• 68°

D.G. Martin: How NC can learn from Alabama’s special election

Writer

D.G. Martin

What could we North Carolinians learn about ourselves when we sort out the results of the Dec. 12 Alabama special U.S. Senate election?

Nothing, you say. We are not like Alabama. They are Deep South. We are mid-South. They are mired in their George Wallace “stuck in the mud” tradition while we North Carolinians have thrived in our Terry Sanford “New South” progressive tradition.

Not so fast.

Remember when those traditions clashed in 1972? Wallace and Sanford faced each other in the Democratic presidential primary in North Carolina. Wallace beat Sanford by more than 100,000 votes, effectively ending Sanford’s presidential bid.

But you say that was a long time ago.

It was, but if given the same choice even today, many of today’s North Carolinians would choose Wallace over Sanford.

And, today, if they had the opportunity, they would join their brothers and sisters in Alabama and vote for the Wallace clone, Republican Roy Moore, rather than Democrat Doug Jones, the Sanford stand-in.

Almost certainly, Alabama has a greater percentage of people in the Moore-Wallace camp than North Carolina has. But the significant presence of such voters presents a formidable challenge to Democratic candidates in both states.

In recent years, meeting that challenge has been virtually impossible in Alabama and almost as difficult in North Carolina.  To give Democrats a chance to beat a Moore-Wallace candidate in Alabama or in North Carolina, Democrats must take on some tough tasks.

First, inspire, mobilize, and get to the polls hard-core Democrats, including liberals, African Americans, pro-choice advocates, those concerned for the poor and downtrodden, and the poor and downtrodden themselves. If they go to the polls, they would be reliable Democratic voters, all. But to get them there requires well-organized registration and election-day efforts.

Be prepared to cut off or minimize diversions from this core support group. In 1972, third party candidate U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm, an African-American from Brooklyn, garnered about 60,000 votes. Almost all of them would have gone to Sanford if Chisholm had not been in the race.

In Alabama, people disgusted with Moore need a message that makes them angry enough to believe they have a public duty to vote against him.

Being angry might not be enough to motivate some of these people. In addition to the anger with a Moore-Wallace type of candidate, some will demand a positive message to show how the alternative is really going to make a difference.

Secondly, find ways to discourage people who would vote for a Wallace-Moore candidate from going to the polls. Dampen their enthusiasm with constant reminders of the Republican candidate’s sins and inconsistencies. Roy Moore’s alleged misconduct seemed to present a God-given opportunity to discourage more voters from voting for him. But Alabama Democrats’ difficulty in exploiting Moore’s weaknesses shows that this task is not always easy.

Thirdly, find an appeal to conservative and moderate voters who generally vote Republican, but are concerned about what the election of a candidate like Roy Moore would do to their state. These potential supporters need assurances that their vote for a Democrat will not elect someone who is going to push a far-left agenda. The trick is to accomplish this objective without pulling the rug out from under the core Democrats whose enthusiasm, election-day work, and votes are critical.

If the Doug Jones campaign finds a way to win by mobilizing the Democratic base, discouraging Moore supporters from voting, and finding ways to appeal to moderates and conservatives who usually vote Republican, North Carolina Democrats will have a model to follow in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Today’s guest is Tim Tyson, author of “The Blood of Emmett Till,” which was just named one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017.

Comments

BREAKING NEWS

Kannapolis Police searching for suspect who fled scene of homicide

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

Nation/World

Sikh community calls for gun reforms after FedEx shooting

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight

Crime

Gastonia man sentenced for crash into restaurant that killed his daughter, daughter-in-law

Nation/World

Some call for charges after video of police shooting 13-year-old in Chicago

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 5.2% in March

Coronavirus

NASCAR approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

News

Judge rejects Cherokee challenge against new casino in Kings Mountain

Elections

Jackson tops NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Local

Kiwanis Pancake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity