Friday, July 12, 2013

North Carolina: America's partisan frontline?

This week the New York Times took on the N.C. legislature, putting the national spotlight on controversial moves that have brought out hundreds of protesters to the General Assembly in Raleigh. Its editorial, "The Decline of North Carolina," has drawn more than a 1,000 comments from North Carolinians and others across the nation.

But the week before The Atlantic had already turned its attention to Tar Heel state politics. In a piece called, "How North Carolina Became the Wisconsin of 2013", writer David Graham declares North Carolina "the frontline in America's partisan battle."

He goes on to say: "Nowhere is the battle between liberal and conservative visions of government fiercer than North Carolina. From the environment to guns, abortion to campaign finance, religion to taxes, Raleigh has become a battleground that resembles Madison, Wisconsin, in 2011."

The piece and other laments about North Carolina prompted a defense of N.C. GOP lawmakers from Grover Norquist and Patrick Gleason of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform to Reuters on Friday called "North Carolina as the new Wisconsin." The two wrote "North Carolina Republicans should only hope their situation plays out similarly to what transpired in the Badger State. Since Walker signed these reforms, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 7.6 percent to 7 percent..."

North Carolina's jobless rate has taken a bigger dip - from 9.7 percent last year to 8.8 percent this year - without the tax changes being proposed by Republicans lawmakers.

"Liberal pundits will try to portray what is happening in North Carolina as dysfunction. But it is the opposite. Washington politicians and political commentators bemoan the lack of compromise there. If they want to see what compromise looks like, however, they should watch Raleigh -  where Republicans are now compromising on how much tax relief to provide and how best to cut government waste."

Graham's piece in The Atlantic has a different take:

"Just as Wisconsinites seemed shocked that their state could become so polarized, North Carolina seems like an unlikely candidate for such fierce political clashes. North Carolinians like to boast that their state is "a vale of humility between two mountains of conceit." Until recently, it was certainly an oasis of political calm between Virginia -- a fast-changing purple state fighting battles over transvaginal ultrasounds -- and South Carolina, home of outspoken conservatives like Jim DeMint and Joe Wilson. The Tar Heel State was more moderate. For most of the last century, Democrats controlled the governorship, and they also tended to control the state legislature. Meanwhile, the state voted for a Republican in every presidential election from 1980 to 2004. In 2008, a major push by Barack Obama won him the state by a tiny margin, and it seemed that North Carolina, like Virginia, might be an emerging purple or even bluish state.

"Then in the 2010 election, Republicans took control of both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time since 1870. Two years later, Republican Pat McCrory won the governorship (incumbent Governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat, opted not to run in the face of almost certain defeat). Obama, meanwhile, failed to hold the state in the 2012 presidential race, even after Democrats staged their nominating convention in Charlotte.

That's where our story begins: when the Republicans took over Raleigh. McCrory seems like an unexpected man to oversee a dramatic rightward shift. He was the more centrist GOP contender for the gubernatorial nomination in 2008 (he lost to Perdue, barely) and had spent 14 years as mayor of Charlotte, earning a reputation as a moderate. But the combination of Republican control of both the governorship and the legislature has emboldened the GOP to take up a slew of conservative priorities. Central to the push is Art Pope, a wealthy businessman and political benefactor who is sometimes described as North Carolina's answer to the Koch brothers, and whom McCrory appointed as state budget director. Pope and his associates spent $2.2 million in state races in the 2010 cycle alone, Jane Mayer reported in 2011."

"While much of North Carolina remains conservative -- as the 2012 election showed -- there is a strong concentration of much more left-leaning voters in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, and they've reacted angrily to the push. In a series of weekly demonstrations named "Moral Mondays," protestors have descended on the state legislature to show their displeasure and, often, be arrested: nearly 500 people have been arrested since the first such rally on April 29.

"Unlike the Madison contretemps, which centered around one major issue -- Gov. Scott Walker's drive to strip public employees of collective-bargaining rights, and protestors push to stop him -- the battle in North Carolina is more of a multifront war featuring a large number of skirmishes."

For the rest, go to The Atlantic.


Archiguy said...

If's funny how GOP politicians and pundits try to describe what's going on in NC as tax "reform". What it is is a regressive restructuring of the tax base, from income tax to sales taxes, that shifts more of the state's revenue generation from the wealthy investor class to what's left of the working middle class. The same thing Republicans have been trying to do - and mostly succeeding - on a national scale since the 80's.

The share of the nation's wealth held by the top 1% has more than doubled since the 70's, from 8% of total income to 18%. The top .1% has done even better - they now own a whopping 8% of America's total wealth.

The middle class has lost ground during that same time period. This is the inevitable result of the "trickle-up" economics begun during the Reagan Revolution as upper tax rates were aggressively cut again and again, forcing the middle class to pick up the slack. There is scant evidence that it was successful at producing all the jobs they always promise it will. Made a lot of investment bankers very wealthy, though.

