Sure they have debased themselves and degraded our democracy through their scurrilous attacks and shallow debates. But that’s the game and they’re just players.
Compared with the beyond the pale figures who might be president, our candidates for higher office in North Carolina seem like the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. Governor Pat McCrory and his challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, as well as Senator Richard Burr and his opponent, Deborah Ross, are all good, smart people. They have and will honor us with their service.
Unfortunately, none of them will be in a position to take charge and lead if elected. On the current chess board of politics, North Carolina’s governor and its U.S. senators are not would-be queens or even bishops, but pawns.
In response, voters should think strategically, focusing more on the message their ballots will send and the larger interests they might serve. This approach makes Cooper an appealing choice, even to Republicans. Yes, he is a liberal who will push for higher taxes and more regulation. But he is not a fire-breathing leftist like his Democrat brethren who are plunging California, Illinois and New York toward bankruptcy.
Any harm he might do will be limited by the best reason to vote for him – the rigged political system our GOP leaders have engineered through gerrymandering. It seems likely that Republicans will hold on to their veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly despite the fact we are a 50-50 purple state.
The best way to protest this undemocratic chicanery – and give official voice to half our citizenry – is by electing Cooper. Republicans should hope his election will also galvanize the push for a less political redistricting process because, rest assured, Democrats will be just as ruthless if they hold the reins after the 2020 census.
Logic may dictate support for Cooper, but I not only understand but feel the emotion that may lead many to say the heck with principle and vote for McCrory. He is a decent man who has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous smears from his political and media opponents. The relentless effort by cynical scaremongers to cast him as a modern-day George Wallace is, ironically, straight out of the Democrat playbook that led to the coup in Wilmington in 1898 and the codification of Jim Crow soon after. The donkey is a leopard that doesn’t change its spots.
That’s also why Richard Burr must be returned to the Senate. It’s true that, like his predecessors Kay Hagan and Elizabeth Dole, as well as his current Senate colleague Thom Tillis, Burr has been all but invisible in Washington. That’s the nature of the Senate whose members are instruments conducted by party leaders. Except in rare cases, such as Jesse Helms, voters are endorsing a party rather than a platform.
As it becomes increasingly likely that Hillary Clinton – one of the least accomplished and most corrupt people to ever seek the highest office - will be our next president, it is vital that we have a strong counterweight in place.
The administrative state which the president directs largely by fiat is already more powerful than Congress. As Obama has demonstrated with his phone and his pen, repudiation of one’s party and policies at the polls has become a bump in the road that can barely slow the march of rules dictated by the IRS, FEC, EPA and other bodies and agencies.
Clinton’s power will only be amplified by her ability to change the balance of the Supreme Court which she sees as another tool for advancing her agenda.
If we’ve learned one thing during these last eight years it is that left-wing Democrats are eager to cede ever more congressional authority to unelected bodies that will carry out their wishes.
Deborah Ross will be a reliable vote for the effort to reduce our government into a single branch.
Democratic control of the Senate would also blunt most investigations. Given Clinton’s history, I would hope that her fair-minded supporters recognize the special need for oversight.
Truth be told, despite the immense challenges our state and country face, this is far from the most important election of our lifetime. No one is offering the fundamental change we need. The best we can do is choose the right players even if we’re stuck with the wrong game.
Contributing columnist J. Peder Zane can be reached at jpederzane @jpederzane.com.