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Waking up as a Republican

07 rep dem“Why so glum?” I asked a sullen group of Democrats who were expressing despair as they reviewed the results of the November 3rd elections.

They explained their gloominess. Democrats had lost seats in the state house and Senate, losing any chance to expand Medicaid or have a hand in the redistricting of seats in the state legislature and the state's congressional delegation.

They continued. Republican candidates beat Democrats, appearing to win the chief justice’s seat and other positions on the state’s Supreme Court and all the open seats on the Council of State, including the lieutenant governor's race in which an unknown and far-out Republican candidate beat an attractive, well-liked, and experienced woman state legislator.

What about Biden's victory over Donald Trump? Surely this should have made my Democratic friends happy. No, they responded. It was supposed to be “a blue wave.” But it was not a blowout, not even close, they said, noting that they did not even win control of the U.S. Senate and lost seats in the U.S. House.

I confess that I lost my cool. I asked whether they would choose to be Republicans today rather than gloomy Democrats? Would you really like to go to bed tonight and wake up as a Republican? Maybe you could help bring that party back to its historic principles which its current leadership has abandoned. More likely you would have to carry the burdens of being a member of today’s Republican Party, tied as it is tightly to Donald Trump and his loyal backers, dependent on all those people’s support to win primaries and elections as a Republican. Like other present-day Republicans you would be so dependent that, you would have to subordinate your principles and good sense to a cult figure and his other followers, to their alarmist conspiracy stories, and the inaccurate “alternate facts” that they propound.

If you woke up as a Republican, I said, you would be tied to a party of aging white people in a state and nation that are rapidly diversifying. You would be stuck with a vision of our country that rejects the multi-ethnic American traditions of equality and fairness for everyone, regardless of gender, racial and ethnic background, or sexual orientation. You would have to reject the American commitment of true religious liberty and respect for differing religious views. You would have to reject the true patriotism that includes respect for our history of painful battles to expand equality and opportunity without covering up our country’s imperfections. You would have to put aside any continuing commitment to expanding opportunities for every citizen.

Our great country, I said, was not served up on a platter to or by our forebears. Every battle, including its war for independence, the end of slavery, the expansion of the right to vote, the opening of public schools to people of all races, the opening of public facilities to those of all different races and other battles for equality and fairness are battles that continue today.

You can be happy now, I told the group, that you are free to work for a better country, supported by high ideals and carefully discovered scientific facts rather than being bound to the inconsistent and deadly poisons prescribed by a haughty autocrat and his inconsistent dogma.
More than that, I said, you should be happy that your party’s candidates for president and vice president are on the verge of a momentous victory and North Carolina will soon, be joining its neighbors Virginia and Georgia in becoming a place where both Democrats and Republicans have a fair chance to win political contests.

After my passionate ramblings, my friends nodded, smiled, and continued their gloomy conversations.

Eight factors shaped North Carolina elections

06 nc flagOver the course of 34 years penning a column on North Carolina politics and public policy, I’ve seen it all. Or so I thought. Until 2020 came along.

It’s not that I proffered a passel of bad predictions for which I must now do penance. After pegging many races wrong in 2016, I was more guarded in my prognostications this year. And the picks I offered — that Donald Trump would win North Carolina but not reelection, that U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis would secure a second term, and North Carolina Republicans would retain their General Assembly and Council of State majorities — proved to be pleasingly precise.

Rather, I just think we have never before seen so many fascinating trends come together in such a compelling electoral performance.
After pondering the election results a bit more, I have prepared a list of eight factors that helped shape the outcomes.

Polarized. Like much of the country, North Carolina has a polarized electorate. Generations ago, somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of voters were willing to split their tickets between the two major parties. Today, that share is in the single digits.

Parity. That doesn’t mean ticket-splitters are irrelevant. Polarization is present in places like California and Mississippi, too. But parity isn’t. The Democratic base is so large in the former, and the GOP base so large in the latter, that a few percentage points of swing voters can’t swing the result. In North Carolina, however, the two partisan coalitions are nearly even (by behavior, not registration). So when a few Tar Heel voters — disproportionately older voters in rural areas, according to my analysis of county returns and exit polls — decided to split their tickets, voting Trump and Tillis for federal office and Roy Cooper for governor, their choices were decisive.

