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When a politician takes a poll most folks figure he means to figure out how he can bamboozle people and there’s truth in that but a poll’s also a picture of the powers – like fear, revenge, blindness and rage – shaking the political world and even through a poll won’t show you angels and demons you might spot their tracks buried in the pages of statistics.

One poll – taken not long after protestors in Durham tore down a Confederate statue – asked, ‘Do you want to take down Confederate statues or leave them up?’ and by a margin of two to one people said, ‘leave them up.’ The Democratic Party’s base was the only exception.

Which meant, without knowing it, and probably without caring a toot one way or the other, the protestors in Durham had landed Roy Cooper in a crossfire: Roy’s base wanted Confederate statues taken down but the Ticket Splitters wanted to leave them up – so Roy needed a third solution and he amicably proposed one: Move them. Then he asked the Historical Commission to move three Confederate statues off the Capital grounds to a battlefield in Johnston County and my guess is that would simply have made both sides mad but, whatever might have happened, it didn’t matter as soon as Phil Berger weighed in.

Phil pointedly explained to Roy why the Historical Commission didn’t have the legal power to move those statues then asked Roy a blunt question: If you think Confederate statues are symbols of racism, why did you decide to leave up statues of a Democratic Governor who was a white supremacist, a Democratic Governor who served in the Confederate Army, and a statue of Democrat Andrew Jackson (who was no friend to minorities)?

He put Roy in a box: The Ticket Splitters already disagreed with Roy and as soon as the Democratic base, the only group who did agree with him, found out he was leaving up statues of Charles Aycock and Zeb Vance they were going to come knocking on his door.  

It was like watching a chess match. Roy moved. Phil moved. And when Phil set down his chess piece Roy was in danger of getting shot from both sides.


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