It’s an argument I’ve heard for 40 years: “Southern Democrats, meet your future: No more Republican lite.”
That’s the headline on a recent article by Bob Moser, Senior Editor at the National Journal. He wrote, “Candidates like (Kay) Hagan are stuck between the past, when Southern Democrats’ recipe for victory involved courting white moderates and conservatives, and a future in which they’ll be able to successfully campaign as full-throated, national-style Democrats.”
Call me a curmudgeon. But put me down as skeptical. As much as my heart wants to believe it, my head and my gut tell me that is no better advice today than it was 10, 20 or 40 years ago.
It gains credence because Obama carried North Carolina in 2008 and narrowly lost it in 2012. But his candidacy was an outlier, fueled by the history-making opportunity to elect and reelect an African-American President. Also, Obama, as candidate and President, hasn’t always been a “full-throated” liberal.
North Carolina remains a moderate and, yes, even conservative state. No, Democrats will not get many, if any, votes from conservative whites. But they need votes with people who have some moderate and even conservative parts in their political makeup.
North Carolina’s electorate today is nearly equally divided between natives and newcomers. Natives, no matter how liberal on some issues, still can be conservative on issues like spending and the role of government and sometimes on social issues. They’re for Good Government, but not necessarily always Big Government. Newcomers are generally liberal on social issues and human issues like education and health care. But they too bring a healthy skepticism about government and all big institutions.
Most telling: If people really loved “full-throated, national-style Democrats,” wouldn’t they register that way? They don’t. They register as Independents, even voters who registered just so they could vote for Obama.
Maybe you wish it wasn’t true. But wishing doesn’t make it true.