North Carolina became ground zero of the GOP’s transformation from the conservative party touting liberty to the populist one with authoritarian instincts. In states across the country, Republicans are mimicking NCGOP tactics like stripping Democratic governors of power. The rhetoric coming from Trump and Mitch McConnell’s radical maneuvers to reshape the US Senate has only empowered them.
Now, though, Democrats have a chance to push back and build a broad-based coalition that shifts both the center of power and the political debate. North Carolina Democrats should lead the way back to democracy and responsibility like the North Carolina GOP led the country away from them.
The GOP overreach and rhetoric has left many Republicans uneasy with their party. In Iowa, the longest serving Republican legislator left the GOP this week and became a Democrat. As he left his party, state Representative Andy McKean said, “Some would excuse this behavior as ‘telling it like it is’ and the new normal. If this is the new normal, I want no part of it.”
The US Chamber of Commerce also announced that it wants to be less identified with the modern Republican Party. For years, they’ve essentially been a campaign arm of the national GOP. Their decision could reshape Congressional and US Senate contests around the country. The absence of their money supporting Republican candidates will put more pressure on the party committees and, if they play on behalf of Democrats, could give Democratic committees an added boost.
The current political environment offers Democrats a huge opportunity, especially in a state like North Carolina that is so evenly divided. To take advantage of it, the party needs to create a welcoming space for Republicans who are no longer comfortable as the GOP morphs into the party of Trump. They should forgo litmus tests and instead embrace values, creating a space as comfortable for entrepreneurs as it is for social justice activists.
The party should articulate broad goals, not uncontested prescriptions. Instead of embracing socialism, Democrats should argue for a stronger safety net and capitalism that offers opportunity to those who work for wages, not just those with money to invest. Instead of focusing on Medicare for All, they should demand that everyone have access to health care. Instead of a catch-all program like the Green New Deal, they should make the case that only government can adequately address climate change since the free market has failed to do so. Democrats should be the party of ideas, opportunity and compassion. They can work out the details when they’re in the position to implement policy.
Right now, Republicans control the White House, the US Senate, both chambers of the legislature in 30 states, and have 27 governors. The winds, though, are shifting. Traditionally Republican-leaning organizations are uncomfortable with the party. Rank and file members are leaving. Democrats, if they were smart, would give them a place to go and let the battles play out between their left flank and the center left from positions of power, not from deep in the minority.
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 >