Wanted: New ideas

Gary Pearce was kind enough to let me guest post on his blog. I wanted to share it here and gain your thoughts.


“Gary called for a Democratic Moses recently. It is an apt comparison because we are in the desert as far as the eye can see. Every time I see a key legislative debate it feels as if Senator Josh Stein and Representative Deborah Ross are largely alone in offering a counter narrative. It is disconcerting that we also have little infrastructure in place to allow Eric Mansfield, Cal Cunningham, Grier Martin, and others the ability to offer their response to the current actions of the folks on Jones Street.

“Beyond Moses, however, we need new ideas. I am concerned by the number of progressives who believe that the way that we will win in the future is to simply bash Art Pope, slam the Governor and the General Assembly as out of touch, and attack their ideas. Simply being a Cassandra ain’t going to cut it. We’ll be as disregarded as she was in the myths of old.

“We have to offer new ideas and a new narrative for North Carolina. And North Carolina isn’t alone — this is an issue in states across our country. After fifty years of gains created by progressives on the federal and state level we have retreated over the last fifteen years. We have found ourselves protecting our gains as they fall under an all out attack by conservatives which has led to a dramatic shift of our standing on the spectrum.

“Traditionally conservatives fought to defend and conserve, while progressives advocated for new ideas and bold solutions. That tradition has been turned on its head and that is one reason we’ve been losing of late. People are hurting economically in rural North Carolina, for example, and my fellow progressives have found themselves stuck defending the status quo while conservatives call for change. When you are hurting, a new idea, even if it is a bad idea, sounds better than the status quo.

“It is time that we move beyond the tired narratives and beyond simply calling for our progress to be protected. It is time to call for real progress once more. It is time to offer new ideas and reach for the brass ring. The genius of Governor Jim Hunt is that he always offered a bold vision for the future. I believe that many of us still turn to him for leadership because even now, more than a decade and two administrations removed from his last term, he still has bold new ideas for the future.

“It is time that we follow Hunt’s lead and develop the big ideas of the future. Otherwise, we’ll be an ineffective, marginalized Cassandra as the folks on Jones Street dramatically reshape our state.”


We don't need a "Moses" - we

We don't need a "Moses" - we need a progressive infrastructure.

Pope has been successful in taking over the state government because of the influence of his foundations and the connections they've made with conservative and extreme-Right ideologues around North Carolina. Similar to the Tea Bagger movements in other states, these foundations have given an organizing and funding structure to people outside of the mainstream of Republican politics, pushing the party further Right and hammering liberals at every opportunity.

Liberals and progressives certainly have a lot of righteous anger about what's going on, but there's not really some central organizing structures around the state to get individuals to act together.

One person might find some interesting information about something going on in the state and blog about it, but there's nothing that's collating this info and putting it together in friendly graphical ways that could be shared on social media. Pope's foundations have set up sites like Carolina Transparency that are doing that.

We don't have foundations or groups that are actively cultivating liberal and progressive candidates and public servants, offering regular seminars and workshops to help them gain support, fundraise for campaigns, present themselves to the public, use the web and social media, and, most importantly, become a strong voice in their local community. Pope's foundations have spent two decades grooming the people you see in power in the state today.

Liberals need to do some serious research about voters and potential voters in NC - not only what concerns and motivates them, but also about _how_ they are motivated to act and do something. The Democratic structure in Raleigh just doesn't "get" rural NC voters, how rural areas have changed the past couple of decades, and what gets these people going - the Dems can't depend on just the liberal college towns to get out the vote in state elections.

For a long time we didn't

For a long time we didn't need an infrastructure and I think our side has been slow to see the need until recently.

+ Leadership training and recruitment is critical for our future. We should have a particular focus on African Americans, females, Latino/Latina leadership development in order to be successful.
+ Messaging development and framework training is critical for everyone on our side. We still do not spend enough time on framing even when we have new/innovative ideas.
+ We have to build statewide as you suggested.

All of your ideas are fantastic. Thank you for sharing.


I gotta tell you Nation, framing is the key to making the difference between a lackluster campaign and one that goes viral.

Being a writer, I understand the impact of words. And I don't just mean putting them together in a meaningful sentence that conveys a message. The actual word choice itself is critical. Consider the words "amorous" and "horny". They mean basically the same thing, but evoke vastly different visceral reactions from the reader.

