Thomas Mills has it right. For North Carolina Democrats, the time to run for election in 2016 is NOW.
And the old ways of Dems getting elected to office has to change. Why? Because the times have changed and what worked in the 90s, and 80s, and 70s is no longer effective.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a sea change in American politics. And in North Carolina politics as well. Not because America elected a man of African American heritage but because he is part of a younger generation of leaders. A younger generation more willing to create success by bringing the use of new technologies and methdologies to the election process.
I don’t say this because I am a young hotshot with dreams of elective office. Given what I am saying here, I count myself too old to start this process of running for a series of pubic offices. We need younger candidates getting in on the ground floor of the election process so they gain the experiences they need to run for higher and higher offices in the future. We need opportunities for the current group of Dems in NCGA to move up to state level offices and gain executive experience by running large agencies. We need a number of experienced leaders we can choose from when it comes time to elect Senators and Governors.
I used to joke with my husband that Dems in NC just took turns being governor. There really was no competition and it didn’t matter if senior party officials appointed a candidate who was without energy, enthusiasm, or elan---that person would be elected because NC almost always elected a Democratic governor. That won’t work anymore! We need to get candidates away from the phone and out in their community and the state.
A part of North Carolina’s Democratic leadership is mired in the past and, even now, still yielding to the influence of our most elderly political veterans. Our admiration of (and obeyance to) past leaders, who have done wonderful things for our state, has left us falling short in talented, experienced leadership from younger generations. Here we are, 14 months from electing a US Senator without an obvious candidate to challenge Burr.
We have to create opportunities that allow potential candidates for higher office to develop name recognition around the state. We cannot rely on national Democratic organizations and caucuses--they may know statistics and trends, but they do not know our state and our people. And apparently, they do not know how to listen to the people who do know our state and our people. That failure cost us the last Senate election.
We really must create space for Democrats to challenge the GOP status-quo in every district, even if gerrymandered, perhaps, ESPECIALLY if gerrymandered. We need space for new candidates and more state party resources for training and support. It may take 2-3 lost elections before a Democratic candidate gains a seat on the county commissioners board, but we need that kind of experienced person working with our party. Name recognition gained from local races, connections created between that candidate and the community, knowledge gained of local issues, all create a successful candidate for future elections.
Long time party donors are smart people capable of recognizing that the path to the future cannot be created by the methods of the past. Business has changed, and electioneering must change as well. Winning means change, not stasis. Our state population is growing. We will have greater needs for updated technology, e-security, messaging, and training for candidates, all of which require donations from our base. An investment in our present is an investment in our future.
Messaging has to change--we create messaging as if we’re trying to impress a doctoral advisor when we really need to use plain old, everyday English. We need more Dems on Facebook, Twitter and whatever social media we will see in the future. This creates connections between Dems from all parts of the state and is very effective as an organizing tool. One thing gained from Moral Monday has been new relationships between like-minded individuals who did not know each other before. Now, we see liberal-oriented people living in red areas of the state who have learned they are not alone, and as a result, are more likely to speak out on what they want from local elected officials. That will help our party in future elections, and may even create new candidates for the voters’ consideration.
People around the state are talking about GOP NCGA over-reach. The are talking about the destruction of our traditional public schools and universities. They are talking about their new tax bills. They are watching ALEC-inspired legislation plough through the General Assembly like a hot knife through butter. This state has been gerrymandered red but it is NOT trending Red. Demographic predictions show a state growing so rapidly they describe the Crescent from Charlotte to Winston-Salem to Raleigh as a future megalopolis. Yes, we still have a lot of conservative voters, but North Carolina is turning Blue. Let’s prepare for that future by investing in local candidates today.
Times have changed. The party has to change, too.
We have a remarkable cadre of party elders who provided great things for North Carolina. I want to see those successes continue. The path to the future success of the ideals they set for us lies in our younger leaders. They need to get in on the ground floor now. We all need to give them a hand up, and a financial donation. We hold them back at our own peril.