It’s always an honor when the N&O quotes my blog. But it’s annoying when they put words I didn’t say in my mouth.
I’m afraid that’s what Colin Campbell did today in his story “Did the ‘Drunktown’ campaign ads work?” Colin is an A-plus reporter, but I give him a D-minus here.
His story focused on Dean Debnam, who Colin called “creator” of the ads. Colin’s story said, “In a blog post titled ‘Vomit Politics,’ Democratic political consultant Gary Pearce argued that Baldwin’s win is a loss for Debnam.”
Well, no, I didn’t. Read the blog. I wrote that the ads didn’t work. I didn’t say anything about Dean or whether it was a “loss” for him. In fact, you can easily argue it wasn’t a loss.
Dean did argue. He released a statement saying that the main target of the ad, Mary-Ann Baldwin, “received the fewest votes and lowest percentage of the last several election cycles.” And added, “Residents of Raleigh spoke with a clear voice on what the vision for Raleigh should be – and it is not #DrunkTown. In all, only two of the seven candidates that bar and nightclub owners endorsed were elected.”
His better argument might be: “In politics, you’ve never lost until you give up. I’m not giving up protecting downtown from bad policy. And I’ve shown the politicians that I’m willing to fight and spend my own money to do that.”
He could also say, “Plus, I’ve got everybody talking about ‘Drunktown’.”
And, maybe next time, he’ll do an ad that works.
Which I’d have told Colin. If he’d asked me.
Through the fog of over-analysis, misdiagnosis and total BS that comes after every election, one thing is clear about Raleigh’s vote Tuesday: the “Drunktown” ad didn’t work. Its main target, Mary-Ann Baldwin, led the at-large race.
Why didn’t it work? Simple: voters didn’t believe it.
They didn’t believe for a minute that a member of the city council wanted drunks throwing up all over the sidewalks late at night.
This is a classic mistake people in politics make. They think they have a great negative attack on an opponent. They make a dramatic ad that gets other people in politics and the media all atwitter. They believe the voters will believe anything they’re told.
But the voters are on to the game. They see the ad and say, I don’t believe it. And they move on to other things. Once again, voters proved they’re smarter than people in politics.
Some people argued on Twitter that the ad “backfired.” Probably not. More likely, it just didn’t fire at all. It was a dud.
One TAPster probably had it right: the guy in the ad was leaving the legislature and was so disgusted with how Republicans are trashing the state that he puked on the sidewalk.
Exhibit A: The feds launch a grand jury investigation into no-bid, sweetheart contracts at DHHS.
Exhibit B: Republicans ram through a law enabling politicians to raise unlimited money from unlimited special interests and spend it in unlimited ways.
From the Grant Administration to Teapot Dome to Watergate to Jim Black, history teaches us where this leads. You could look it up.
John McCain, whose own scandal turned him into a born-again reformer, once warned that today’s big-money politics inevitably will bring a scandal.
History suggests somebody will go to the pokey. You could look it up.
Today’s blog is written by Gene Upchurch, a retired Progress Energy executive who spent many a year as a legislative lobbyist:
Videos of state senators throwing footballs and dancing on the Senate floor this week were certainly undignified, and prompted suggestions that it was the first activity on the Senate floor this year that didn’t harm the state’s citizens.
Anyway, there’s something about the end of an interminable legislation session that turns the place into a frat house.
Decades ago, a prominent legislator “encouraged” me to develop a well-oiled hooch-smuggling scheme that was perfected during a handful of legislative final nights. I would mix Aristocrat and orange juice in a dozen one-gallon milk jugs at home and slip the forbidden concoction to the legislative telephone center, which was then on the second floor just a few convenient feet from the door to the House chamber.
For one night only, the telephone center was transformed into a clandestine speakeasy. Legislators, staffers and lobbyists who knew what was going on could get their telephone messages and a paper cup brimming with joy juice. We would open the bar early enough on the final night of session so those who wished could get drunk, sober up, and get drunk again as the legislature’s long night wore on.
