The good news: Democrats are fired up and ready to vote. The bad news: They’re fired up at each other and ready to start a civil war.
Nancy McFarlane says Charles Francis’s decision to call a runoff will “divide those who share progressive values.” And her supporters say Francis has been known to consort with Republicans.
Francis says calling a runoff is “democracy, not divisive.” And his supporters say McFarlane is registered Unaffiliated and has been known to consort with Republicans.
At this rate, the runoff will be divisive.
My blog last week noted how the Republican legislature and Trump have energized Democrats. This is their first chance to vote and vent since Trump won a year ago.
Along with energy comes emotion. And emotions are spilling over here.
McFarlane obviously didn’t want a runoff. She fell just short of 50 percent and led by 12 points. But Francis’s supporters didn’t want him to give up after they worked hard and kept the incumbent Mayor from winning outright.
And when African-Americans hear someone say – or read an editorial that says – calling a runoff is “divisive,” they hear: “Stay in your place. Don’t stir things up. Wait your turn.”
Runoffs in North Carolina have a racial history. Black candidates in Democratic primaries (Howard Lee for Lieutenant Governor in 1976 and Harvey Gantt for Senate in 1990) led the first primary but fell short of 50 percent. They didn’t want the (white) second-place finishers to call runoffs. Both did.
What you see here are the fault lines among three groups of Democrats: Obama voters (many of them African-American), Clinton voters (many of them women) and Sanders voters (many of them liberals and millennials). These fault lines could cost Democrats in 2018 and 2020.
For sure, a runoff could be divisive. McFarlane and Francis both have to make a strategic calculation about how to win: Sharpen the differences, or bridge them? Fire up your base, or cast a wider net? Appeal to people’s fears – or to their hopes?
Republicans have the market on fear. Democrats should give hope a chance.