Archive for North Carolina

Dec
06

They’re not always crazy

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Out here in the Laboratories of Democracy, ALEC is testing market-based solutions to problems other market-based policies created. But unless one of these solutions barrels right into you (ask Mike Stark), you might not know about it ahead of time.

You know when you hear a speech (or read a quote) by a not-as-crazy conservative and a phrase strikes your ear a little odd? After you baroo, the speech continues and you shrug it off as random weirdness. Something I learned during the George W. Bush administration was to pay attention to those odd phrases. They are usually either racial dog whistles or else a reference to some issue conservatives know about and the left needs to (unless you like getting blindsided). That happened again here recently.

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Dec
03

“A very unsubtle threat”

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The North Fork Watershed

The North Fork Watershed

Buncombe County’s legislative delegation (new and old) and city council met at the Civic Center for a breakfast this week scheduled to discuss the city’s draft legislative agenda. Henderson County’s Rep. Chuck McGrady attended as well. Since his GOP colleagues, Nathan Rep. Ramsey (NC-115) and Rep. Tim Moffitt (NC-116) lost their reelection bids this fall, the dynamic between Buncombe and Raleigh has shifted, although Democrats will still find themselves outnumbered and powerless. Just less so thanks to John Ager and Brian Turner.

On Asheville FM’s Making Progress Monday, Asheville city councilman, Cecil Bothwell commented on the future of the city’s lawsuit over control of the Asheville water system. McGrady had joined Moffitt and Ramsey in passing the bill stripping the city of control of its water system and transferring control to a regional commission. McGrady delivered what Bothwell describes as “a very unsubtle threat” [timestamp 37:50] to the city and the county’s new, all-Democrat House delegation, essentially, to play ball if they expect to get anything from the GOP-controlled legislature [timestamp 37:50]:

Depending on how that lawsuit occurs will really determine what happens next. But I will tell you — I want to very clear, I’ve talked to again Senator Apodaka about this — if the lawsuit is decided adverse to the position the General Assembly took last time, he and I do anticipate filing legislation to correct whatever the mistake might be. … I’m quite prepared to come back with a different approach to the same issue.

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Nov
17

Another responsible shooting

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A 13-year-old teen attending a soccer tournament in Raleigh, NC died in his hotel room, in his bed Friday night:

Nathan Andrew Clark was staying in the Comfort Suites hotel while he participated in the Capital Area Soccer League tournament.

At approximately 11 p.m., a woman who was in the room with him called 911, saying that she “had no idea” what happened to the teen, only that he was bleeding profusely from a bump on the back of his head.

Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police quickly determined that Clark had been shot, and located Randall Louis Vater, who was in a nearby room and in possession of firearms. They said that Vater accidentally discharged his weapon, and that the round traveled through the wall and into Clark’s room, where it fatally struck him.

Vater has a long history with law enforcement, having served time in prison on charges ranging from violating a restraining order to communicating threats to hit-and-run. He was in police custody as recently as October 25, according to Department of Public Safety records.

Police charged Vater with “involuntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.”

Nothing left to say.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Nov
12

A gated democracy

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Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco. Image by Almonroth via Wikimedia Commons

The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years the New York Times declares this morning, condemning continued efforts to suppress turnout among poor, minority and younger voters. They don’t even bother to add qualifiers anymore when calling out Republicans for voter suppression.

Sean McElwee at Huffington Post runs down some preliminary analysis of new voting restrictions. Photo ID laws, eliminating same-day registration, and felon disenfranchisement were contributing factors in the low turnout.

More than 600,000 in Texas could not vote this year because they lacked the newly required documents. How many tried and were turned away? The nonpartisan Election Protection Voter help line received over 2,000 calls in Texas, according to the Brennan Center’s director of its Democracy Program, Wendy Weiser. A federal judge had determined that the Texas law was purposely designed to suppress minority votes.

As Ari Berman wrote last week, “Since Republican legislatures across the country implemented new voting restrictions after 2010 and the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it’s become easier to buy an election and harder to vote in one.”

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Nov
10

Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Call

Republicans tighten grip in Southern state legislatures

Just not here.

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Nov
09

Underground railroading

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On Friday, we were in Greensboro, NC when the International Civil Rights Center & Museum was open. We’d been meaning to stop in for years. We even managed to get through the tour of the old F. W. Woolworth lunch counter without crying. (OK, barely.) The word unequal kept coming up in the tour. That and the funeral earlier of a black friend had me mulling over how many white people still resent sharing the country with Others they consider unequal. Demographic shifts are bringing them kicking and screaming to the realization that they must.

Losing power is very personal for people on the right. Both left and right talk about taking “their country” back, but it seems much more personal for conservatives. In their America, it seems, there is no we, just i and me.

One place you hear it is in their rhetoric about voter fraud. It is a very personal affront to them that the power of their votes might be diminished by the Other. Every time someone ineligible casts a fraudulent ballot, they insist, it “steals your vote.” Your vote. They have convinced themselves that there are thousands and thousands of invisible felons stealing their votes every election. Passing more restrictive voting laws is a matter of justice and voting integrity, of course. What other motivation could there be for railroading eligible poor, minority, and college-age voters?

The Others they suspect of this heinous activity are people who do not believe as they do nor vote as they do. Voter fraud itself is a code word, the way Lee Atwater used “forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.” It’s “much more abstract,” as Atwater said. The issue is not really whether the invisible “those people” are voting illegally or not. It is that they are voting at all. Sharing in governance, sharing power, is a privilege for deserving, Real Americans, not for the unwashed Irresponsibles. That Others do so legally is just as much an affront. Right now they’re targeting the invisible Others. Restricting voting to Real Americans comes later, I guess.

