A couple of days ago, a group of North Carolinians went to meet with Sens. Burr and Tillis to try to convince them to support Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. They came away angry and disappointed, as the 45-minute meeting failed to convince either of the two Republicans to support Lynch’s nomination.

Who were these North Carolinians? They were all members of the NC NAACP, and led by Rev. William Barber. When the meeting was over, Barber sought the press and said the senators’ refusal to support Lynch were backed by explanations that were “weak, bogus, and deeply partisan.”

Clearly, the state of North Carolina is losing out by not being represented by an independent, non-partisan like the good reverend. And then came the thought: Democrats are looking for someone to challenge Richard Burr in 2016; why not Barber? As the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee for North Carolina in 2016, Barber will have a much wider audience for his concerns about Burr’s performance. As crazy as this idea seems, there are actually a couple non-weak, non-bogus reasons to envision Barber as the perfect Democratic candidate. Here are some of them:

1. Aggression. Barber is the leading bomb-thrower of the NC Democrats and if he’s the nominee he won’t have any problem tearing Burr apart. By the time Barber is finished with him, Burr will be painted as the second coming of Bull Connor. Given our senior senator’s anonymity, he’s very vulnerable to an aggressive Democratic campaign that will define him first. In addition, many Democrats have expressed their desire for a candidate who will run on a purely progressive platform – bold colors, not pastels. Regardless of one’s view of Barber, one thing he will never be criticized for is timidity. As the Democrat nominee, he would take it to Burr and wouldn’t shrink from a fight.

2. It’d be an easier lift. Right now, Barber and co. are focused on taking back the General Assembly. This is a very lofty goal, and while one must admire Barber’s boldness, the fact of the matter is that it would take the equivalent of a political earthquake for the Democrats to take back the legislature. The Moral Monday movement did not achieve its desired results; while it it energized liberals across the state and especially in the Triangle, it had almost no discernible effect on the election results. Republicans even gained a seat in the State Senate. This had a lot to do with the Republican wave at the national level, but no matter what the national climate is, taking back the General Assembly would be very difficult.

Going against Burr would be an easier task, even if Barber might be an underdog. Unlike legislators in the General Assembly, Burr’s not sitting pretty in a gerrymandered district. Instead, his district is the entire state of North Carolina. To be sure, Barber is concentrating a lot of effort on ousting Burr in 2016 – as his recent visit indicates – but there could be benefit in taking on an even bigger role in the campaign. It could very well be his ticket to a U.S. Senate seat.

3. The black vote. Democrats need an energized African American vote to win statewide. What better way to do that than with a black nominee? While other African American officeholders have expressed interest in the race, Barber brings things to the table that they don’t. His ability to energize the black vote, as well as the white liberal vote, is just another point in his favor.

4. Name recognition. When PPP polled on him back in August 2013, Barber was already known by 54% of voters. This number, if anything, has probably grown since then. Besides Kay Hagan, he may well be the best-known potential candidate. Heck, he might even be better-known than Burr. Not bad for a minister from Goldsboro. Which brings me to my next point …

5. Religiosity. Democrats tend to shy away from religious language, often to their detriment, especially in a state like North Carolina with a lot of evangelical voters. Not so with Barber: he constantly couches his rhetoric in religious terms. He makes it clear that morality has a place in today’s political discourse, and the GOP has none of it. He definitely won’t cede the moral ground to the Republicans, and as a Christian minister it will be quite difficult to paint him as hostile to religion. Any reiteration of the ‘Godless’ ad run by the Burr campaign would rightly be seen as silly and desperate.

In a Burr/Barber contest, Burr would be the favorite. But he’s the favorite right now in any case. Why not take a chance and go with the reverend? While it’s true the Moral Monday movement has thus far been unsuccessful at stemming the conservative tide of the state legislature, when Democrats were feeling down in the dumps in 2013, Barber appeared on the scene and energized them like no one before. He was there for them in their time of need. It’s time for Democrats to be there for Rev. Barber and encourage him to run for U.S. Senate in 2016.


  1. mark

    Because that is not Reverend Barber’s place. If he wants to be a player in the leftisit progressive playground he needs to mind his place. That is what Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have done and they were rewarded. If reverend Barber steps out of line he will be dealt with just like others before him.

  2. Jimmy Rouse

    Rev Barber is a natural and would beat Burr by 10 points minimum. Starbucks could be the local HQ in each town. I’m excited. What a way to energize the base.

