The wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia (the Main Line) were once strongly Republican. While urban ethnics went Democrat, Protestants on the outskirts voted for the party of fiscal discipline and cultural stability. Then the GOP went crazy. Appalled by the radical tone of nationwide Republicans, the residents of Philly’s burbs migrated leftward and stayed there. Republicans now have a similar record to the sad-sack 76ers.
Which brings us to the “Sports Elite’s” next victim. Pat McCrory’s political identity was as a Republican who could win in moderate districts. There was substance to support this image. The longtime Charlotte mayor outperformed Obama by ten points in Wake County and by nearly fifteen in Mecklenburg. But just as the Sixers waste top pick after top pick, McCrory blew the NCGOP’s chances in the ‘burbs. Suburban districts in Wake and Mecklenburg threaten to go the way of the Main Line.
McCrory’s record made this happen. Utterly betraying his ‘burb-friendly platform, he has governed as a socially conservative populist. He took us from having reasonably moderate abortion law to now imposing harsher burdens than almost any other state. Voter ID offended suburban voters’ belief in ethnic acceptance. And HB2 was the coup de grace: A recent Survey USA poll found the bill unpopular among suburban voters by a margin of 2-1, the same as urbanites.
The consequences to Republicans have been brutal. Formerly competitive–or even conservative–suburban precincts are trending blue at light speed. The NYT’s Upshot found that Clinton leads Trump by 24 points in Cary. According to PPP, there are numerous Romney districts in Wake and Meck where Clinton now leads by 5-10 points (keep in mind, those districts were designed to favor Republicans). Rep. Gary Pendleton is thought to be a dead legislator walking. Charles Jeter dropped out, leaving Democrat Chaz Beasley to face token opposition. Anecdotally, most swing voters on the street–at least in Wake–seem disgusted with the GOP and unlikely to leave the Democratic fold in the near future.
HB2 has caused the GOP lasting brand damage in politically moderate, culturally neutral suburban districts. It will get worse as Millennial parents join their elders in the ‘burbs. McCrory was supposed to prevent this, yet in a considerably less than tragic irony, his Administration will yield the opposite result.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.