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Nov
07

How’s about a tepid, heaping helping of moderate?

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I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Rev 3:15-16

Sometimes the left just needs to get over itself and quote some King James Bible. Comedian John Fugelsang, for instance, wields scripture with the adroitness of Mackie Messer.

These particular lines from Revelation have hung around like an earworm since Tuesday. After polls closed, the woman ranked the “most moderate” senator, Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, narrowly lost her bid for reelection to North Carolina’s immoderate, Republican Speaker of the House, “Tholl Road Thom” Tillis. Democrats across the country who tried distancing themselves from the president and Obamacare lost as well.

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Nov
05

Not really coming to vote

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In spite of Sen. Kay Hagan’s loss to state Rep. Thom Tillis last night, there were a few bright spots for North Carolina Democrats. They need to pick up five state House seats to break a GOP supermajority. They picked up three last night, gaining two in just one western county, mine.

Since first elected in 2010, state Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, has wedged conservative county voters against city voters. The ALEC board member passed legislation to strip Asheville of control of its airport and water system. (The NCGOP has gone after Charlotte’s airport as well. It’s the next phase of “Defund the Left.”) Moffitt lost his reelection bid last night. In a newspaper account of local election results, a voter comments about why he supported Moffitt:

Gary Mize, who also lives in Arden, said he voted for Moffitt “to screw the people in (Asheville) City Hall.”

“As a conservative Christian, City Hall stands for nothing I stand for,” Mize said.

In 2011, another state legislator dubbed the left-leaning city “a cesspool of sin.”

I share the quote because it echoes something a friend in SC once said about electioneering. He said he could spot Republicans as they approached the polling place by the sour looks on their faces.

“They’re not coming to vote,” he said. “They’re coming to f–k someone!”

I guess that says “Morning in America” to somebody.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Nov
04

You know what you have to do

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It’s Election Day, people. You know what you have to do.

Midterms matter.

Lady Parts Justice

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Nov
02

Election Day wild cards

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Hagan-ObamacareSpent some quality time yesterday in the wind and snow and cold electioneering outside a couple of North Carolina early voting locations. It was the last day of early voting and it snowed all day. My wife got a push-poll on Friday knocking Barack Obama and asking if the info would make her more or less likely to vote this year, etc. Republicans here are still running against Obama.

Turnout in North Carolina is way up over 2010. In a blog post considering the impact of the Moral Monday Movement, FishOutofWater writes, “Democratic votes are crushing Republican votes 48.5% to 31.2% with over one million votes accepted.” That’s statewide. Where I live, Democrats are outperforming the GOP and independents in early voting in our county by about 2:1. It’s 49-25-26.

Here’s the catch, according to Michael Bitzer, from the political science department at Catawba College:

One of the key things to consider is the division between urban and rural Democrats: urban Democrats tend to be more liberal than their rural counterparts (in fact, there is still the generation of rural North Carolina Democrats who are generally more conservative and, in all actuality, vote Republican in the voting booth).

Politicos around here know not to trust that all registered Democrats vote for Democrats. Nobody seems to have a good handle on how the independents will break. Still:

Democratic turnout, measured against the same day in 2010, is 24 percent higher, while Republicans have voted slightly above the same level. Of those who have voted early, 49 percent were registered Democrats and 31 percent Republicans.

There has been a stronger showing of African-American voters, 25 percent of the early voting, compared to 20 percent in 2010, which is expected to benefit Hagan.

Unaffiliated and Libertarian voters appear motivated this year. They have cast 1 in 5 of the early ballots, 42 percent more than they did over the same period in 2010. Thirty-two percent of these voters didn’t participate in the 2010 election in the state, Bitzer’s analysis shows.

Another wild card for North Carolina: the GOP eliminated straight-ticket voting this year for the first time since 1925. This will, no doubt, add to lines at the polls:

Black and Democratic voters have long cast more straight-ticket ballots than white and Republicans have. In 2008, Democrats racked up a 401,000-vote cushion among the 2.2 million voters who voted a straight ticket. Elizabeth Dole beat Kay Hagan among those voters who didn’t pull the straight-ticket lever, but that wasn’t enough to dig out of the hole.

In 2012, straight-ticket voters gave Democrats a 308,000-vote lead, including a 78,000-vote edge in Mecklenburg County. Trevor Fuller, now the chairman of the county board of commissioners, actually lost to Michael Hobbs (who?) among voters who assessed each race individually.

Those kinds of numbers surely prompted Republicans to kill the practice, and it seems likely to help the GOP. In Mecklenburg, Democrats in down-ballot races like clerk of court appear to have the most at risk. That will hinge, though, on whether past straight-ticket voters walk out or brave the rest of the ballot.

But another catch. A friend reported that a Republican woman this week sniffed, “I only vote on Election Day.” My friend concluded why: Her voting early would only prove early voting is useful.

The first day of early voting here in North Carolina there were lines at the polls, as there were yesterday. Without straight-ticket voting, people were taking longer in the booths. But with the Democrats’ nominal lead in early turnout numbers, Republicans have to make up a significant difference on Election Day to win. And their older, whiter voters will have to stand in the same lines their party created to do it.

Should the NCGOP lose seats in the legislature on Tuesday and should Kay Hagan keep her seat in the U.S. Senate, count on the NCGOP to attempt to eliminate early voting altogether.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)