with her emails, and the Trump clown circus.

The amazing thing is that she still got more votes than Trump. Just not quite enough in the right states.

I hope she makes a gazillion dollars from the book. And enjoys spending it – on trips, grandchildren and whatever else makes her happy.

She’s probably better off without the grief of being President. The country’s surely a lot worse off.

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They’re popping up in Raleigh, so here’s my perennial rant.

There is no greater waste of time and money in a campaign than yard signs.

No voter – ever – has said, “OMG, look at that sign! The colors! The design! The font! I must vote for this candidate!!”

Campaigns are about getting information to voters. Yard signs communicate no information. They rarely even identify party. There are exceptions, which prove the rule. “Conservative.” “Christian.” Or, maybe for a certain Charlotte mayoral candidate, “White.”

Yard signs are a lazy – and inaccurate – way of measuring who’s winning. Which makes them a nightmare for campaign managers. Candidates and their friends and family members are always obsessed with yard signs. As in, “I just got a call from my friend Bob in North Ridge, and he says our opponent’s signs are EVERYWHERE!!”

A good campaign manager figures out a way to manage this obsession and yet stay focused on the things that actually win campaigns. And a good manager remembers that, out of every 100 yard signs ordered and paid for, about 80 will end up in somebody’s car, attic or garage.

Now, you can learn some things from yard signs. Raleigh City Council candidate Stef Mendell’s signs feature what appears to be a mushroom cloud. (Is North Korea an issue?) Closer examination determined that it’s an oak tree.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane’s logo features a leaf. Oak, presumably. Signs for her opponent, Charles Francis, have what looks like a small nut. It’s an acorn.

Clearly, trees are big here. But how many trees were killed to make yard signs?

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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During the Alabama primary President Trump was tweeting and robo-calling for Luther Strange and at the same time Mitch McConnell was spending $4 million to elect Strange so we had the Establishment Republicans and Trump Republicans all on the same side until the ground shifted – and Strange didn’t win. He finished a close second to former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (of ‘Ten Commandments’ fame) so now Strange and Moore are heading into a runoff with Moore leading.

Then the ground shifted again: Steve Bannon – who wanted Moore to defeat the Establishment Republicans – jumped in then you had Trump Republicans on one side and Mitch McConnell on the other and Donald Trump siding with the Establishment Republicans which gave birth to a surprise: Trump fell silent.

No more tweets, no calls, no rallies for Strange.

Whoever would have imagined it? The shifting ground left Trump speechless.

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If you’re a Republican with an eye on the next election you’re searching for signs and reading tea leaves, wondering, What are the chances we’ll lose?

The signs that measure President Trump’s strength – his Favorable rating and his Job Approval – are all troubling: Swing voters dislike the President by two to one.

Compounding that worry, 2018 is an off-year election: Turnout is sure to drop. Because a lot of people only vote in Presidential elections. So, next election, whose voters are more likely to vote? Yours or your opponents?

Democrats disapprove of President Trump overwhelmingly: By 98 to 2. Their dislike is intense – so they’re likely to vote. Republicans, on the other hand, are divided: Almost 70% of the Republicans ‘Strongly Approve’ of Donald Trump but the rest – almost 30% – only ‘Somewhat Approve’ or Disapprove. It’s likely the ‘Strongly Approve’ of Trump voters will vote – but will the other Republicans abandon you and stay home?

The number of Republicans who ‘Strongly Approve’ of Trump is also dropping – and has been since he was sworn in last January. Another troubling sign.

Republicans won four straight elections with Obama in the White House but it wasn’t because voters discovered the moral excellence of Republicans: They were voting against Obama. Ask yourself: Next election could they be voting against Trump?

So what do Republicans do? Abandon Trump? That’s unlikely. Because of another knotty problem: There’re 240 Republicans in the House of Representatives in Washington and eighty of them have been targeted by the National Democratic Party for defeat. But the other 160 are in such safe Republican districts the Democrats won’t waste even a minute trying to defeat them.

And in those 160 Districts there’s only one election that matters: The Republican Primary. And with 70% of the Republicans voting in those primaries ‘Strongly Approving’ of Donald Trump there’s little or no chance those 180 Congressmen will throw Trump over the side – and risk being defeated in a primary.

Which leaves eighty lonely Republican Congressmen who’re caught between a rock and a hard place, facing tough choices: Do they step away from Donald Trump and risk being hammered in a primary or do they stand with Trump and risk being hammered by Independents in the General Election?

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The News and Observer has published a dozen stories and editorials and letters by people extolling the virtues of the UNC Center for Civil Rights –  all saying roughly the same thing: The professors leading the Center are warriors battling for the poor and the oppressed and the least among us.

It’s a noble picture.

