My home state of North Carolina is ground zero for a lot of things: national elections, Tea Party experiments, anti-LGBTQ discrimination, gerrymandering and voter suppression, to name a few. It’s also known for being host to some of the most important civil rights struggles in history, such as the 1960s sit-in movement and the recent Moral Mondays led by Rev. Dr. William Barber. Despite how it may seem today, North Carolina truly is a purple state.
The Tar Heel State went for Barack Obama in 2008, and until 2010, Democrats had controlled the government for decades. As of today, 39% of registered voters in the state are Democrats, 30 percent are Republican, 30 percent are unaffiliated and 0.5 percent are Libertarian. Yes, a state with Republican supermajorities in both legislative chambers, 10 Republican U.S. representatives out of its total 13, and both U.S. senators from the GOP actually has significantly more registered Democrats than Republicans. I won’t go too far into the disastrous racial gerrymandering that the state legislature enacted in 2011, but here’s a good explainer at Facing South. In short, Republicans, in coordination with a national super PAC, drew maps that packed black voters into a small number of districts, diluting their voting power in the surrounding districts. Numerous courts have struck down these districts as racial gerrymanders, but several cases are still in the appeals process.
In the month before last year’s general election, North Carolina was hit with a devastating hurricane that killed at least 26 of its residents and thousands of livestock, cut power to a million homes, closed more than 600 roads and inflicted severe environmental damage. In November, 50.5% of North Carolina voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump. His opponent Hillary Clinton lost by less than 4 percent. Meanwhile, voters ousted their unpopular GOP governor, Pat McCrory, replacing him with a Democrat who campaigned against the discriminatory bathroom bill and voting restrictions that McCrory and his party championed.
In May, the Trump administration denied North Carolina 99% of the funding it requested to continue fixing the damage from Hurricane Matthew. In response, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a letter to the Trump administration, “I…invite you to visit North Carolina and see the devastating impacts of this disaster first hand. Our citizens and communities are struggling, and will only be able to make a full recovery with the aid of much needed federal assistance.”
Six months after the election, the founder of a popular liberal website that also raises money for Democratic candidates thinks it’s fine to demean people who happen to live in a state that gave its electoral college votes to Trump. On May 11, after the Trump administration denied North Carolina’s funding request, Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas tweeted, “There’s your reward for voting Republican, North Carolina.”
The tweet was immediately attacked on Twitter. Here's my thread in response.
As I reported for Facing South last October, often overlooked are the hindrances to voting that the storm causes in eastern North Carolina, as well as in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The Hurricane displaced many people whose homes were flooded and damaged, hindering their ability to make it to the polls, many of which were shut down anyway. Despite the shuttered polling places in several hard-hit counties, the state board of elections refused to expend the voter registration deadline, and Democrats and voting rights advocates had to sue to make this happen. Even then, county boards of elections didn't provide adequate information letting their residents know about the extension.
What's more, the hurricane hit several majority-black cities and towns, including Princeville, the oldest town incorporated by African Americans in the entire U.S. Several of the counties most damaged by the storm went for Trump by slim margins, and Clinton even won others.
In 2013, North Carolina created what many experts have called the worst voter suppression law in the country, throwing numerous anti-voting provisions into one bill. Many of the provisions, including a voter ID requirement, have been tossed out by the courts, but this multipronged approach to limit voting, particularly in communities of color, surely fueled reduced African-American turnout in the state last year.
In the arena of bashing flood victims, Markos wasn't alone. Unite Blue, an LLC that “works to connect the left with messaging, community building, technology and organizing,” tweeted something similar.
Unite Blue took down the tweet, attributing it to a volunteer, and apologized. Moulitsas appears not to have addressed his shameful Tweet at all.
As Moulitsas and other Clinton diehards rejoice in schadenfreude over a state subject to massive voter suppression that went for Trump by less than four points, they exemplify the same kind of out-of-touch strategy of the 2016 Clinton campaign. If Dems want to win back the House and flip governors' mansions, they need to abandon their disdain for Trump voters and realize that plenty of them, including many independents, could vote for Democrats who try to speak their language. Many of the same Dems who blame Clinton's loss solely on Russia and FBI Director James Comey—but not on her uninspiring and severely lacking platform that they helped create and/or promote—refuse to accept that the “Obama-Trump” voter exists, and that this voter could quite easily, as the GOP inevitably fails her, swing back into blue territory.
During the campaign, Clinton notoriously said that half of Trump supporters could be put in “a basket of deplorables.” While many of his voters are truly terrible people—racist “alt-righters,” neo-Nazis and venomous Islamophobes—the winning candidate needed to win over people who had lost their jobs under Obama, anti-establishment independents and others. Publicly displaying your disdain for a swath of the country isn't exactly a good strategy to court voters who were considering voting for your opponent. This was Clinton's “47 percent” moment.
MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid, a faithful Clintonite, tweeted on May 12 that “almost no one who voted for [Trump] regrets it in the slightest.”
While recent polling shows that most Trump voters still give him high ratings, keep in mind that it hasn’t even been four months. The GOP hasn’t passed any major legislation, and Trump continues to bury himself in reckless acts, blatant lies, an incoherent press strategy and angry, early-morning tweets. But plenty of establishment Democrats are more interested in gloating over the plight of Trump voters than leaving the door open for what will undoubtedly be a growing number of Trump defectors.
And the tide is changing. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Trump’s job approval rating—now at an astounding 36-58—is sinking largely because white voters without college degrees, white men and independents—groups that buoyed him to the presidency—are losing faith. What a great time to mock people in states that went for Trump. SMH.
But distasteful rhetoric about “the other side” isn’t nearly the half of it. The current Democratic establishment is continuing the failed strategies of the Clinton campaign. Last year, instead of courting and listening to rural, working-class voters in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the Clinton campaign took them for granted and ignored them, not only by failing to visit these areas enough but also by refusing to advocate an economic message that adequately addressed the needs of middle- and low-income Americans. Now the reluctance of Tom Perez and the DNC to put money into heated special elections in Kansas and Montana (which the party neglected for weeks until sending over some real cash), for example, continues this trend of ignoring rural, typically deep-red areas in favor of “the Panera Breads of America,” as one former Clinton staffer put it”. They’re wasting chances to boost popular, populist messages that could lead to big gains for Democrats in 2018.
But that would entail, as a party, actually supporting real populist policies. As Bernie Sanders—the most popular politician in America, who’s doing what he can to revive the crumbling party despite waves of backlash against him from Clinton voters still sore from the primary—travels the country advocating for Medicare For All, Sen. Diane Feinstein and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are quick to reject a single-payer health system while Perez won’t endorse Sanders’ approach. This comes despite national polling showing a plurality of residents want a single-payer system “where all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan.” As displayed at raucous town halls in red and blue states alike, likely voters are panning the Republican approach to health care amidst rising costs under Obamacare. Clearly, the only long-term solution to our international embarrassment of a health care system is a universal one that cuts out the inefficient, for-profit insurance industry. But Democratic insiders, who could lay the necessary groundwork right now, somehow can’t sign on.
From Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment and insiders’ Tweets to an ossifying policy platform, the liberal establishment has failed. If the Democrats, instead of mocking middle- and lower-income voters, spent their time honestly trying to appeal to them, they could achieve some real success and plausibly avoid embodying the elitist label that Republicans have given them.
Broad attacks on groups of potential voters and timid, neoliberal policies need to end. Real populism, not Trump’s fake, nativist excuse for populism, will win in this country if enough liberals will get on board. People shouldn’t put up with this any more. The health of our government and our bodies can’t afford it.