Donald Trump is a master of manipulating one of the most powerful forces in the human consciousness: fear. All master salesmen know how to use the fear of missing out to their advantage. Trump made you feel like your American Dream was being stolen, and he was the only one to protect it from all of those who weren’t looking after you.
Human beings have an inherent, primal response to fear: fight or flight. Not going anywhere, or perhaps stuck in same place, working class people were sick of eight years of Obama, anxious at their prospects, tired of a complicit establishment, and wanting someone to fight for them. Trump gladly obliged and urged Americans to fight back themselves.
At least one man in Fayetteville listened:
Prior to the events this week, I think Trump had a greater than 50% chance of being re-elected. The primary reason was that despite all of his aggravating nonsense on Twitter, he hadn’t made any real policy blunders. The economy is doing just fine, people generally like tax cuts, and Trump hadn’t started a war. In the meantime, Democratic candidates were tripping over their vision for the future, specifically whether they want to annihilate the current health care system and start from scratch. Most of the opposition to another Trump term centered around the man himself, which typically isn’t good enough to defeat a sitting president.
All of that changed with a drone strike in Iraq.
We’re now sending thousands of troops to the middle east to deal with growing unrest, and the Iraqi Parliament asked us to leave the country. In the midst of all this, Trump is threatening escalation against Iran in the form of “disproportionate” attacks, sanctions, and military strikes on “cultural” sites.
I’m going to take a quick detour, because the last one really aggravates me:
Cultural sites are political and religious sites that carry inherent meaning. When you destroy a cultural site, you are wiping away the identify of a group of people and a piece of human history.
Imagine how angry you would be if the Iranian President threatened an attack on the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Rushmore, or the Washington Monument. There’s a reason the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked on 9/11. Trump is advocating the same kind of thing, only in Iran, “cultural sites” often mean places of religious significance.
Americans do not attack cultural or religious sites. It’s a war crime and violates treaties that are decades old. Not even the Nazi’s did that, choosing instead to claim these sites as their own, rather than destroy them.
After the news of the drone strike, we quickly learned that thousands of our neighbors in Fort Bragg were being shipped overseas. Lines to get on base are backing up the All-American Freeway in the morning. It’s more of the same, but it’s still terrifying. “WWIII” and “draft” are trending on Twitter. That’s what happens when your Commander in Chief gets on there and threatens “disproportionate” military action.
Trump is scaring the hell out of America all over again, only the reason for the fear is not Mexicans, or Chinese, or swampy democrats, or crooked Hillary. The reason for the fear is Donald J. Trump. No one knows what he’ll do next as he trips his way through this hornet nest. The political landscape for 2020 is changing under our feet, and it’s not to the President’s advantage.
Maybe Jr. will help in his father’s crusade. It’s now become likely that they’ve got less than a year to finish it.
Cumberland County has long since been carved into congressional districts that run a three-mile drive west. When your geographic voting block is on the flank of a district and cut in half, you lose political power, and hence, importance.
Congressional candidates (all seemingly from the western half of the District) will stop by from time to time if a new road or factory opens or they need money a few weeks before an election, but that’s about it.
This hasn’t been good for those of us that live here. We can’t elect one of our own and we get little attention.
But all that may change next year…
Republican Incumbent, Richard Hudson, was groomed by the G.O.P. to be the 8th District’s Congressman. Robin Hayes held the seat from 1999 to 2009, and Hudson was Hayes’ District Manager for over half of that time. Hudson learned the ins and outs of the District along the way, and he’s never faced a serious challenge since first winning the seat in 2012.
Hudson’s “mentor” has since been indicted for corruption and bribery charges.
As far as I can tell, Hudson’s never had a job outside of Republican politics. He is, however, very effective at touring all of the places where real people work.
Hudson even married inside the beltway. Hudson’s wife is the Chief of Staff for Kellyanne Conway.
Which leads me to Donald J. Trump….which leads to me to 2020, where we find that the 8th District is not quite as safe as it once was for Mr. Hudson.
The District went from “red” to “pink,” as one might say on a farm somewhere in Montgomery County.
Hudson still had a reason to smile after the changes. Pink is better than blue or purple for a guy like him. But after a particular announcement last week, Hudson knows he’s got some serious work to do to hold onto to his seat.
Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson thinks she can win a pink district and has decided to challenge Hudson in 2020.
I think she may be right, and it will all start with her hometown.
2020 will be a referendum on Donald Trump. Democrats are sick and tired and will vote like it.
You’ll also have a highly contentious race for Governor up for grabs.
Roy Cooper will be fighting for his political life. Dan Forrest is a smart, eloquent politician and is going to come after Cooper with a boat-load of money behind him. As a result of these high-profile races, there will be massive turnout.
Cumberland County will show up to the polls in 2020. Just trust me on that.
If Timmons-Goodson does what she should do in her home county and steals enough women voters from Hudson throughout the District, she can flip this seat.
One of my suite mates in Hinton James dorm during my freshman year at Carolina was a Lumbee Indian from Robeson County who was proud of his heritage. He hung Lumbee decorations on the cinder block walls of his room, attended Pow-Wows across the South on weekends, and fought for the recognition of his people at the state and federal level.
