Last week was an historic week. It began with a repudiation of the Confederate battle flag by political leaders who just weeks earlier would have defended it. Next, the Supreme Court again upheld the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act, moving us closer to universal health care. And on Friday, the Court ruled against discrimination and allowed gay couples to marry across the country.
By the weekend, America’s social landscape was changed for the better. For progressives, the three events were the culmination of decades of work. African-Americans and those seeking racial equality have long fought to have the flag of segregation removed from state property. Health care advocates have been fighting since Teddy Roosevelt first introduced the idea that health care should be a right. And marriage equality advocates have watched public attitudes toward same-sex marriage shift at a remarkable pace.
The Democratic Party and its candidates should have been moving quickly to capitalize on these victories, but, in North Carolina, the response was muted. Senate Democratic Whip Terry Van Duyn sent a good email calling for keeping the momentum going, but most of the other major candidates and party organizations were pretty silent.
Team Cooper sent me an email criticizing McCrory for losing Volvo and asking to help them reach their end of quarter goal. NCDP Chair Patsy Keever sent an email celebrating the Affordable Care Act decision, but nothing on marriage equality or the flag. Team Linda sent out something talking about single moms, but no mention of the historic week.
On Facebook and twitter, they did better. Cooper acknowledged both Supreme Court decisions on both social media channels. The Democratic Party shared stories and celebrations on their Facebook page as well as tweeted and retweeted comments about all three events. The North Carolina Senate and House Democrats were almost absent on social media talking about the groundbreaking week.
I’m not sure if the tepid response is fear of the controversial nature of the events or just a lack of understanding of how the conversation on social media works. If it’s fear of the issues, nobody should be scared. If it’s a social media problem, they need to quickly learn how communication has changed
First, they were victories for core Democratic values and constituencies. African-Americans and the LGBT community deserve to know that Democrats are standing with them all the time. Second, no Democrat can run. Republicans are going to tie every Democrat to Obamacare and marriage equality. Democrats should reap the benefits through organizing and fundraising. Finally, Democrats in North Carolina desperately need victories and leaders who will celebrate them. They’re not looking for caution. They are seeking bold leadership.
Political communication has changed rapidly and campaigns that don’t understand what’s happening will lose out. Today, there is a constant conversation happening on Facebook and Twitter. The people tuned in are activists, opinion leaders, elected officials and the press. They are forming opinions about campaigns and candidates based on what they’re saying on Facebook and twitter now, not next year. And it’s not just about pushing out a message; it’s about participating in the conversation, offering relevant comments and information to people they need to influence.
Last week, Democratic organizations and candidates should have been fully engaged. It was an opportunity to reach out to key members of the Democratic coalition and capture their excitement. It was also an opportunity to get in front of reporters and comment on one of the most significant weeks in the past 50 years. Unfortunately, it was largely a missed opportunity.
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 >