barber

Yesterday, there surfaced a leaked memo from the liberal organization Blueprint NC, a “nonpartisan” group funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The memo contains the progressive strategy for taking down legislative Republicans. Containing threats to “cripple” Republican statewide leaders, the leaked memo is a bit of an embarrassment for NC Democrats, but it doesn’t contain anything too revelatory. Their strategy is readily identifiable just by reading the Twitter feed of progressive organizations in the state. It basically comes down to: Republicans suck, they’re “eviscerating” schoolteachers, they’re for the rich, blah blah blah. I do like the “Out of Control” message, at least from a strategical standpoint. It does, however, suggest a degree of coordination with Democratic leaders in the state, particularly House Minority Leader Larry Hall.

Republicans need to respond to these attacks. However ridiculous or uncredible they may seem to conservatives, voters tend to believe messages once they hear them over and over again. A unified Democratic strategy painting Republicans as mean, nasty, evil people who want to hurt the unemployed while pursuing an extreme agenda can be very effective. It deserves a response.

Republicans have one thing Democrats don’t have – money. It’s good to be the majority party. They should consider launching a statewide media campaign emphasizing the good things that the General Assembly has done. And they’ll need to aggressively respond to attacks from progressive groups, no matter how ridiculous they may seem.

They can learn a lot from the Republicans on the Wake County School Board. In 2009, voters were disgusted with bussing and constantly changing reassignment plans in the name of “diversity”, so they voted for a Republican majority that would work in favor of neighborhood schools.

The Republicans moved quickly to implement their agenda. What happened? They were met with a liberal firestorm the likes of which has never been seen. Note that the Republican plan for neighborhood schools did not differ visibly from other school systems across the country. No matter – opponents and progressive groups called their plan “resegregation”. The Rev. William Barber and an army of angry liberals disrupted school board meetings, protesting and chanting like it was 1965. The Republican school board plan, they warned, would lead to a return to Jim Crow laws. Margiotta, the Republican chair, did not help the school board’s case when he referred to protestors as “animals”.

Resegregation, Jim Crow. Surely this line of messaging was rejected by the educated residents of Wake County, right? Wrong. They bought it hook, line, and sinker. I don’t think Republicans even bothered to respond to these attacks because they sounded so ridiculous. But by the summer of 2011, it was evident that the Republican majority on the Wake school board was in deep trouble.

Despite a Republican-friendly district, Chairman Ron Margiotta lost his seat, and Republicans lost their majority on the school board. Margiotta’s opponent was Susan Evans, who had actually appeared with Rev. Barber during protests.

Later it emerged that the Obama’s campaign apparatus was extensively involved in the election, viewing it as a “test run” for their operation in 2012. Democrats were treating the school board races like a national election. Progressive groups were working hand-in-hand with liberal pollsters like PPP to define the Republican majority as “Tea Party” Republicans. Basically, Democrats threw a lot of mud, and it stuck. Even though most voters probably had negative views of Reverend Barber, they bought the central message that the Republican school board was out of control and needed to be put in its place.

Control of the school board then hinged on a runoff election taking place a month later. Republicans were much more prepared, and they nearly knocked off an incumbent Democrat. Had they been similarly prepared for the Margiotta race, Republicans would still have a 5-4 majority on the school board.

The lesson: liberal attacks, no matter how extreme, demand a response. Being in the minority breeds anger, and aggression. Republicans have solid majorities in the legislature, but they can’t rest on their laurels. Failure to respond aggressively to progressive attacks means a lost majority.

For an example of a very effective response, click HERE.

John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: johncwynne@gmail.com.

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