Jenkins: Standing firm against a groundswell

jim.jenkins@newsobserver.comSeptember 19, 2013 

I’ve always been skeptical when a politician jumps in the race for governor or senator or town council for that matter and in his opening remarks, says something like, “I had no intention of seeking office, and was perfectly happy in my job and with my family. But then I started to hear from friends and from other people I respect. They told me, ‘The state (or country, or district, or city) needs people like you.’

“And so, my friends, I decided I could not ignore them. I decided that despite the fact that I’m not a politician, this was a calling I had to answer. So today, against my own instincts but for the good of the state (or city, or district, or country) I am announcing my candidacy.”

After all that, one gets the feeling the new reluctant candidate believes he should not even have to face the indignity of a vote, and that he should be carried into office in one of those regal chairs with elephants in front and giraffes behind as the people line the streets chanting: “Thank you, o great one, for running even though you didn’t want to. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Let us, friends, offer a more accurate interpretation of the candidate’s remarks. “I had no intention” means, “I didn’t want a thing to do with government, but I figured if I ran it would get me out of the house and away from my teenager, who scares me.” And “started to hear from people” means, “Mama called and wanted us for supper Sunday and I hope she and my wife don’t get into it again.” Then, “needs people like you” is another phrase for, “at least you’re probably not smart enough to mess everything up.”

Yes, yes, this is a skeptical view that’s come about after nearly 40 years in a business where one deals with the political class almost on a daily basis. It should be said that the cynical stereotypes don’t apply to all.

But last week, in a flash, I realized that perhaps I’ve been mistaken all along.

For this I owe the perspective of an N&O letter writer who will remain anonymous today. The scribe wrote a two-sentence letter criticizing a previous column on Gov. Pat McCrory. The writer said, “In his Sept. 5 column, ‘Not much progress in standing Pat,’ Jim Jenkins lectures and reproves Gov. Pat McCrory, ad infinitum, on how to be a good governor. So why doesn’t Jenkins run for governor himself since he’s such a know-it-all?”

Now some who are not as experienced at reading political smoke signals as I might think, “This person is making fun of me and is angry that I was critical of Gov. McCrory.” But in fact, this perceptive reader clearly wants to be in on the ground floor of something big.

Truth is, I just couldn’t come up with a sound answer for the question that was posed. Clearly, it constitutes the beginnings of that phase in a political season where a constituent is encouraging someone to run for office. I now can say, “People have talked to me about running.” The reader wants me in the race, and probably represents the views of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of North Carolinians who feel likewise.

Frankly the way things have been going, it’s easy to see why this type of groundswell might be starting. (My advice, hold on to a solid piece of furniture, and just wait for the tremors from the groundswell to pass.)

After all, whenever an incumbent seeks re-election, there are some voters looking for a candidate who is the opposite of the current governor. I am not, for example, a former mayor of Charlotte. In fact, I haven’t been to Charlotte lately. Come to think of it, I don’t know that I could find Charlotte even with a map.

I’m not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. That’s got to be an attractive non-combination to a lot of people.

I have actually mingled with Moral Monday marchers. You’ll recall the governor said he had, then backed up a little. I really did mingle with them, and tea partyers, too. But when I mingled with tea partyers, I was just on my way to get a diet Mountain Dew. I didn’t want to have to clarify that later.

And, with a little help, I make a nice chocolate chip cookie. (The cookies the governor gave to protesters, you recall, were returned. Mine would not be returned, as I would wrap dollar bills around them.)

At this point, this is all just exploratory. I sense the groundswell, and those faint noises I hear sound like the horses dragging the bandwagon. And I understand at the Players Retreat, my regular Thursday night gang is organizing fundraising efforts.

Right, fellas?


Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at

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