No, I haven’t been sniffing old gym socks or smoking rabbit tobacco, but man, I sure do miss me some Jesse Helms.
OK, I sniffed one once, but that has nothing to do with what I’m fixing to say: After this week’s U.S. Senate election in which one candidate presented himself as something he wasn’t and the other tried not to present herself as what she was, we should all yearn for the days when candidates proudly sailed under their own flag.
That’s why I miss Jesse, aka “Sen. No.” Now, that was one dude about whom voters never had to guess where he stood. He had the courage to be wrong – and he usually was. Despite that, it is inconceivable that we would have ever seen the late Sen. No boasting of being recognized as the nation’s most moderate senator, as though fence-straddling is a virtue.
It’s not, and one hopes Democrats now realize that it’ll become an Olympic sport before it becomes a political asset.
My colleague, the estimable Rob Christensen, wrote an insightful column this week lamenting what he called “remote control” campaigns, run out of Washington by “young political operatives” with minimal knowledge of North Carolina.
My guess? Most of them couldn’t find Rockingham if you drove ’em all the way to Hamlet and said “Head west on 74.”
Speaking of Rockingham, as kids we thought it was the height of hilarity to call Quick’s Grill on the telephone and ask “Do y’all have pig’s feet?”
Yes? “Well, keep on your shoes and nobody’ll notice.” Click.
I’ll bet you one of those succulent, spicy, pickled pig’s feet that Mr. Quick used to keep next to the jar of never-eaten pickled eggs in front of the cardboard beer sign that it was one of those remote-control consultant teams that told Hagan: “Stay away from that Obama fella and nobody’ll notice – that you’re a Democrat, that you’re a liberal, that you actually stand for something.”
No doubt, Obama’s presence here would’ve energized some Hagan opponents, but it would also have propelled her constituents to the polls. As it was, lots of voters know a “dis” when they see one, and it was crystal clear that the president, after six years of being disrespected by Republicans, was now being disrespected by a Democratic incumbent who – despite owing her election to his coattails – was now treating him like a snaggle-toothed, bald-headed stepchild with tetter or ringworm.
The entire blame for the loss can’t be placed on Hagan’s affliction with B.O.A. – Blatant Obama Avoidance – though. Jarvis Hall, associate professor of political science at N.C. Central University, told me that nationally, “it was a Republican year going in, especially in terms of the map for the Senate. It was theirs for the taking and they took it.”
Of Hagan’s decision to dissociate herself from the president, Hall said, “I think it was a real mistake, especially if you’re relying upon turnout. It wasn’t a matter of persuading voters. Most of the voters had made up their minds, so it was a matter of getting the people ... out to the polls.
“If you’re relying on the base of the Democratic Party, a large part of which is the black electorate, then the best way to mobilize that base, to get it excited, would’ve been to bring in the big guy.”
Hall said he hasn’t seen any instances where a candidate running away from a president worked, “going back to Al Gore distancing himself from Clinton.”
You reckon those wonky political operatives who sold Hagan that self-destructive advice will refund some of her money?
If so, I’ll give her some real good political advice – and it’ll only cost her a pig’s foot and a bottle of beer.