The only difference between those days and today: everyone respected each other and the legislature enough to never speak of our enterprise, and the only cameras belonged to newspaper photogs who were in line to get their own paper cup of happiness.
This didn’t start when the Republicans took over the legislature in 2010. It dates back to the US Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated schools in 1954.
Now, a toxic crew of racists, right-wingers and private-school profiteers smell victory.
Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Governors, legislators and school boards across the South pulled out every stop to avoid integration. Many wanted to shut down the public schools, and some states did. North Carolina had courageous leaders who bucked the tide. Beverly Lake would have done it if he had been elected Governor in 1960, but Terry Sanford beat him and stopped him. Still, it was a close thing.
Now there’s really nothing to stop them. Except the voters. And a recent poll by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation suggests that the voters want to stop them:
- 59% believe K-12 public education in the state of North Carolina is on the wrong track,
- 80% of voters agree “state policy and funding decisions are putting greater burdens on our local schools and giving them fewer resources to educate our students.”
- 76% believe it is highly important to “make sure the school district is adequately funded to provide a 21st century education.”
- 62% identify underpaid teachers as a problem
- 73% agree public money should not go to private schools
- 71% agree tax dollars should not go to for-profit companies who run charter schools that are not accountable to taxpayers for delivering student outcomes in the same way local public schools are.
- 71% believe it is very important that state laws, policies and regulations should require the same measures and level of accountability for student performance from every charter or private school that receives taxpayer funds.
This is a winning formula for Democrats. Two questions: Will they, can they seize it? And what exactly will they do to fix it when and if they return to power?
Ole Ned Barnett, the Editorial-Writing-Chief down at the News and Observer, is a fine fellow though like many Editorial-Chiefs he’s a bone deep liberal who frets over the vices of sexism and the virtues of gay rights and seldom finds an encouraging word to say about Republicans.
Which is fine. The N&O’s spending its own money so it can editorialize however it wants. But an op-ed – right next to Ned’s column on sexism the other day – by UNC Professor Neel Ahuja raises a different question.
Professor Ahuja’s an animal rights expert who’s also an English professor who teaches a class on the Literature of 9/11 – and he landed in a mess because a student wrote his course favors terrorists.
To quash that broadside all Professor Ahuja had to do was answer one question: Whether he was teaching his students what the terrorists did on 9/11 was right or wrong?
But instead he waltzed all around the question. He editorialized about applying ‘Holocaust, postcolonial and trauma theories to 9/11’ and about asking whether ‘God’s light guides us or blinds us?’ He denounced the student for a cynical attack on learning and denounced censoring books critical of U.S. ‘overseas military interventions.’ And, of course, he rolled out a harried professor’s tried and true shibboleth: He accused Art Pope and the John Pope Center for running smear campaigns against UNC.
But all that explaining still left an awkward problem: Because, unlike the N&O, Professor Ahuja’s not spending his own or another private citizen’s money – he’s spending taxpayers’ money.
There’s no doubt teaching how different folks – including terrorists – see the same things differently is a fine part of education. And that’s not a problem. But it’s hard to justify spending taxpayers’ money to pay for a course that doesn’t, at the end of the day, conclude the terrorists were dead wrong on 9/11.
And that’s the question Professor Ahuja needs to stop waltzing around. He needs to give a straight answer. And if his answer is, Well, it’s all relative – who was right and who was wrong depends on whose eyes you look at it through – then the Trustees are going to get asked a tough question too: You gave him money to teach what?
Two would-be strongmen huffed and puffed, postured and blustered on 60 Minutes Sunday night, but neither Vladimir Putin nor Donald Trump could hold a candle to the strength that Pope Francis showed America during his visit.
The Pope reminded us that real strength means faith, empathy and compassion, not name-calling, mouthing off and macho posing.
After watching Pope Francis reach out to – and reach – so many people, it was a striking contrast to contemplate Putin’s bare-chested photo ops and Trump’s ridiculous hair dye and do.