    Let’s light this rocket.

  3. LayintheSmakDown

    I think this is a great idea! If they run him it would certainly be the best way to get Burr back in office. I say go for it.

    • Nona

      Yeah, it would be a great way to get Burr back in office — to clean it out. Go for it indeed. Senator Barber 2016!

      • LayintheSmakDown

        Yeah, no way that would happen. Plus, they don’t have an office big enough for Bully.

  4. Dwight Willis

    I admire and appreciate Dr. Barber and the Moral Movement. He is an extraordinary leader and spokesman. His oratory is comparable to Dr. King’s. However, I don’t think that he could physically handle the rigor of such an exhausting statewide race. I think someone like Cal Cunningham could beat Senator Burr.

  5. libby

    He would never get it period. There is a difference in addressing issues and doing so with civility..he has no real ability to reach across the Isle and that is exactly what it would take. There is a difference in filling a seat having a title and actually getting things done. The first place you need to start is G. K. Butterfield and his seat. These people need term limits so that new blood can get in and work with zeal behind them.

  6. Progressive Wing

    Take heart, Leslie. Saying that Morale Mondays are a failure is just a bad habit, whether it’s said by conservatives (who just seem to have a need to repeat fallacies to fit their world view) or by others who may have other reasons…..

  7. Leslie Boyd

    The Moral Monday Movement did not flop! The African-American turnout reflected the percentages of the state’s population, and it raised the issues that needed to be brought up. Here in Buncombe County, NC, we sent two Republicans packing — one of whom was slated to become speaker.
    And I am not sure Rev. Barber wants to go to Washington. He has been adamant about our movement being states-based, since that’s where so many of the laws are being changed. However, if he were to run, I would work my butt off for him.

    • Will

      They did not flop in that they did what they designed to do: bring attention to an issue. However the activists who attached themselves to the cause failed in that they did not translate that attention into greater engagement. I would also argue that they gave the base a false sense of security. I heard many people say that they didn’t need to go get involved because moral Monday proved that the state had ‘woken up’. None of that is Barber’s fault. I disagree with him on a number of issues and tone but I don’t doubt his sincerity or what a great job he did doing his part.

    • Jimmy Rouse

      Moral Monday elected Thom Gillis. That was Moral Monday’s statement.

      • Lex

        Uh, no, Moral Mondays did not elect Thom Tillis. Crappy Democratic turnout elected Thom Tillis. But, hey, I’m a Republican, so what do I know?

  8. NCnewcomer

    David, please cite your sources. Starting with your connection to Hillary Clinton.

  9. NCnewcomer

    It’s a moot point, Dr. Barber is unaffiliated.

  10. David Moore

    You overestimate the effectiveness of the NC NAACP. In fact, looking at the dismal turnout of the black community at the moral Monday protests the final results would be horrible.

  11. Apply Liberally

    Thanks for the suggestion, John. And really, why shouldn’t Dems take the advice of a partisan Republican blogger re: who they should nominate for US Senate?
    In that same spirit, allow me, an unabashed liberal, to make a suggestion, too? I nominate Molotov Mitchell to oppose Burr in a GOP primary for the Senate seat!
    Molotov has campaign experience, is beloved by your party’s fringe, gun-loving elements, could possibly wrestle away the Tea Party endorsement, and, let’s face it, always makes interesting statements and headlines compared to the incredibly boring Burr.
    Mind passing along this idea to your party’s powerbrokers?

    • Kevin Flanagan

      Molotov should run against Burr, I’m also an unabashed Liberal, and would relish the thought. Stock up on popcorn! Liberals on this thread should google “Drinking Liberally Raleigh” Come join us!

    • Eilene

      Apply Liberally… I’ve seen Thomas give advice to the Republicans, so why not at least hear John out? It’s not like we have to do what he says, it’s just another view point. Lighten up. It actually isn’t the worst idea, really.

      • Apply Liberally

        Eilene: I did “hear John out.” Yes, Thomas gives advice to the right, and John can give it to the left—it’s his blog. Pretty sure both of them know such suggestions will be ignored. I did not put down at all the notion of Barber running. If you think I did, please cite my words to that effect. And I offered my own candidate suggestion in turn. Lighten up.

  12. Kevin Flanagan

    I love the work that Rev Barber is doing, but I am opposed to any one with a collar serving in public office. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t be likely to be less religiously motivated than the GOP, but it’s a matter of principle.

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