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President ObamaMake sure you check out Policy Watch’s main page for the most recent article in the Fitzsimon File, which argues persuasively that President Obama made a bigger impact on North Carolina this year than anyone else, on either side of the political aisle.

On the Republican side, one name was brought up more during the hotly contested U.S. Senate race that dominated the year, than any other and it wasn’t Tillis or Hagan.

Think about it. The Republicans made the election more about Obama than anything happening in North Carolina or anything that Tillis was proposing. They distorted Obama’s record in ad after ad that blasted Democratic Senator Kay Hagan for supporting most of his initiatives. Tillis couldn’t seem to make a public appearance without reminding voters that Hagan voted with Obama “95 percent of the time.”

For progressives, there are so many things Obama did to positively impact the lives of North Carolinians this year.

The national unemployment rate is now below six percent, down significantly from its recession of high of 10 percent. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney pledged on the campaign trail in 2012 to reduce the unemployment rate to below six percent by end of his first four-year-term

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News

voteNew data put out today by Democracy NC found that voter participation was higher in the state for the 2014 midterm election than it was in 2010. In general, voter turnout increased across the board for most subgroups but the most significant increase came from the group of unaffiliated voters. Of the 250,600 more people who voted in the 2014 election, almost two-thirds were Independents. Among Democrats and Republicans, the changes were slight. Even though more Democratic women came out to vote in 2014, Republican men continued to turnout in higher numbers. Since the percentage of party-affiliated voters didn’t change drastically, it certainly seems that Independent vote had a serious impact on the outcome of the election.

According to Bob Hall, director of Democracy NC, “Thom Tillis gained the edge from independent voters, conservative Democrats and the higher turnout of Republican voters,” while “Senator Kay Hagan benefited from the increased turnout of Democratic women and African Americans.”

The African American vote increased by 1.9 percentage points in the midterm election, which Hall credits to the efforts of groups including, Democracy North Carolina, the NC NAACP, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters, who mounted yearlong campaigns to educate voters about the new voting rules.

However, Hall notes that, the increases in voter participation, both within subgroups and overall, aren’t necessarily a cause for joy. He explained that no party or group can be proud of an election where more than half the registered voters did not participate. “The loss of same-day registration cut out at least 20,000 voters,” he said, “and the end of straight-party voting and out-of-precinct voting created long lines and enormous problems that pushed away thousands of more people.”

Democracy NC’s full press release can be read here and voter turnout data can be found here.

News

Voting rightsThere was a good deal of anecdotal evidence during the November election indicating that something was amiss in a lot voting places around the state. Now, sadly, there is damning confirmation in a new report from the watchdogs at Democracy North Carolina. This is from the report summary:

“New voting restrictions and unprepared poll workers kept as many as 50,000 North Carolinians from voting in this fall’s general election, according to an analysis by the elections watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Although most voters reported that casting a ballot was easy and election officials generally responded quickly to fix a broken machine, there is mounting evidence that a shorter early voting period, confusion caused by new election rules, and strong turnout pushed many Election Day polling sites to the breaking point.

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Commentary

voteThe three guest speakers who joined Chris Fitzsimon at today’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon delivered mostly optimistic messages about the long-term electoral prospects for progressives in North Carolina in the years ahead. For a variety of reasons — history, voter attitudes on the issues, improved organizational structures to name a few — Tom Jensen, Carol Teal, and Dan Blue III remain quite positive about the future. (We’ll post a video of the event in the coming days.)

That said, there’s no denying that there were some troubling and discouraging developments on November 4 — both in the elections results themselves and in the frustrating apathy of many potential voters who might have participated. In this vein, a regular NC Policy Watch contributor, Prof. Charles Beem of UNC Pembroke, recently authored the following election post mortem that is decidedly less optimistic.

Troubling takeaways from the election
By Dr. Charles Beem

There are a lot of disturbing takeaways from the recent election results. For progressives, Thom Tillis’ narrow victory and the stronger-than-ever, gerrymandered majorities in the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegations were enough to make one feel as if the energetic Moral Monday protests and organizing efforts of the past couple of years have produced precious little effect.

Perhaps even sadder is the fact that it is clear today that a critical mass of citizens simply do not seem to care who gets elected to public office, while a highly motivated minority, whose hatred of President Obama defies a rational explanation, are the tail wagging the dog of contemporary America.

The day after the election I made the mistake of asking the eighteen students in my World Civilizations class how many of them voted last Tuesday. The answer was none, even though (or perhaps because, in part) North Carolina’s voter repression law had severely circumscribed their ability to vote.

Scary, right? What is even more chilling is that earlier in the semester this same class read the book “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” in which author Thomas Cahill persuasively attributed the fall of the Roman Empire (an empire plagued by structural decay, grave economic disparity between rich and poor, and barbarians at the gates — sound familiar?), to the fact that the Roman people ultimately did not care enough to intervene. Instead, they allowed the affluent to drive their civilization into the ground simply for their own short term economic benefit. Sad to say, not a single student made the critical connection between the lessons of history and their own reality as American citizens. Read More

Commentary

Tickets are going fast for two upcoming NC Policy Watch events that you won’t want to miss.

First is next week’s election post mortem Crucial Conversation: “What happened? Why? What now?” featuring Chris Fitzsimon, Dan Blue III, Tom Jensen and Carol Teal. Here are the details:

When: Wednesday, November 19, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.
Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601
Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.
Click here to register and learn more.

Second is our NC Policy Watch 10th anniversary celebration, which is co-sponsored by North Carolina State Senator Dan Blue, Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon and former Gov. Jim Hunt. Come hear from three of North Carolina’s most important leaders as our state comes to a crossroads after four years of damaging cuts to education and rolling back of progress it took a generation to make.

When: Monday, December 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Stockroom in downtown Raleigh.
(Click here for location information).