Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Picking - and Picking on - Charlotte

by Gary Pearce
(visit TalkingAboutPolitics, published by Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn

Over the past few weeks, a stream of state and national reporters asked essentially the same question: "Was it a mistake for Democrats to come to Charlotte?"

Let’s set aside the existential question of whether it’s ever a mistake to come to Charlotte – especially when you could go to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta or, like the Republicans, Florida in hurricane season.

The reporters always raise the same problems: unions are unhappy, North Carolina is a tough state for Obama, Governor Perdue didn’t run again, Republicans are on the rise, the state Democratic Party is a mess, etc.

All true. But it’s still a good idea to come to Charlotte.

Holding a convention in Charlotte is a major political and historical statement for Democrats.

Years ago, when I was working for Governor Hunt, we didn’t think we would EVER want the national Democratic convention in North Carolina. We ran away from the national party as hard as we could.

More important, not so many years ago, no one in North Carolina imagined that said convention would re-nominate a President who is African-American.

For Democrats, a Charlotte convention plants a flag in what used to be safe Republican territory.

For North Carolinians, whatever your politics or party, it’s saying: "We’ve come a long way, baby."

Even more, North Carolinians of all political persuasions should like what a Charlotte convention means in the long run: Our votes for President count.

America has a Presidential election that, every year, is decided in no more than a dozen states.  The other 38 get ignored. 

We got ignored too, until President Obama put us in play in 2008. That’s why the convention is here. That’s why candidates and surrogates parade through here continuously. That’s why you see so many competing and contradictory TV spots (which may not be such a blessing).

But it’s nice to matter. It’s good to have a voice. Let’s hope it stays that way.

And here’s some advice for those purist Democrats who object to Charlotte because North Carolina has a low level of unionization, or because the state banned gay marriages and civil unions, or whatever perception pains them: Get over it.

If Democrats can expand the presidential playing field by competing in North Carolina, that’s a good thing for this year – and years to come.

Welcome, indeed, to Charlotte.