What NC Democrats can do

Bob A. sent me a link to this piece in the local Independent about what the Democrats can do to take bake our state.  For the most part, it all seems reasonable enough.  Honestly, I don’t know quite enough about the ins and outs of state legislative races to give this a particularly good assessment, but I was intrigued by the idea that my home, Wake County, holds the key:

Here’s the way.

THE 2014 STATE ELECTIONS Democrats win two Senate seats and seven House seats that went to the Republicans in 2012 by very narrow margins. (Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, won by 21 votes.) Thank Moral Mondays for the crusade that turned public opinion against the GOP. The districts are gerrymandered, but you can win only so many seats with less than half the votes, and maybe far less now that voters know what the Republicans are.

FOCUS ON WAKE COUNTY Two of the seven most vulnerable House seats are in Wake County, held by Reps. Chris Malone and Tom Murry. As you go down the list of what the Republicans could lose in a swing election, four more House seats are in Wake (Jim Fulghum, Nelson Dollar, Marilyn Avila and Paul Stam), plus three Senate seats (Tamara Barringer, Neal Hunt and Chad Barefoot). All but Stam won by no more than 12 percentage points, meaning a swing of 6–7 percent to the Democrats takes them out.

Democrats won’t win all of these seats in 2014, because it’s a mid-term election and Democratic turnout is highest in presidential election years. But the Republican record in Wake County is awful (Dix Park, schools, transit), and in 2014 the four Republicans who control the Wake commissioners must stand for re-election. A coordinated campaign should begin next year in Wake County to hold Republicans accountable as a party, defeating—at a minimum—the four GOP commissioners, Malone and Murry. It should continue nonstop through 2016.

There’s a number more suggestions, all of which seem to make a good bit of sense.  On the whole, these all strike me as good tactics.  I’m worried about broader strategy, though.  Here’s where I bring the Political Science.  In Gary Jacobson’s masterpiece on Congressional elections, The Politics of Congressional Elections (one of the books that really helped me come to love PS as an undergraduate), he explains that for a wave election– and that’s what the Democrats need in NC– you need two things.  First, you need the external political context to be working in your favor. e.g., the way in which 2010 was set up so well for Republicans and 2006 for Democrats.  But that’s not enough.  You also need the favored political party to have invested heavily in strong candidate recruitment to see to it that these external factors do, indeed, work in your favor.  In short, you need external factors in combination of smart institutional decisions by a political party.

That’s where I’m worried.  I’m not quite sure if the NC Democratic Party is in disarray, but it sure ain’t in great shape right now.  I’m worried about the ability of the party to take advantage of external factors (a Republican Party that has alienated much of the public by going so far to the right) that should be working it its favor.   I’m fairly confident the political winds will be blowing in the Democrats’ direction in NC in 2014.  I’m not at all confident that they have the leadership in place to take advantage of this fact.  It’s also worth mentioning that the Republican gerrymander is so damn good that even a good Democratic year will only go so far.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to What NC Democrats can do

  1. Mike from Canada says:

    The problem is going to be time and humans short memory. If the Republicans are smart they will get all the nasty business out of the way as soon as possible, then pretend to be reasonable and sane. Maybe have a chocolate chip giveaway day. The economy will probably pick up no matter what they do, and they will take credit for it. People will be ignorant enough to believe them. Very few things a state can do will effect an economy.

    They don’t have to convince a lot of people they are sane, just enough to maintain power.

    Of course, as Spock said on Star Trek:
    “It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians, than it was for them to behave like civilized men.”

    Or, it’s hard for crazy people to act normal.

  2. Bob Andron says:

    Good point Mike. If the current anger is maintained and doesn’t peak too soon, there might be change. It all depends on the tipping point location in time.

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