Process. Before the election, Democrats went to court to challenge election rules the General Assembly had previously enacted by bipartisan votes. Democratic plaintiffs won an extension of the absentee-ballot deadline but little else. If those late-arriving ballots flip any outcomes, you can expect the issue to be re-litigated.

Pandemic. Not only was COVID-19 a big issue in federal and state races, but the pandemic also affected how campaigns were run. Crucially, Republican-leaning groups started canvassing for votes door-to-door during the summer, while Democratic-leaning groups shied away from this time-tested tactic until the final weeks. Given that canvassing is an outdoor, low-risk activity, the Democrats blew this call, as candid Dems now admit.

Polling. Pollsters got it very wrong this year. Clearest example: while Cooper won reelection by 4.4 points, the polling average going into Election Day was +11 Cooper.

Press. Much of the media abandoned all pretense of fairness and actively rooted — in news stories — for Republicans to lose. While Trump did indeed fall short, I think attempts to suppress anti-Biden stories or cheerlead for Democrats ended up harming the media’s already battered reputation.

Platitudes. At least two bits of “conventional wisdom” ought to be retired after the 2020 elections. One is that politics is largely about money. Democrats vastly outspent Republicans in North Carolina this year but almost always fell short. Another familiar myth is that low-turnout elections favor Republicans and high-turnout elections favor Democrats. There was no such historical pattern in North Carolina elections going into 2020. And that’s not how it turned out this year, either.

Public Safety. As I observed in a prior column, Republican candidates tilted some votes by speaking strongly against the looting and rioting that followed some Black Lives Matter protests this summer.

And there you have it: my eight p-factors that mattered in 2020. Are you persuaded?

Voting — we could do better

04 silouette ballot We the people are sick and tired of the election buffoonery. I believe that when things go sideways, you should either go back to basics or change the process because you have nothing to lose.

Our American election process is the foundation of our democracy and the cornerstone of a free society. However, I think we can all agree that we may need a little election reform and demand that leaders make it a priority. I have a few ideas to help with some out-of-the-box ideas to a better approach to voting.

What if we labeled both the Democratic and Republican Parties as terrorist groups and outlawed them? Then make everyone an "independent" to only vote on the merits of the best candidates representing your beliefs, family, community and county. Instead of primary run-off elections, debates, town hall meetings, and community roundtables, we have a voting process like American Idol using a panel of judges who vote candidates off each night until we get a winner. This would cut out party loyalty and annoying telemarketers relentlessly raising money for his or her favorite candidate. If their campaign requires mailers directly to your house, the Post Office should charge a surcharge to underwrite the mail carriers. Seriously, everyone said the Post Office could never get the ballots processed and delivered on time, yet they have no problem delivering those crappy flyers and junk mail.

Each state is responsible for their election certification. They need to have a voting process free from cheating, impropriety and a simple method to count. It is hard to imagine that in 2020, we cannot vote securely on our cell phones. Think about it! We pay our taxes, bank, gamble, and can even find a love interest using these devices, yet these techno geniuses can't figure out a way that will allow us to vote securely? After all, these devices have facial recognition, fingerprint capabilities, special codes and besides, your phone knows where you live. I assure you that if the Silicon Valley tech geniuses cannot figure it out, then the casino gurus in Las Vegas can. Oh, if someone does not own a phone, they can always vote the old fashion way - in person. Here's another voting idea: We should have an intelligence test to pass before allowing you to vote. After all, if we must identify traffic lights to get on a website through CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) to confirm we are human, it's reasonable to ask a few simple questions to ensure we are mentally capable of voting.

Election day voting should start at midnight, Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC), which is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time and lasts all day. Twenty-four hours and stop at 2359 hours UTC. This gives everyone the same time and chance to vote anywhere in the world. The only people who would vote absentee would be those in the military conducting combat operations. No media outlet should be allowed to call an election. The only person authorized to announce and declare a winner is who the state designates as the official election spokesperson.

Depending on what is being voted on, not everyone should be allowed to vote in America. For instance, if you are not a U.S. citizen, you do not get to vote. Period! You would not let someone walk in your house and start giving you advice about how to do your taxes, how to raise your kids, or what you should buy with your own money. So, why would it be suitable for a non-citizen to determine the direction of our country's future? Locally, if you do not own a property, you should not be allowed to vote on raising property taxes for projects for which you get no benefit.