Neither of the wannabes is self-aware enough to see that their words and actions betray weakness and insecurity. Putin acts strong because deep down he knows Russia’s inner weakness. Trump talks big and loud because, deep down, there’s nothing deep about him but his pockets. And he lies about that, too.
Not that everybody loves everything about the Pope. Liberals loved the parts about climate change, the poor and immigrants, but not so much the parts about abortion, gay marriage, women in the church and the church’s sexual abuses. Conservatives, vice versa.
But his grace, smile and equanimity moved us. John Boehner wept, which was no surprise. Then he quit, which was a surprise.
You don’t have to be Catholic, you don’t even have to be a believer, to learn from the Pope. With Putin and Trump, there’s no hope. You just have to hope Russia is better than Putin. And you know America is better than Trump.
Arthur walked through the door, dropped a four inch thick poll on the table with a thud, sat down, and said, If you don’t want to lose this election, you have to learn something new.
That was in December of 1983 when Jesse Helms was fighting for survival against Jim Hunt and Arthur – who’d polled in each of Jesse’s campaigns – went on to say there were two types of elections: Issues Elections, where people vote for a candidate based on his (or her) stands on issues; and Character Elections, where people vote for a candidate because they admire his honesty, intelligence, humility, kindness or strength.
Issue elections happen all the time but character elections are rare and more deadly: A voter might decide to vote for a candidate he doesn’t agree with on an issue but he won’t vote for a candidate he believes is a crook.
You, Arthur said looking across the table at Tom Ellis and me, Have been running issues campaigns for twelve years. You love issues campaigns. And you’ve run one against Jim Hunt for the last year – but it hasn’t worked.
He pointed to the poll (about an ad we’d run with Jesse saying, I’m Jesse Helms. I opposed the Panama Canal giveaway. Where do you stand, Jim?) and said the ad worked not because of the Panama Canal – but because of the ‘Where do you stand Jim?’ Which was about Jim Hunt’s character.
Watching the Presidential election I’m beginning to suspect it, too, is about character (at least for Republicans). It doesn’t matter where Donald Trump stands on abortion – voters look at Trump and see strength and that’s what they want: Strength.
Carly Fiorina showed steel in the last debate. And rose in the polls.
Jeb Bush showed weakness in the first debate. And dropped.
Marc Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, in both debates, have spoken carefully modulated phrases about issues but, after months of campaigning, are still flat on their backs.
This phenomenon is so rare the pundits and gurus and candidates trying to stop Donald Trump are watching him, amazed, but the cure to their conundrum may be as simple as: If you want to win this election, you have to learn something new.
The old hymn goes, ‘Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.’
Is that idea true? Or false?
Do you agree? Or disagree?
And if the old hymn’s true what happens if we elect a President who worships another god? Does it matter? Do blessings only flow to individuals – or does He also bless nations? Does electing a Muslim spell an unhappy ending where blessings no longer flow?
After Ben Carson answered that question he got hammered on CNN, called un-American in the newspapers, and part of the country went haywire.
And, once the fireworks started, the other Republican candidates – including Ted Cruz – dove for cover. Even the irrepressible Donald Trump ducked (though, in fairness, he did quip a lot of people believe we have a Muslim in the White House now).
So what do we have on our hands here? A circus of militant diversity run amuck? An outbreak of pure devilment? Or does the old hymn just not matter anymore?
It usually begins with an evasion which leads to another evasion and soon, like a hapless fly, even for a Brigadier General (who was a paratrooper) the silken webs are inescapable: Tony Tata, explaining to the News and Observer about three affairs, an out of wedlock child, a forged court order, an army investigation and the end of his military career, said: “It is inappropriate and unlawful for those motivated to tarnish my reputation to publish unsubstantiated allegations from two or three decades ago. I have served our nation, state and county with integrity and diligence in combat and in peacetime, as my military and public service records reflect.”
Then he added that – last July – he resigned as Secretary of Transportation “partly because he ‘was polling for Congress at the time’ and ‘that probably is not consistent with being a Cabinet member’ for Republican Governor Pat McCrory.”
General Tata polled last February – months before he resigned.
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,
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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