As Warren Buffet has famously said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Thanks to the GOP. Couldn't have done it without 'em.

Wiley Coyote said...


Poor Archie.

From Gallup:

...Politically, the wealthiest 1% of Americans -- those in households earning $500,000 or more annually -- are somewhat to the right of the remaining 99%, but more in terms of party identification than self-professed ideology. One-third of the nation's "1%" identify themselves as Republicans, 41% as independents, and 26% as Democrats.

If Democrats made up less than 20% of the top 1% you might have an argument. But since there isn't really much difference between Democrats and Republicans and the fact Independents makeup 41% of the top earners, your blasting of wealthy GOPers is laughable.

Aubrey Moore said...

Nobody wants to say it, but the elections of 2010 and 2012 were the strong white backlash to the election of a black president. While the election of Obama was historic, it wakened a sleeping giant across most of the country. I have friends who never voted Republican before but suddenly have this conservative streak and have helped elect state Republicans. The question is, will these people return to their regular voting pattern in 2014 and 2016? I believe they will. Also, will the fear factor that drove so many white people to the poles in protest keep them voting? I think not.

Issues that have been brought to the front by Republican bills, like the attack on teachers by taking away income ladders, the attack on the poor by restricting voting options, and the attack on cities by taking away airports and other assets, will ensure that there is more than enough fuel to keep opposition to them growing, and I have no doubt that my wonderful state will return to its moderate ways. Most of these laws will be the trash bin within 10 years. We are a better people than this.

bobcat99 said...

Aubrey Moore, you said it well. I pray you are right. Right now, I hang my head in shame at what is happening to my beloved state. But as the shock is wearing off, I'm just mad. That's a good thing.

blockhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blockhead said...

aubrey, you're a breath of fresh air, certainly when compared with intellectually dishonest (I say that, because he's smart enough to a master of distorting and twisting facts) partisans such as wiley coyote. in fact, we all know racism was a huge issue in the last election, both nationally and on the state level. but so was what might be called The Big Lie. Republicans in North Carolina campaigned almost without exception on the promise of fixing (though it wasn't broken) the state economy,creating jobs and fostering "small government." but they also inflamed many uninformed and poorly educated voters with emotional but effectively meaningless (to the vast, vast majority) issues such as gun control, gay rights and abortion. now we see the results: unprecedented intrusions in personal lives (this is small government?), constant attacks on the poor, wholesale efforts to sack the environment for private gain, and absolutely nothing to create jobs or help the economy. in fact, within the last 24 hours, I've spoken with a senior Google executive in California who says his company, which has invested $1.2 billion in Caldwell County, would not have come to North Carolina had the current legislature's efforts to repeal the state's 2007 sustainable-energy law been going on when it was making its decision six years ago. He made the point that 60% of Fortune 100 companies now have sustainable energy clauses in their mission statements - just as Republicans in North Carolina are attempting to undo the state's mandate. This is an example of how Republicans are "creating jobs" in North Carolina. In my work, I am obliged to speak with folks such as the Google executive around the country, every day. Without exception, they see the state as regressing to the days of Jim Crow and Jesse Helms. It was - past tense - a progressive state that was taking its place on the national stage. Those days are over.

Archiguy said...

I can't comment on Wiley's assertion that Democrats and Independents make up most of the one-percenters that keep gobbling up more and more of the nation's wealth. But after reading so many of his postings here I wouldn't be surprised if it was entirely made up to support his point of view. Conservatives are pretty good at that, having had lots of practice in recent years. Up is down, black is white, bad is good. It's an alternate reality these hyper-partisans live in, an upside-down bizzaro world of their own creation.

The fact is that all of these policies that fuel this vast transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the investor class, and from there to the top 1%, are entirely of GOP design and implementation. It's not Democrats that have pushed marginal tax rates on the top stratum down to historic lows (and were are all those promised jobs again?). It's not Democrats that are trying to raise the sales tax here in NC to fund yet another income tax cut for those poor, benighted millionaires. It's not Democrats that seek to limit gay rights and women's reproductive rights. It's not Democrats that stand in opposition to responsible gun background checks supported by 92% of the nation. Etc., etc., etc.

No, the GOP is responsible for the bubbles, the crashes, the income transfer to the wealthy investor class, the erosion of personal privacy, and the shrinking of the once great American middle class. Whether such policies benefit wealthy Reps or Dems is irrelevant. Just ask Warren Buffet. I believe he's a Democrat. Must be why he has a conscious.

Bobby Padgett said...

Aubrey Moore,

I agree 100% with you that the vote in 2010 & 2012 was because of the scary black man in the White House.

