BY CASH MICHAELS
OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
And ironically, it’s NC Democrats themselves doing much of the stacking.
Beyond the Republican-controlled Legislature’s now codified election restrictions of GOP gerrymandered legislative voting districts; no more straight ticket voting or “Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting; less funds because of the elimination of the campaign contribution tax check-off and a shortened early voting period, NC Democrats are also facing a spectrum of internal crippling challenges, from the continuing prolific disdain for progressive NCDP Chairman Randy Voller by many of the party’s moderate/conservative members, to the announcement this week that the party is deep in the financial hole.
“I don’t hate Randy Voller. On [a] personal level, I like the guy,” wrote Thomas Mills on his blog “Politics North Carolina” this week. “…[B]ut I am as angry at him as I’ve been at anyone over politics. For me, watching the destruction of the party is painful.”
Voller’s defenders say he is doing his job.
“…[W]hat is your goal in cutting the leader of the party down?, “progressive Democrat Stephanie Goslen blogged recently on the “Blue NC” website. “Do you think it makes you look good? Do you think that by doing so, in the times of no more tax checkoff money, it will bring in more money? Do you think that your behavior is becoming of an officer of the party? And if you think that by tearing the party down you are promoting yourself, you are more immature than I thought. You do not do yourself any favors by bringing the chairman down.”
In an earlier blog, Goslen charged, “…I am angry that good people get pulled down in order for the “corporate democrats” to hold on to power.”
“For the elected officials, it is how can I use the party to retain my power?,” Goslin later continued. “Generally, this group of democrats does not like change and they really don’t like a lot of change. They will fight at all costs to maintain the status quo.”
Amid all of the sobering circumstances, the party’s State Executive Council on Sunday voted to make NCDP interim Executive Director Casey Mann – an experienced party operative who many say can do the job – permanent, ending a month-long fiery controversy when Voller first nominated civil rights activist Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. to succeed fired Executive Director Robert Dempsey.
Because of the vociferous backlash from the party’s moderates/conservatives, who tried to tarnish Rev. Chavis with false and incomplete information gleaned from 20-year-old press reports, Chavis withdrew his name from consideration.
But the episode left the NCDP more deeply divided than ever, so much so that now disgruntled Democratic moderates/conservatives have pledged not to donate any funding to the state party, but rather to individual candidate campaigns.
“…[Instead of trying to save the asylum, the people who fund campaigns and the professionals who run them are going to let the inmates have it, “Politics NC blogger Thomas Mills states.
“Earth to Voller: People don’t give you money if they don’t trust you,” wrote blogger Gary Pearce, a moderate Democrat and former press secretary to Gov. Jim Hunt, who vehemently opposed Rev. Chavis’ nomination.
Pearce then openly attacked the progressives supporting Chairman Voller, calling them, “…grassroots activists who abhor the establishment, elected officials, professional consultants and any hint of money in politics.”
“They pose as great a danger to Democrats as the Tea Party does to Republicans,” Pearce added.
The open acrimony has served to enhance the NCDP’s money woes, problems that have fueled speculation that even NCDP headquarters, Goodwin House, is on the chopping block.
“I think that people didn’t realize that, with loss of power, came loss of financial influence,” NC DP Director Mann said at a press conference Monday.
Under previous “corporate” Democratic leadership, the party lost almost total control of state government to the Republicans in the past five years due to official corruption from the Governor’s Mansion (Mike Easley) to the General Assembly (Speaker Jim Black), and including NC Democratic headquarters itself (alleged sexual harassment hush money by party Chairman David Parker).
All of this happened before Chairman Voller took office in 2013.
Losing control meant losing big money, exactly the kind of money needed now to go toe-to-toe with Republicans this year, and certainly in 2016 when GOP Gov. Pat McCrory is up for re-election.
Even more striking was the announcement that moderate Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan’s statewide campaign would coordinate with the Wake Democratic Party, and not the state NCDP, thus sending a clear signal, critics charge, that the state party under Voller is not to be trusted.
Director Mann countered that the state party is, and will continue to “be in communication” with Sen. Hagan’s campaign. Other progressive Democrats say they are “furious” that the Hagan campaign would “turn its back” on the NCDP, and are lobbying the chairman not to allow it.
Hagen’s campaign will need all the help it can get against whomever her Republican challenger will be. Recent polls have Sen. Hagan dead even with almost all eight of the GOP primary challengers. Given that her re-election bid falls during a mid-term, and black voters are lukewarm to her, Democratic turnout among the party’s base of African-Americans, Latinos and young people – the very groups targeted by the Republicans for voter suppression, critics like the NCNAACP say– could be even lower than normal.
Without massive, statewide voter registration, education and mobilization efforts that should have begun already in preparation for the fall, midterm turnout in Democratic base support has been, and could continue to be weak.
And it is also true that, just like in 2008 when the Pres. Obama’s campaign implemented an exhaustive strategic plan to actually bring numerous nonvoters into the process in order to have black, Latino and youth voters ballot disproportionate to their normal percentage, NC Democrats can’t win unless they excite those base nonvoters to stand and be counted.
NC Democratic moderates/conservatives have yet to prove that they know how to reach those base nonvoters, let alone get them to the polls on Election Day.
“They need to understand, the [Democratic] conservatives and the moderates, that they cannot win – not a statewide race, not a municipal race, not a race for dogcatcher…they cannot win without the minority vote,” Dr. Gracie Galloway, Democratic Party Chair of the Eighth Congressional District, says. “They have to get that in their heads, and I don’t think they have it yet!”