When I look at the registration numbers in legislative districts under the Republican redistricting and then look at the margins in the 2012, everything I know about politics tells me that Democrats can’t take back the General Assembly in 2014. For me, numbers don’t lie.
And yet when I read the comments on this blog and the comments on Facebook by people regretting their Republican vote, I start to wonder. And when I look at the emotion and anger in the crowds at Moral Monday, I see a level of engagement I don’t recognize. When I read about large crowds organizing in towns outside the Triangle, I can’t help but get a glimmer of hope.
There is a recipe for victory in 2014, but it means the electorate, at least for one election cycle, reacts differently than it has in the past. The perfect storm is a highly motivated Democratic base, a demoralized Republican base and a usually conservative-leaning independent electorate voting against Republican overreach. Instead of nationalizing the off-year election, it becomes state centric.
The electorate in 2014 will be much smaller than 2012. Only 45% or so of registered voters will show up. Higher turnout by one party or the other can make a huge difference, particularly in close races.
The Democratic base is coming. They are organizing now and they’re pissed. Anger is a powerful motivating factor. Democratic women and African-Americans, in particular, feel they are under attack. If they vote in droves, they could have a huge impact.
Moderate Republicans don’t seem to be jumping for joy right now. Newspapers that endorsed McCrory and other Republicans are having buyers’ remorse. Most Republican families who have a member working in public schools are either staying home on Election Day or voting Democratic. From a national level, Republicans are increasingly looking like the party of obstruction and if they shut down the government, Katie bar the door, because the only people rooting for them will be their shrinking Tea Party base.
But the independents are the key. In North Carolina, they’ve always been a conservative lot. But a lot of the issues that got pushed through the legislature had little to do with ideology but showed a striking lack of common sense. Even strong supporters of the Second Amendment don’t think guns belong in bars. And most of the independents are strong supporters of the public schools. They might just vote for a return to sanity.
Finally, the economy matters. North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation. If it’s still there, or even 6th, 7th or 8th, then Republicans have failed to do the job they were elected to do in the first place. Independents might fire their Republican legislators in hopes of getting better results, but they will have to do it in large numbers, not narrow margins.
For Democrats to take back the legislature in 2014 will take a perfect storm. Given the gerrymandering, it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened in politics. It’s certainly worth the fight.
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 >