The problem is thanks to the gerrymandered districts the Teapublicans drew thanks to their 2010 victories, even if your friends go back to being moderates, the Teapubes will still take home majorities. The state Dem party figures it will take at least 3 election cycles to undo this mess, and what kind of crap hole will our state be then?

Bobby Padgett said...

So old anti-tax zealot Grover says pART mcPOPE should aspire to turn NC in Scott Walker's Wisconsin.

Well, under Walker Wisconsin is 42nd best state for business, 44th in job growth, 45th in wage growth, 49th in predicted job growth through 2016, 49th in economic outlook, and 50th in short-term job growth.

Wisconsin gave us Sen. Joe McCarthy and Gov. Scott Walker. NC gave us Sen. Jesse Helms and Gov. Pat McCrory so I guess we are alike after all.

Archiguy said...

The surreal, irrational hysteria surrounding the Affordable Care Act back in '09 was planned and intended to do one thing: gin up the public to flood the state legislatures with Republicans in 2010 because it was a census year. And the party that controls those state legislatures gets to draw new gerrymandered districts, cementing their control for the next 10 years.

It was as brilliant as it was malevolent. And it worked. Obamacare, as they derisively call it, is nothing but an interim step toward an eventual single-payer plan like every other civilized country in the world has already concluded is necessary to provide a minimum standard of health care to all their citizens. We will eventually have to expand Medicare to include everyone as that's the only way to keep the health care system from breaking down completely. The GOP will do everything in their considerable power to prevent that from happening.

They had to have something with which to attack Obama enough to make voters forget about which party had presided over the implosion of the banking system and enabled the biggest recession since 1929. They decided his plan to expand health insurance coverage to 30 million more Americans, including 15 million more children, was the best possible target. Claiming the President was really born in Kenya just didn't have the punch they had hoped, and they had wrung all the votes out of the "scary black man" fear mongering that they could.

What's astonishing is how well the plan worked. Flooded the Congress with Tea Party anarchists who weren't interested in governing, only in burning the place down. Government by people who hate government. We're going to be living with the consequences of the elections of 2010 for a long, long time.

kantstanzya said...

How hilarious the glee with which the Editors and their liberal followers have seized upon the NY Times editorial about North Carolina as some sort of vindication for their positions.I think they have actually convinced themselves that North Carolina has been hijacked by just a few radical conservatives and that most of the people really agree with them.

The New York Times in the words of George Will is the "bulletin board of liberalism." It is written and read by liberals who subscribe to the propaganda. Who talk to themselves. Who congratulate themselves on holding the "correct" views. Who cares what they has been predictable for decades which is why their subscriptions, reputation and their business model are all declining.They are preaching to their own choir.

Liberals and conservatives both live in cocoons where most of their friends and family probably believe as they do because that is who they are comfortable around. I admit I mostly associate with conservatives because frankly I find liberals are not very knowledgeable about too many things. They think with their emotions and facts frustrate them.

Unfortunately liberals more than conservatives sometimes assume everyone thinks like they do.I still remember 1972 when Pauline Kael wrote a famous piece that said the landslide election of Richard Nixon was an impossible result because she didn't know a single person who voted for him.

Conservatives know the country is divided 50-50 despite the best efforts of the left to paint anyone who is conservative as on the fringe....part of a small minority that has somehow siezed power. The protesters in Raleigh who may honestly be deluded that the legislature is working against the will of the people cannot understand why they are ignoring them. It is because the legislature knows they are not people who voted for them or ever would vote for them and that they are only doing what the majority of the people elected them to do.It is the protesters who are disconnected from reality...not the legislature.

The facts have been presented here many times. The U.S. has among the most progressive tax codes in the world. The arguments about a growing wealth gap are very misleading because the income brackets are not static...people move in and out of them.

And I can assure the readers and commenters that most business people are NOT big government, high tax, big regulation people. It is funny to see the left argue one day that the NC legislature is in the pocket of business and the next that business isn't going to come to North Carolina because of those very same policies.

As to some of the predictable nonsense written here....mainly the old left standby of playing the race card when all reason fails....there is not a "strong backlash to the scary black man in the White House". It is a strong backlash to the scary socialist in the White House who hates capitalism...the very economic system that has given the country the highest standard of living in history. It is a backlash to the ideas of he and his party that will spend us into oblivion. His ideas of equality of results instead of equality of opportunity. A country where fewer people are working and more people are dependent every day.

Mr. Obama and his left wing ideologues do not want a vibrant country of opportunity. They want a country where big government guarantees "fairness" as defined by them.They want, as Winston Churchill described the mandated "fairness" of socialism "come let us all be poor together." But the exceptions of course are the very people like the Obama's who will leave government taking things one step further than the limousine liberal Clintons and our first Champagne Socialists. The good times will still roll on for them.Under socialism there are still a few people who do very well. Just a lot fewer of them.