In my opinion (and it's only an opinion), many in the NC Democratic Party address the voters as if they're all farmers with an 8th grade education. It's like they're afraid to act intelligent. Granted, some of them aren't, but I have a feeling the days of that quaint "Y'all" speech being successful might be over.

Whatever phraseology or branding Party leaders are considering needs to be put to some (preferably young) focus groups. Here's a clue: if the people who are going to decide these things have to meet on the 1st floor because they have trouble climbing stairs, well. You may need to start over from scratch, if you catch my drift. ;)

If you want to join the

If you want to join the discussion on new ideas over on Branch check this out: http://branch.com/b/wanted-new-ideas-talking-about-politics/invite_link/...

Somebody has to do it

"I am concerned by the number of progressives who believe that the way that we will win in the future is to simply bash Art Pope, slam the Governor and the General Assembly as out of touch, and attack their ideas."

Whatever the cause behind the power shift, the fact remains that Republicans hold supermajorities in the General Assembly, and they're safely esconced in the Governor's mansion. Attacking their ideas may seem reactive (as opposed to proactive), but it's the only way to dull the blade of the spear before it pokes the citizenry.

I agree that we need to also continue to explore new ideas and expose them to not only the public, but the Legislative/Executive branches too. Sometimes elements of progressive policy approaches can wiggle their way into otherwise regressive policies. And the NC Justice Center and a bunch of other non-profits are doing that on a daily basis. But (again) when you're dealing with the level of arrogance displayed by the current leadership, those ideas are stifled and/or ignored across the board.

What we need is a Democratic Party that is constantly active, probing precincts that have yet to be organized while also using the MSM pulpit to both attack and present better alternatives, so the voters can see the difference. Right now, most of them can't, and that's bad.

I think you make some valid

I think you make some valid points.

+ Existing entities are doing great work, but need help amplifying that beyond the amen corner.
+ We should react, absolutely, but the development of new ideas and a new agenda (combined with a new messaging framework that is a good fit for North Carolinians today) will allow us to be proactive as well. At one luncheon I attended at the convention Paul Begala shared that even now he reads Drudge Report each morning to know what he is going to have to talk about on TV that day. We are only slowly beginning to develop that.
+ We also need a strong NCDP and infrastructure among every organization to mobilize and reach the state.

So many assumptions are wrong in this piece

First, in both the Pearce piece and this piece, who gives a flip about a "Democratic" anything?

Democrats have proven time and again to be no more progressive or liberal than the alternative. I've got a list of things a mile long Democrats didn't do when they were in power in Raleigh (and in DC in 2009-10). They are rightly in the wilderness.

Cal Cunningham is no liberal or progressive as he proved most publicly in his battle (with GOP legislative help) to undermine water quality and local control in the Triangle.

People like Cunningham and Mansfield have some great positions on a few issues and some great attributes (public speaking, ability to fundraise), but they're not progressives. I agree with Dick Cheney on a couple of issues and he can fundraise, but he's no progressive.

So I don't want to waste my time propping them up or supporting people who think these "young Democrats" are somehow progressive.

Democrat does not equal progressive.

The poster teddyroosevelt above hits it too.


Ideological purity won't get

Ideological purity won't get us out of the fix we're in, in my opinion.

Purity, no. Clarity, yes.

Mushiness in the cause of liberty, never.

You say you want something new

... but you just keep giving the same old BS in "younger" packaging.

Mine is not a call for ideological purity.

Senate Bill 20 (the Good Samaritan law/Overdose bill) which Gov. McCrory signed into law this week passed the General Assembly nearly unanimously. Most here would consider it an extraordinarily "progressive" piece of legislation, but instead of wrapping it in Democratic grab, it was properly explained and sold to legislators and policy folks as simply a good piece of legislation from every point of view.

Presto! A huge progressive victory despite a wildly Democrat-hostile legislature.

Mine is a call for wresting progressive policy goals from pitifully incompetent parties, organizations and campaign consultants.


I agree that Democrats must

I agree that Democrats must develop forward-looking policies. The basis for them should be the old-time Democrat religion, however: Full employment, equal opportunity, better schools and higher-ed, strong environmental protections, civil rights and social justice. These principles should appeal to rural as well as urban voters. The comment that they don't, or that Democrats aren't getting them across to rural voters, is spot-on and a big problem.

