Before I plunge into the content of this piece, I want to thank everyone who has read my columns over the years. I have been writing for PoliticsNC for nine years, beginning when Thomas Mills generously allowed me to join his new venture, and with the exception of the relationships I’ve built with family and friends (and dogs), it’s probably the best thing I’ve done with my life. Blair Reeves gave me the incredible opportunity to write for newspapers, which I appreciate beyond words. So, I want to thank express how much it means to me that readers have kept coming back to my columns, especially because my earliest pieces tended toward the polemical.
Okay. Today, I wanted to give readers a sense of where I’m coming from on the basic issues of North Carolina and national politics. My pieces cover a broad range of territory ranging, recently, from toxic masculinity to North Carolina economic history. In light of all this, I thought it might be helpful to get a more fundamental overview of what I think.
- Civil Rights: I believe that rectifying the legacy of racism is the signal calling of American citizens. If we are ever to render our state commitments to Enlightenment ideals more than simple protestations, we need to root out the systemic racism that infects virtually every American institution. America was built on high principle–and heinous cruelty. Without remedying 400 years of racial oppression, our ideals are a fraud.
- Public education: If racism is the greatest evil in American history, ignorance is the second. This is particularly true in our state, which entered the twentieth century with the highest illiteracy rate in the South and, as late as 1960, had the fewest library books in the country. I believe it is a social, economic, and moral imperative that we restore education to its central place in North Carolina’s civic consciousness, replacing the conservative radicalism that has taken its place. I am not as averse to some “school reform” policies as many progressives, but I firmly oppose any effort to shift public money into private schools or to create homogenous “municipal charter schools” in wealthy suburbs.
- Abortion: I am unequivocally pro-choice. I believe efforts to nationalize the female body are oppressive, and that the anti-choice movement is built upon the ancient male impulse to control women. Further, anti-choice ideology lasts only as long as it is convenient. Consider the number of Republican politicians who have pressured their mistresses to obtain abortions rather than deal with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy.
- The rural-urban divide: The growing chasm in social outcomes between the rural and the urban is an American tragedy. It has contributed to the ill will that’s poisoned North Carolina politics and torn our civic fabric apart. While urban areas have boomed (though less so than before Republicans took control), rural areas too often seem to be wasting away. Another tragedy compounding the first is that rural economic revitalization has proven elusive. The solution to this problem is hard to find, but we can start with a New Markets Tax Credit and intense rededication to public schools in rural North Carolina.
- North Carolina’s political trajectory: This one represents one of the most vexing intellectual challenges on my list. There seems to be a divergence between local observers on the ground and national journalists who can’t see past the monochromatic shade of red that colors the state on the presidential map. As for me, I fall somewhere in between. North Carolina is clearly one of the most competitive states in the country. However, “competitive” does not mean “pure-purple.” The state has been proverbially stuck in gear for a decade, voting six points to the right of the national ticket each time. That reflects a clear center-right lean, but other factors, particularly polarized voting by education, could finally turn the state blue. Having said that, in a state teeming with diversity and conflict, no political trend can be predicted with confidence.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.