Every North Carolina election has the feel of an epic showdown. Since 2010, our elections have been contests between purified forms of progressive and reactionary politics. This decade has seen more turmoil than at any time since the civil rights era. But more than a climax, the 2020 election will set the terms for a generation of public life. History is on the line.

Republicans won four straight elections to start the 2010s’s. Rural areas migrated to their party in full force after Democrats elected an African-American president. Unfair as it was to be punished for principle, the Democrats fought back. In 2016, they clawed back the governor’s mansion. And last year’s Blue Wave put their party firmly back in the game.

Thus, the two parties enter 2020 at rough parity. The Democrats control the executive branch and the state Supreme Court. Republicans are holding strong with legislative majorities and over half the council of state. Thom Tillis’ senate seat tips the balance slightly in favor of his party, but Democrats are well positioned to give him a vigorous challenge.

I’ve so far focused on state races–this is a state politics blog–but the presidential race will also be competitive in our state. PPP and Civitas both find an electorate balanced on a knife’s edge–a large contingent for Trump, an opposition of equal size, and a mass of swing voters waiting to decide the election. Not just any Democrat could carry the state. It will take the right nominee, and Howard Schultz poses an especially dire threat in a state where suburban moderates predominate. But if they are wise, the Democratic nominee will invest in North Carolina.

Based on the early stirrings, Democrats and Repubicans alike understand that this election is pivotal. Candidates are already flooding into the arena. Consultants grasp the stakes. It is up to the citizenry to make 2020 count.

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