At that time, George W. Bush was making the case for an invasion of Iraq, and politics came up more than usual. My suite mate made one fact perfectly clear during our political talks: He hated Jesse Helms with a passion. In 1994, after publicly stating that he supported the Lumbee Tribe’s efforts to gain recognition, Helms had organized a filibuster of a a bill giving the tribe the same federal benefits as other Native Americans. Eight years later, Helms hadn’t been forgiven.
The Lumbee Indians of Robeson County have been a political football in North Carolina for a half-century. Needing votes, Tar Heel politicians pick up this football around election time, only to punt it down the field when push comes to shove.
Nothing has changed.
NC-09’s Recent History
Robeson County has a deep Democratic tradition, but the Republican Party has made headway in recent years. On top of this, Republicans have redrawn Congressional lines to water down the county’s Democratic voting block. In 2014, longtime Robeson County Congressman, Mike McIntyre, retired in the face of a tough re-election bid after his district was redrawn to favor a Republican challenger. Robeson County was without a Democratic congressman for the first time since 1994. It’s remained that way since.
Republicans have held onto the Congressional seat encompassing Robeson, in part, by carrying on the tradition of pandering to the Lumbee Tribe.
A recent case in point is former Republican congressman, Robert Pittenger. A Charlotte businessman, Pittenger began his political career in the North Carolina Senate. He served two terms, then later ran for Lieutenant Governor, losing to Democrat Walter Dalton in the 2008 Obama wave.
In 2011, Pittenger decided to run for Congress. He was elected and seated in 2012 in North Carolina’s Republican-leaning 9th District which surrounded Charlotte (see below in pink). Notice that it’s nowhere near Robeson County in 2012.
Pittenger easily won re-election in a district tailor-made for a suburban Charlotte Republican. In 2014, he was the only Republican candidate for Congress in North Carolina without Democratic opposition.
But his luck didn’t last. The North Carolina districts were ruled unconstitutional and were redrawn for the 2016 election. Pittenger’s 9th district changed dramatically and now included all of Robeson County (below in green):
Quite a different district, as you can see.
So what was Pittenger to do? How would he appeal to constituents in his “new” district that wasn’t rigged to get him elected? Most of them had no idea who he was.
After more than decade in public office, Pittenger developed a strong affinity for the Lumbee Tribe. He introduced the Lumbee Recognition Act in Congress to impress his new constituents. Here’s a photo of Pittenger, Senator Richard Burr, and Congressman Richard Hudson meeting with the Lumbee Chairman in 2017.
Jesse Helms wasn’t around to filibuster this time, so there was rising hope that the Lumbees might finally win. But despite the fact that Pittenger’s party controlled Congress and the Presidency, his bill went nowhere and quickly died in committee. The football was kicked down the field, again.
Pittenger’s pandering didn’t earn him any favors in the 2018 Republican primary, and Pittenger lost to Reverend Mark Harris in a tight race. Harris went on to beat Democrat Dan McCready in one of the closest general election races in the country, but the result was overturned due to Harris’s illegal campaign activity. Here’s a few posts from last year covering that race if you want to re-live all the drama.
As a result of Harris’s illegal activity, we have a special election in NC’s 9th Congressional District in 2019, a “do-over,” if you will. Harris has been replaced by Republican Dan Bishop, who, like Pittenger, is a former North Carolina State Senator from Charlotte.
Bishop Follows Pandering Playbook
McCready v. Bishop 19′ is setting up to be just as close as McCready v. Harris 18′. Here’s a snapshot of one of the latest polls:
So what is Bishop doing to try to pick off Robeson County votes? He’s following his predecessor’s pandering playbook:
Bishop is now sponsoring a bill in the North Carolina Legislature for Lumbee recognition. He took this action three days before he announced his candidacy for Congress.
The bill would give the Lumbee’s governing body the same recognition status granted to municipal governments. Of all of the other pro-Lumbee bills that have gone through the North Carolina Legislature, this is the first bill Bishop has chosen to sponsor. The timing is glaringly suspect, but he’s got an election to win.
So far this year, despite Trump’s lagging approval rating, Bishop has gone all-in and campaigned beside the President.
This raises an interesting political question for 2019: Can a candidate embrace Donald Trump and still pick off Lumbee votes in 2019? Bishop thinks he can, and the reason may surprise you:
Lumbees reversed course and voted with Republicans and Trump in 2016, making national news. Robeson County became a case study in Trump’s successful campaign. Pundits were baffled. There was no good way to explain how Trump won a county by 5 points four years after Obama won it by 17.
However, much has changed since the 2016 election, and the numbers show that 2016 may be less evidence of a trend and more of an anomaly. In 2018, McCready beat Mark Harris by a substantial margin in Robeson County:
I have a very simple theory as to why:
Remember the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville? Trump, in an epic failure of moral leadership, commented that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a modern day Klan Rally.
This issue isn’t going anywhere. A few weeks ago, we had Trump’s latest North Carolina rally in Greenville where thousands of white North Carolinians chanted “send her back” about a minority member of the United States Congress after Trump complained that she didn’t love America. The reaction from national media and members of Congress made it clear that Trump had gone too far.
