Viewpoint

N.C. Democrats must veer back to the middle to win

From Tom Campbell, a former assistant state treasurer and host of NC SPIN, a statewide television talk show:

Jim Graham, our late Commissioner of Agriculture, used to entertain audiences by braying like a mule, explaining that the mule was not only the symbol of the Democratic Party but also a reminder of our roots as an agricultural state. Democrats have been braying a lot recently, and for all the good its done them they might as well have been braying at the moon.

After a century of being in charge of N.C. government, Democrats despair at being relegated to the backbenches. But enough of the whining already. It’s time Democrats owned their shortcomings, remembered their roots and started speaking out forcefully for what they believe.

Both political parties have strayed from their raisin’s. Over the past half century they’ve been hijacked and no longer advocate for everyone, instead becoming mouthpieces for certain ones. The GOP shifted far right to champion big corporations, the wealthy and elite. Democrats veered far left to cheerlead the causes of minorities, women and unions.

I wouldn’t for one moment suggest that Democrats turn their backs on these groups, but they do need to decide if they are more than just evangelists for them.

If the Democrats’ goal is to win elections and regain power, they have work to do. They must stop fighting each other and quit “killing the messengers” who proclaim their liberal left shift and insist they return to their more moderate and centrist roots. To win, they must recapture white males and unaffiliated voters. They won’t attract them so long as they are so far left of center.

N.C. Democrats between the 1930s and 1960s were “progressive centrists.” They were fiscal conservatives who believed in personal, corporate and government accountability and responsibility. They stood firm for fairness, a level playing field and the common good. Democrats advocated growth, opportunity and a way up for all, espousing working middle class values, because these were the folks who made up the backbone, the majority in our state and nation.

Democrats were also progressives in recognizing that government had a role in improving our lives. They advocated better public schools, wholesome work environments, public safety and the infrastructure that would benefit all. These Democrats demanded their government functioned effectively and be accountable. They were skeptical of big government, big business and big anything, neither supporting high taxes nor unnecessary government interference in their affairs. They believed in giving people a hand up but never intended that help to become unending handouts for anyone.

So what happened to these Democrats? Instead of whining about what they’ve lost, why shouldn’t the Democratic Party return to its roots?

Are there any traditional Democrats remaining in North Carolina?

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