I remember as a kid watching “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” They had two antagonist spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, who frequently interfered in Rocky and Bullwinkle's affairs. We know foreign governments do that. Even the United States has done its part to influence other country's elections. In this election, there has been no evidence of foreign interference. So instead, maybe we should focus our attention on local interference. All Americans have the freedom and right to vote without fear. If someone interferes in an election, they should be charged with a federal crime and lose their voting privileges. This includes the stealing of campaign signs out of someone's yard. That is a very bold thing to do, and these thieves should be considered "election terrorists" and lose their voting rights. If they intimidate or "cancel" you because of your political affiliation, that should also be considered election terrorism.
These are just a few suggestions that would level the voting playing field. By restoring our confidence in the voting process and eliminating the country's partisan political divide, we are free to practice and enjoy one of our most cherished American rights and freedoms.

It could be worse

05 IMG 4385Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side. Lou Reed left us with that bit of wisdom before he checked out in 2013. If you feel that 2020 has followed Lou Reed’s advice, you pass Go and collect $200. This year has the Rona, stock market vertigo, mass unemployment, political masks, and the late great Presidential election. If 2020 were a TV character it would be George Costanza in the scene where he is trying to convince his date he is a troubled soul so she will sleep with him. George tells her: “I’m disturbed. I’m depressed. I’m inadequate. I’ve got it all.” 2020 has got it all. As Larry David would say, you might think things were pretty, pretty bad. But it could be worse. It can always be worse. Never, ever under any circumstances say: “Things can’t get worse.”

Right now if you are reading this drivel, you are on the planet Earth. Despite some short comings here and there; plague, famine, wars, and mischief caused by the thirty-eight Horsemen of the Apocalypse, things could be worse. You could be on the newly discovered Hell Planet K2-141b. The astronomer buddies of K2-141b just call it K2 so we will too. Thank goodness for schadenfreude. I am comforted by the knowledge there is a planet where things are much worse than they are on Earth. It is a character flaw on the part of your writer to enjoy the misery of another planet but that’s life.

Right now you are probably asking yourself, “Self, what is wrong with K2? Should I be adding it to my list of things that wake me up at 3:00 a.m.?” Take a little interstellar voyage on the Starship Peabody to visit K2. Pack a lunch as it is hundreds of light years from Earth. K2 is what the scientists at the Royal Astronomical Society call a Lava Planet. That does not mean it is composed of Lava, the Hand Soap made with pumice that comes in the bright red package. No Sirree, Bob. K2 has oceans made of molten lava. The same kind of lava that comes out of volcanoes in Hawaii into which virgins are thrown to appease the Gods to insure a good cocoanut crop. K2 has the kind of toasty lava that makes the pizza burn on the top of your mouth from an oven fresh pepperoni pizza look like child’s play.

K2 is consistent. Its ocean, atmosphere, and continents are all made out of rocks. When it rains on K2, it rains rocks not violets. It’s so hot there when the lava ocean evaporates and the residue cools off in the atmosphere it rains back down as rocks. Singing in the rain would not be too much fun on K2. Gene Kelly could not sing many lyrics before he would be pounded into mush by the rhythm of the falling rain. K2 is a bit breezy with winds blowing over 3000 miles an hour. If there are any answers blowing in the wind on K2, not even Bob Dylan could find them. Like Earth’s moon, the orbit of K2 only allows one side of K2 to face its sun. The sunny side of K2 is about 5400 degrees Fahrenheit. The always dark side of K2, with apologies to Pink Floyd is minus 328 degrees.

Fortunately, Earth’s rock and roll super stars have been trying to warn us about K2 for many years. It is no coincidence that such singers as David Bowie and Elton John would know about a planet where it rains rocks. After all they are rock stars.

David Bowie warned us about K2 way back in 1969 in his song Space Oddity. Gentle Reader, be warned. If you were Major Tom and Ground Control choose you to visit K2, you have lost the space lottery. Somebody in the upper echelons of NASA does not like you. Once you got close enough to be caught in K2’s rock rain bad things would happen. “Ground Control to Major Tom/ Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong/ Can you hear me Major Tom? / Can you hear me Major Tom?” At that point Earth with all its faults would look pretty good.