The chant brought back memories of North Carolina’s racist past:
Dan Bishop was right in the middle of it:
Trump has made it perfectly clear that he is doubling down on his racial rhetoric in an attempt to galvanize working class whites for the 2020 election.
As to why this matters, I have a story for you:
In the late 1950’s, the KKK saw its membership rise after the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education desegregated public schools. Robeson County had a tri-racial population at the time, with African Americans and Lumbee Indians out-numbering whites, so it became a civil rights battleground of sorts.
The KKK burned several crosses in the yards of Lumbee Indians. One of the terrorized Lumbee families had just moved into a “white” neighborhood. The leader of the local KKK group planned a massive rally on a farm in Maxton in order to “put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing.”
The Lumbees didn’t take kindly to this, so a thousand of them decided to do something about it. The ended up outnumbering the Klan, 5-1. Shouting war chants, they stormed the rally, stole the Klan’s cross, and ran the Klan members off the field.
The event made national news. One of the Lumbees was Simon Oxendine, the son of the Mayor of Pembroke, and a World War II Veteran Flight Engineer who took part in the first US raid on Berlin. He was photographed after the battle and featured in Life magazine, smiling with the KKK banner he had captured.
And so, questions remain for Dan Bishop in 2019:
Will the pandering work?
Will the Lumbee Tribe support a staunch conservative who’s gone all-in with Trump?
As a democrat longing for the day when Donald Trump returns to his golden tower on 5th Avenue, this past week got me a little worried.
The worry set in after listening to hours of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN on XM radio in the car on my way to Florida. I digested it all while watching the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. The Trump animatronic only made it worse:
It was a mistake to fall for the obvious trap. After all, these networks make money by getting people riled up. But they had me believing that democrats are going to destroy themselves (and their chances to win) before they ever get a chance to take on Trump next year. The front-runners, pundits claimed, would be so bloodied by left-wing activists that they would have nothing left for the general election battle to come. A democratic house divided against itself was sure to fall! The TRUMP Empire would continue to rule the galaxy!
The imminent doom was reinforced with six more hours of political XM radio on the way home, and it lasted, strangely, right up until the time that I started writing this blog post.
The original title of this post was “Democratic Civil War in 2020?” Then I read what I wrote, came to my senses, deleted it, started over, and came up with my own take instead of a regurgitation of what reporters say on the radio. Here it is:
The democratic field that has emerged for 2020 is the the most diverse in history. We have multiple minorities, women, and an openly gay man in the mix. This diversity is a strength and a liability. The obvious strength is that you’re bringing together a cross section of the American populace under one political tent. The weakness is that the losing sections may be so upset with what they consider defeat that they leave the tent and don’t bother to return until 2024, causing a low-turnout election and a repeat of 2016. Remember all those Bernie voters who didn’t bother to come back out to vote for Hillary Clinton? They may have cost her the election.
When Joe Biden formally entered the race this past week, he became an instant target for the media. According to the pundits, Biden is three things that Democratic voters don’t like anymore:
In addition, they say he’s been around too long and that he represents too much of the old establishment that younger voters reject. They shrug off Biden’s popularity with African Americans in important primary states like South Carolina as “name recognition” or “Obama’s coattails.”
But regardless of what the pundits say, the two old white guys, Bernie and Biden, are currently leading in the betting markets:
Quick political hack: If you want to know who’s really winning a race, look at where people are putting their money instead of what they are telling pollsters.
I tend to agree with those with their money on the line. I don’t think being an old, white male is a liability, even in the democratic party in 2020. In fact, being a minority, homosexual, or female is more of a liability. Trump is a master at exploiting others as “outsiders,” and he’s already beaten one woman. And remember, two of the most important early primaries are South Carolina and Iowa. These states aren’t exactly leading the progressive charge.
The talking heads brought up another (apparent) conundrum facing the democratic field. According to the pundits, Democrats are faced with two disparate options:
Running against Trump, or
Running on Policy.
The argument is that democrats will spend so much time attacking Trump that they will forget to offer a vision for the future worth voting for. Combined with a good economy, this is an apparent recipe for another Trump term.
I got mad at this one. This is an idiotic and false choice because any politician worth being elected to the highest office in the land will be able to do two or more things at once.
The real recipe to beat Trump is simple:
Go toe to toe with Trump and don’t let him bully you.
Offer an economic vision that appeals to all working class people.
Be a decent human being.
The good news is that you can do all three of these things at the same time.
So, ignore the talking heads for now. And rest assured that it in 2019, it’s still o.k. to be old and white and male. But you better look after those that aren’t, or you’ll spend all your time looking over your shoulder while Trump hits you where it hurts.
It makes you wonder why you decided to start a political blog in the first place, especially one that attempts to bridge partisan divides. We aren’t getting any better or closer as a Americans at this moment in history.
But perhaps it will swing back around when we decide to elect people that care more about their country and their office than themselves.
It’s really that simple.
Enjoy the Easter Holiday and a baseball game if you make it out to one.