Every election cycle we hear candidates and partisans call it the “most important election of our lifetime.” Until now, that was hyperbole. This year is truly the most important election of my life, and not because I’m on the ballot.
The choices are stark and clear all the way down the ballot. The presidential race is between a woman who’s been in the political arena her whole life versus a reality TV star who lacks a solid relationship with the truth and has a long, documented history of misogyny. Clinton certainly bears the scars of both partisan fights and self-inflicted wounds, but she’s a public servant who cares about the future of the country. Donald Trump is an egomaniac who clearly cares only about himself.
The governor’s race is between a man who shares political similarities to Clinton but without the personal baggage and a man who has little ideological bearing. Attorney General Roy Cooper has devoted his life to public service and, by most accounts, has been a successful administrator of one of the state’s most important agencies. Governor Pat McCrory is a politician who entered the Governor’s office almost four years ago as a moderate former mayor of a major New South city. Today, he’s fully embraced Trumpism, calling Trump the “best of America,” and rejected the moderation that so many Democrats and Republicans expected from him.
In the Senate race, we finally learned who Richard Burr is. After more than twenty years in Washington, we find out that he’s little more than a political opportunist who plays to his base and enthusiastically embraced Trump’s authoritarianism while easily excusing his misogyny. Deborah Ross, in contrast, grabbed the spotlight and the imagination of progressives across the country. She has the intellect and personality to be a star in Washington. She raised the money and put together the organization to get within striking distance of a sitting US Senator in this most important of swing states.
In the race to succeed Roy Cooper, Josh Stein has put together a standup campaign and would be an attorney general to make North Carolina proud. He’s been a public servant who’s served in the General Assembly and worked in the AG’s office. He knows the job and has the values and temperament North Carolina needs right now. In contrast, Buck Newton represents everything that’s wrong with North Carolina Republicans, playing to peoples’ basest instincts and using dog whistles to attract his base. The difference between these two men couldn’t be greater. Stein represents the North Carolina that once made our state a beacon of progress. Newton represents the ugly values of the South that have plagued our history.
There are other candidates—Dan Blue III, Charles Meeker, Mike Morgan, etc.—who are running strong races and will make great public servants, but the choices in the presidential, gubernatorial, US Senate, and AG races in North Carolina represent the broader struggle in our country. This election is about who we are as a nation and as a state. I can only hope we’ll reject the degenerate values of Donald Trump and those in North Carolina who have so easily and warmly embraced him. As we’ve heard so many say in this election, they are not who we are.