In politics, Labor Day marks the beginning of the political season. In even years, that means the beginning of the fall campaign. In odd years, we see the fields in various elections take shape. Candidates announce and issues emerge.
In North Carolina, 2014 is likely to be a referendum on the Republican legislative session. That’s bad news for the GOP. Their approval ratings are in the tank and their policies are unpopular. And if either Thom Tillis or Phil Berger is the GOP nominee to face Kay Hagan, the U. S. Senate race will be localized, making that race part of the referendum.
Republicans are banking on two things: the failure of the Obamacare implementation and the short memory of voters. They’re also hoping against hope for a rapid economic recovery to justify their tax cuts and denying unemployment benefits. None are very good bets.
In North Carolina, Republicans are doing everything they can to sabotage the implementation of Obamacare. At a time when the state needs any influx in cash that it can get, the legislature has ordered the return in millions of dollars in federal funds to promote and educate the public about the new program. It also rejects money to upgrade infrastructure and computer systems. By starving the roll out, Republicans are hoping they can say to voters, “We told you it would be a mess.”
However, the Republicans’ argument is all about process, something that bores voters. Democrats’ argument, in contrast, is going to be, “Republicans denied 500,000 North Carolinians health care in the midst of the worst recession in 75 years.” I’ll take the latter.
As for those short memories, the Moral Monday protests are hell bent on making sure nobody forgets. Besides, anybody who has children in public schools knows that Republicans are asking our kids to do more with less. According to my Facebook focus group, there are a whole lot of people who didn’t like Obama who don’t the Republicans in the legislature, either.
Finally, North Carolina’s economy is not performing like the rest of the country. Our unemployment is heading in the wrong direction and Republicans did little to change that. In 2011, the GOP issued more than $1.5 billion in tax cuts that were going to get the economy moving again. It didn’t. So, they doubled down, offering businesses and rich people even bigger tax cuts with no infrastructure or jobs programs. If the state’s unemployment is among the nation’s highest a year from now, the GOP might have hell to pay.
Democrats would be wise to spend their time recruiting candidates. They should fill every slot on the ballot, regardless of resources. Perfect storms are rare in politics but they happen.
The GOP’s shrill warnings about Obamacare are not coming true in other states and the program is proceeding relatively smoothly. There are plenty of voices to make sure nobody forgets this past session of the legislature. And if the unemployment rate is still hovering around 8% at this time next year, Republicans are likely to face the wrath of voters.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >