I want to take a point of personal privilege here and get a few things straight.
I don’t hate Randy Voller. On personal level, I like the guy. I’ve known him for years, but I am as angry at him as I’ve been at anyone over politics. For me, watching the destruction of the party is painful.
The North Carolina Democratic Party has been part of my life since I was born. It’s part of my family’s lore. My father served as vice-chair of the Anson County Democratic Party and had a gun pulled on him at a rural precinct in the early 1960s when the county parties were charged with ensuring that African-Americans were allowed to vote. As a District Court and later Superior Court Judge, he ran on the Democratic ticket for more than 25 years. His brother, my uncle, served in both the state senate and state house during the 1950s and 1960s.
For many years, I never missed a precinct meeting because I was taught that was part of my civic responsibility. I’ve served as a precinct vice-chair and chair. I was Third Vice-chair of the Cleveland County Democratic Party. I stopped participating as regularly when I started making my living from campaigns. It’s hard to stay neutral in a primary when one candidate is your client.
And staying neutral, in both issues and primaries, is essential to the successful operation of a big tent party. The function of the State Party was always to elect Democrats of all stripes, from the Mike McIntyres to the Mel Watts of the party. The role of party chair was to serve as the face of the party without embarrassing or alienating any faction within it. The chair was also to serve as the bridge between the party activists, both donors and rank-and-file, and elected officials.
Now, two chairs in a row have brought national embarrassment to the party and made clear that there is a progressive litmus test for candidates. They’ve run off the donors, fired the the most competent and experienced staff and empowered a small group of wing-nuts who attack the press as liars and our top elected officials as DINOs. As one leading conservative said in an email to me yesterday, “This Voller guy is a godsend to the GOP…”
Drunk with the illusion of power, Voller and his minions can’t or won’t see the damage they’ve done. I yearn for a time when leaders would put the party ahead of themselves. I’m not sure we will see those days again.