December 30, 2016–In a year in which Democrats lost the White House and loosened their grip on governors’ mansions from 31 to 33 in Republican control, according to the New York Times (12/5/2016), the experience of one state stands out. In North Carolina in 2016, Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in a pivotal and closely-contested election.
North Carolina is a divided state along partisan lines. The turnover in the Governor’s office, although not the State Legislature, shines a ray of hope for Democrats in an otherwise bleak election year. Liberals and activists fought so hard against the conservative McCrory through his entire term that inauguration day on January 7th will mark a milestone for Democrats in North Carolina, in the larger South, and nationally. The turnover of power reminds Democrats nationally in the United States that hope for the future remains viable for their party despite the loss of the Presidency to the Republican, Donald Trump, in a bitter national election.

Democrat Roy Cooper in a campaign photo

Writing on The Guardian website (UK: London, 12/20/2016), Richard Wolffe is wrong to discount the significance of the results in North Carolina for Democrats nationally, and in fact for Democrats’ faith in American democracy itself. He argues that due to Republicans chipping away at the appointment powers of incoming Governor Cooper in North Carolina, after the election, that somehow the basic fact of the hand-over from Republican to Democrat in that Governor’s office is substantially less meaningful. I disagree. While the Republicans are definitely being cheap in reducing some of the incoming Governor’s power, the Governor still has the authority to defend or drop state support for the voter ID law, for example, that McCrory stood behind so adamantly. Wolffe makes much hay of the voter ID laws across the South in his commentary, also, in which he disparages the state of democracy in America, centrally, after Trump’s victory via Electoral College, but not in the popular vote.
The voter ID law probably will have its days numbered in the federal courts after Democrat Roy Cooper’s win in North Carolina. Unlike Wolffe’s view that the experience in North Carolina is insignificant, even somehow part of the bleak record for Democrats nationally in 2016, I would argue that North Carolina’s watershed moment in the State and in the broader South gives Democrats sorely-needed hope and relief in an otherwise-difficult year.
If it is possible to have accomplished such a tremendously important triumph in North Carolina, it is still possible to accomplish the same on the national level in the future. All is not lost for Democrats since Donald Trump is taking the White House on January 20th. Look at North Carolina. There is still hope for Democrats in the future in the United States of America, and the prospects for American democracy itself are still good, not faltering.

–Nicholas Patti


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