Elton John also tried to warn us about K2 in his song Rocket Man. Elton gets all space suited up and does his pre-flight rituals. In his heart he knows something isn’t right about the mission. Supposedly he is going to Mars, but like the book of Revelations, the song is in code. He is not singing about Mars. He is singing about going to K2. He is “the rocket man burning out his fuse up here all alone/ Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids/ In fact it’s cold as Hell/ And there is no one there to raise them if you did/ And all this science I don’t understand/ It’s just my job five days a week./” Because this song is in code, when Elton sings about Mars being cold he is really talking about K2 being hot. You have to read between the lines. It’s a secret message from the Illuminati.

So, what have we learned today? Once again, almost nothing. I apologize for wasting your time on our literary celestial trip. But know this, Grasshopper, things on Earth are not nearly as dire as they are on K2. We have our own Little Rocket Man in North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. He is bad enough, while he does have nuclear weapons, but he has not yet mastered turning the ocean into a sea of fire even though he frequently threatens to do so.
Put on a happy face. It’s not going to be 3400 degrees tomorrow. Like Little Orphan Annie says, “The sun will come out tomorrow.” Happy Thanksgiving to us one and all.

The Market House: tapping down the rhetoric

03 01 IMG 5971No doubt, as Americans, we cherish the right to have our voices heard. Currently, with the anger and contention surrounding the 2020 elections at all levels of government, these voices are not only numerous, but they are also loud, angry and obnoxious, and drowning out humanity's reason, logic and any hope of conciliation.

Three unfortunate examples are what is happening in Portland, Minneapolis and, most recently, in Washington, D.C. during the Trump support rally. Rioting, looting, assaults, destruction of personal property, and for what purpose? With the devastation in downtown Fayetteville on May 30th still fresh in our memories, we cannot let this happen again to our community of Fayetteville. However, it very well may unless we trust our local leaders and hold them responsible for the health and welfare of all our citizens.

The first step in suppressing conflict and avoiding confrontations is to identify and tap down the flashpoints. Local media is a significant flashpoint in our community and plays a substantial role in dividing our community. Fayetteville has no local TV station to keep us informed or to showcase the city, which is an embarrassment for a community of this size and stature. This leaves us with a daily newspaper that is anemic. It's a decent vehicle for the distribution of fliers and inserts but mostly serves up negative, biased liberal content that is as relevant, frequent and stale as two-day-old bread.

Unfortunately, local talk radio station WFNC "doubles down" and regurgitates verbatim the newspaper's partisan content, avoiding any sense of fairness, responsibility or journalistic integrity. Lastly, there are the self-serving opportunists who take advantage of Fayetteville's current racial, civil and political circumstances to second guess our leadership. Some wish to be recognized as radical activists or social icons. Others want to establish political power, while others seek notoriety, fame and celebrity status by claiming they speak for the masses. Regardless of their motives and rogue actions, these independent voices cause confusion, mistrust, dissension and misinformation among the ranks of local residents.

The future of the iconic Fayetteville Market House is the most critical and volatile decision facing our community. Representing both history and heritage, there are passionate feelings on all sides regarding its future. Should it be left as is? Torn down? Repurposed? We'll see what the future holds. In the meantime, as the local weekly community newspaper of record, we are subject to many diverse perspectives. This is why we are advocating that citizens be tolerant and patient while the Mayor, City Council and the committees they have appointed evaluate the options available that will best serve the city and its citizens.

During this time, tapping down the aggressive and hostile rhetoric concerning the future of the Market House will go a long way in making sure it doesn't become an explosive racial issue. Currently, movements, protests and petitions on both sides of the controversy are incredibly premature. Communication, education, awareness, patience and empathy are essential here. We must hear from the entire community and let the process work to a conclusion fairly judged on its merit. It would be unconscionable for anyone to use the Market House circumstance for personal political advancement before the current leadership concludes their study.

These are volatile times, and trust is at a premium. No one wants to see our community torn apart on any single issue. Let's be patient and give the Mayor and current leadership a chance to perform without interference. In the process, it will become evident who the real leaders are looking out for all the citizens of Fayetteville. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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