An initiative by the party or some allied organization to listen, seek out good ideas and best practices and translate them into a platform and a message -- two different but related things -- is long overdue. I'm sorry, but letting Mike Easley be governor for eight years with his one-note policy of an "education lottery" set N.C. Democrats back a generation. Not to mention the stink of corruption that surrounded his absentee tenure.

We should build on our deeply

We should build on our deeply held values and beliefs while advocating new ideas and policies that flow from those in my view.

We should absolutely launch a statewide evaluation and development of ideas. I think that the national GOP Opportunity Project was misguided in their findings but at least they did the hard work of taking a look at what they were doing or failing to do. We haven't done the same after four years of losing. It is long past time.

No, the NC Dems aren't

No, the NC Dems aren't progressive. And they've not been particularly liberal.

During the last few election cycles, I've been registered as Unaffiliated. I've seen the choice between Republicans and Democrats in NC as being between "dangerous and ridiculous" and "not appalling as the other guys".

I want to prepare a couple of blog posts reflecting on it, but I think the main problem with the NC Democratic Party is insularity. It's not engaged with the public, it's not embraced new ideas, and hasn't made any effort to understand NC's liberal and progressive voters (or voters that could be) or develop new talent. It's stagnant and dying.

Pope's built quite a political machine, but the Dems haven't offered any alternatives.

Was anyone else like me during the last election, getting constant phone calls and engagement from volunteers for Obama's campaign and a steady stream of flyers and calls from one of Pope's candidates or political action groups? The NC Democratic Party was virtually silent.

Frankly, I feel that if anything constructive is done to promote liberal and progressive causes and voters in North Carolina, it will be in spite of the NC Democratic party and not because of it.

The leaders of the party should just get the hell out of the way and let the responsible adults in the room create some change.

I hope that my agreement

I hope that my agreement around the need to develop an alternative was clear in the blog. We've allowed the traditions of our two Parties to be flipped on their head which is one of the reasons we're losing.


With you all the way, Nation. I said somewhere -- on your Twitter/Branch thing-ie, I think -- that the NCDP under Voller isn't your grandfather's N.C. Democrats, and may now be open to the kind of exploration you're advocating .... and I'm advocating. Not to say the party should sponsor it. (Have you seen the "party" operate? Platform debate starts and stops with rules fights.) But the party could well encourage it, help it along, even participate, if asked.

"We should build on our

"We should build on our deeply held values and beliefs"

First thing is to identify what those are. Does anyone really know? Do they? When lost in the "Wilderness" go back to the basics. build from there. Some good old fashioned naval gazing is needed.

I think if they should try for less government, lower taxes, fewer programs, more self sufficiency, responsibility, determination, and hard work. All leading to more more freedom for everyone they will do quite well. Its the quintessential American values of thrift, hard work, self reliance, and tenacity. It will resonate.

In short give up power and they'll get all of it back and more.

Throw in a few flags and apple pie

along with a bunch of cheerleading ... and you're done!

Of course, you may have overlooked a few hundred years of institutional oppression and slavery, as well as ongoing racial discrimination, that might just be standing in the way of self-sufficiency. Or perhaps you like the kind of self-sufficiency that comes when poor people pick up pitchforks and assault rifles to take what they want. Now there's some tenacity.

I agree!

I think if they should try for less government, lower taxes, fewer programs, more self sufficiency, responsibility, determination, and hard work.

I agree wholehartedly.

For less government, let's start by repealing Amendment One.

For lower taxes, let's try making the tax code fair so that the corporations and rich are paying their fair share and I'm not stuck paying for one of Art Pope's cronies golf club membership.

For self sufficiency, let's try encouraging small NC based business rather than giving tax handouts to companies to relocate here and just leave after a few years.

For responsibility, let's try strengthening our laws on ethics and transparency in government, rather than weakening them.

And for hard work, why don't we roll up our sleeves and tackle some of the big issues in North Carolina like our crumbling infrastructure?

Yeah, I'd like to go back to the basics of the kind of North Carolina I grew up with in the 1970s. Not the North Carolina of 1870.