But the heart of the tale is a fiction – because the UNC Center isn’t an academic Civil Rights Center, it’s a political committee disguised as a Civil Rights Center.

It’s fought Republican legislation, lauded Moral Monday protesters, allied with political groups – like the ACLU – and because it is part of the UNC Law School it’s funded with state money. Its employees receive state salaries, state pensions, and state health care benefits.

Which is why there’s a problem: The Center’s politics is paid for by the State.

The best thing for the Center to do is to move its politics out of the University – by turning itself into a private foundation. Then it could be as rampantly political as it wants and no taxpayer would have a right to say a cross word.

Unfortunately both the Center and the powers-that-be in Chapel Hill, starting with the Chancellor, don’t want that to happen. Which means it’s up to the UNC Board of Governors to say, It’s time for the politics to stop. But will the Board do that? In the past, faced with controversy, the Trustees have wavered. Will they waver again? If so, then, the time will have come for the General Assembly to step in to end the foolishness.

Posted in: General, Issues
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Listening to him as he stood on the floor of the State Senate speaking, I wondered whether he believed what he was saying or whether he’d simply decided to spin a tale.

He sounded like a history professor giving a lecture, talking about the new Senate maps, explaining meticulously why those maps were not a gerrymander; he said he’d heard people say Republicans and Democrats should have roughly the same number of seats in the State Senate because Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper had received roughly the same number of votes in the Governor’s race but, he pointed out, those people ignored a simple fact: That Republican candidates for State Senate had received 500,000 more votes than Democratic candidates.

It sounded like, after pouring through election returns, he’d spotted a fact no one else had seen: That a legion of people who had voted for Roy Cooper had also, down ballot, split their tickets and voted to elect Republicans to the State Senate.

Delving deeper into history he laid out a second surprising fact: For years, he said, politicians in North Carolina hadn’t been able to gerrymander because the state Constitution wouldn’t let them split a single county – then in 1981 the Justice Department in Washington decided the State Constitution violated the Voting Rights Act. Which made splitting counties fine. Which opened the door to gerrymandering.

He told how, in 2001, the Democrats, in the worst gerrymander ever, had split 51 counties and how what they’d done was so appalling that a year later, in another case, a state court threw out the Democrats’ districts to put a stop to the foolishness.

Since then, he added, since courts would only let map drawers divide between 10 and 20 counties, the politicians hadn’t been able to do gerrymanders – and he pointed to the Republicans’ latest map as an example: It had only split 12 counties.

Which proved he said, ‘This map is not a political gerrymander.’

Moving on, next, he asked a rhetorical question: So, if it wasn’t due to gerrymandering why did the Democrats lose 70% of state Senate seats? And he gave the answer: North Carolina Democrats had changed into national Democrats. He compared Jim Hunt’s election 20 years ago –  when Hunt won 73 counties – to Roy Cooper’s election last year when Cooper only won 28 counties. The Democrats, he said, had collapsed.

It sounded logical: Democrats lost 73% of the counties and 70% of the State Senate seats but, at second glance, one fact he didn’t mention was troubling: Roy Cooper had won. And Democrats had won six of the last seven Governors’ races – which didn’t sound like a party in collapse.

That left his case hanging on that one number: 500,000.

So, that night, retracing his steps I looked through the election returns – and he was right. Republican candidates for State Senate had received 500,000 more votes than Democrats. But that number wasn’t quite what it seemed.

In the 2016 election eleven Republican candidates for State Senate had run unopposed. They were in ‘safe’ Republican Districts. And didn’t have a Democratic opponent. Those 11 Republicans received 746,000 votes to the Democrats’ none and they were the reason Republican candidates for State Senate received half a million more votes than Democrats.

Finally, looking back, there was one even simpler test that would have proven whether Phil Berger’s story about his new maps was right – I’m surprised no Democratic Senator used it. All it would have taken was, say, Dan Blue standing up and asking Phil at the end of his speech:  Phil, what did you tell Tom Hoeffler when you paid him $50,000 to draw these Senate Districts? Did you tell him: I don’t care who gets elected? Or did you tell him: Tom, your job is to draw as many districts as you can to elect Republicans?

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How bad are the new Republican legislative maps?

An analysis by the Campaign Legal Center says Republicans would give themselves a “large and durable” advantage in the districts”

“Assuming a statewide uniform swing in the vote, in order for there to be a Republican majority in the House, Republicans will only need a statewide vote of 45.7 percent. By contrast, Democrats would need 54.8 percent of the vote to get a majority in the House.”

Heads I win, tails you lose.

Typically, Republicans respond by saying: “Democrats did it too.” Democrats should say: “It was wrong then and it’s wrong now. It’s time for a change.”

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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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