Primer: North Carolina Might Be the Future of U.S. Politics and Other Things You Need to Know Today | News

Primer: North Carolina Might Be the Future of U.S. Politics and Other Things You Need to Know Today


Morning, folks. There’s a lot of ground to cover today. I’ll do so as expeditiously as possible. Let’s begin.


THE GIST: Jason Zengerle is out with a piece in The New York Times Magazine this week that poses something of an unsettling question: “Is North Carolina the Future of American Politics?” It leads with the Air Horn Orchestra—the INDY’s former managing editor, Grayson Haver Currin, and partner-in-rabble-rousing Tina Haver Currin get a shoutout—shutting down and then reconvening to protest Governor Cooper’s HB 2 compromise. But the bulk of the story centers of the notion that, here, “all the passions and pathologies of American politics writ large are played out writ small—and with even more intensity.”
  • Nut graph: “What really distinguishes North Carolina is that, unlike deep red Kansas or Texas, it is a quintessentially purple state. Its voters are almost evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliateds. … The schisms within its electorate, like the national divisions they broadly resemble, fall between its cities and its rural areas, between a reverence for its past and a plan for its future. ‘That’s what contributes to the meanness and paralysis of North Carolina politics,’ says Mac McCorkle, a former Democratic political consultant who’s now a public-policy professor at Duke. ‘If it was clear it was an overwhelmingly Republican state, Republicans would be more relaxed. You might even see more progressive policies happen, like they do sometimes in more clear-cut red states like South Carolina or Tennessee. But we’re so closely pitted, everything’s a battle.’”
  • Money quote: “It’s more polarized and more acrimonious than I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some pretty acrimonious politics. I worked for Jesse Helms.” —Carter Wrenn, GOP political consultant.
WHAT IT MEANS: The story is worth reading in its entirety, though I don’t know that it tells us anything about our state government we don’t already know. Still, it’s undeniable that the same sort of structures that predominate here—a closely divided electorate, an urban-rural split, politics-as-tribalism—are taking shape on the national stage.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR ROY COOPER: I found this sentence insightful: “It is Cooper’s misfortune to have finally arrived at his apparent destiny—his once-youthful face now wizened, his Lego-like helmet of hair streaked with gray—in a political climate that does not have much use for the sort of cautious, consensus-seeking governor he has spent his life preparing to be.”


THE GIST: The state budget has been out for a day now—the Senate already voted last night to approve it—which means we’re getting a closer look at its innards. And among those innards is news that the budget axes funding for legal aid organizations, which help poor people gain access to the courts. It’s not a lot of money—just $1.7 million out of a $23 billion budget, funded by a $1.50 court filing fee. But it means that potentially thousands of poor North Carolinians will go without access to legal representation.
  • From The Charlotte Observer’s editorial board: “It’s a cut of only 5-6 percent of their total budgets, but legal-aid offices had already seen this pool of money slashed from $6 million to under $2 million in recent years. This finishes the job, and it comes just as President Donald Trump proposes cutting federal money to these same agencies—which would be an even bigger blow.”
Other things to note:
WHAT IT MEANS: It’s not at all clear why the legislature did this. This money, a rounding error in the grand scheme, funds the only avenue many low-income people have to obtain representation in civil court to, for instance, seek benefits from the VA or fight a greedy landlord. Soon it will be gone.

Related: The NRA is pushing to eliminate concealed carry permits in North Carolina.


THE GIST: Via Talking Points Memo, the Century Foundation is out with an interactive map—drawing on data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center for American Progress—showing how each state would be affected by the American Health Care Act. North Carolina is classified as a “high” coverage-loss state. Here’s why:
  • 492,014 marketplace enrollees will have higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • 1.787 million Medicaid enrollees will lose benefits and coverage.
  • 4.7 million people will pay more for employer coverage.
  • 1.2 million Medicare enrollees will pay higher premiums.
WHAT IT MEANS: The AHCA that passed the House isn’t necessarily the one that will pass the Senate. That bill is being negotiated behind closed doors, with a vote planned for next week. But the contours will be the same: slashing Medicaid and less generous tax credits for older and lower-income Americans, coupled with state waivers for essential health benefits and lifetime caps, to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.

Related: Through higher premiums, the middle class will suffer if President Trump follows through on his threat to eliminate payments that lower out-of-pocket medical expenses for six million low-income Americans.


THE GIST: The Washington Post is out with an interesting scoop about Trump’s plans for housing programs. In short, his proposed budget calls for reducing funding for programs that help the poor and homeless, except for one: a subsidy to private landlords.
  • Nut graph: “One of those landlords is Trump himself, who earns millions of dollars each year as a part-owner of Starrett City, the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex. Trump’s 4 percent stake in the Brooklyn complex earned him at least $5 million between January of last year and April 15, according to his recent financial disclosure.”
In other Trump news: The FBI is looking at whether far-right sites like Breitbart and Infowars played a role in Russian cyber ops.

Related: Michael Flynn had access to top-secret information even after intelligence operatives became convinced he was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.


Following a closely watched and hugely expensive special election, Republican Karen Handel narrowly fended off an upset to Democrat Jon Ossoff, 52–48, in the solidly GOP Georgia Sixth, which the Republicans carried by 23 points seven months ago. Still, along with a much-closer-than-expected defeat in South Carolina last night, this makes Democrats 0 for 4 in congressional special elections in 2017.

WHAT IT MEANS: Democrats pinned their hopes on this suburban Atlanta district in the belief that affluent white GOP leaners would be so disgusted with Trump that they backed the Democratic candidate. Despite $25 million in outside money, Ossoff couldn’t make it happen. So Democrats can claim another moral victory: like the other close special elections, this should have been an easy Republican win. Still, it has to leave Democrats wondering when moral victories will turn into the kind that matter.

WHAT'S NEXT: Expect a million hot takes about what this augers for the Democratic Party—whether the GOP’s effort to link centrist candidates like Ossoff to the hated Nancy Pelosi will prove insurmountable in red districts; whether Ossoff, who eschewed anything liberal, didn’t sufficiently stoke the kind of populist fire you need to win—but it bears mention that these elections, all fought on GOP turf, have all come amid a solid economy and without an international crisis. A lot can and will change between now and November 2018, but Republicans shouldn’t see Handle’s squeaker as anything other than a temporary reprieve.


Primer this week is sponsored by the Raleigh Flyers, the Triangle’s professional Ultimate Disc team. On Saturday night, they’ll take on the Jacksonville Cannons in their final home game of the regular season. Click the image below to purchase your tickets today.

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