What Boris Johnson Can Teach Democrats

To many Americans, especially Democrats, Boris Johnson is a clownish British version of former President Trump. But Democrats might take a page from Johnson, especially on how to talk to people.

The party is going through self-analysis now. Yes, President Biden beat Trump and Democrats won a 50-50 split in the Senate. But they’d hoped to do much better; they want to get to the bottom of why the bottom fell out on their high hopes.

Democrats being Democrats, they think they need a stronger economic-policy message – and the right set of policy proposals.

Not so fast. There’s a reason most people avoid economics classes in school. Economics is boring. Economic policy proposals are boring.

Americans want specifics, but they yearn for hope and optimism. They’re listening more for tone: confidence, strength and persistence. They want to hear music, not just read lyrics.

Boris Johnson gets it. He says his goal as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is “to recapture some of the energy and optimism that this country used to have.”

Democrats could use more energy and optimism – and less hectoring and lecturing.

Biden and Boris

Johnson’s style is analyzed in a new article in The Atlantic, “The Minister of Chaos: Boris Johnson knows exactly what he’s doing,” by Tom McTague. He wrote of Johnson, “To him, the point of politics—and life—is not to squabble over facts; it’s to offer people a story they can believe in.”

Johnson led the Brexit “Leave” campaign in 2016, just before Trump won the Presidency. McTague notes that the “two campaigns looked similar on the surface—populist, nationalist, anti-establishment.”

But Johnson’s story isn’t the same as Trump’s “American carnage.” Johnson says the UK, contrary to “claims of impending disaster…is a great and remarkable and interesting country in its own right’.”

Johnson is a former journalist. He knows the power of words. He says, “People live by narrative. Human beings are creatures of the imagination.”

The article added:

“Johnson understands the art of politics better than his critics and rivals do. He is right that his is a battle to write the national story, and that this requires offering people hope and agency, a sense of optimism and pride in place. He has shown that he is a master at finding the story voters want to hear.”

Writing the national story is the challenge Democrats face. Studying the UK makes sense; we share a mother tongue.

At this month’s G7 meeting in Cornwall, England, there was much talk about the “special relationship” between the US and the UK. There also has been, over the last 40 years, a rhythmic relationship between the two nation’s politics.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, both conservatives, came to power at the same time. So did New Democrat Bill Clinton and New Labour Tony Blair. Then came Trump and Johnson. Now Biden and Johnson.

Despite their parallels, Johnson isn’t a Trump clone. At the G7 meetings, he and President Biden agreed on climate change, women’s rights, sanctions against Russia and a middle-class economic agenda. Johnson’s compared Biden’s infrastructure bill to his promise of “leveling up” the economically struggling north of England with the more prosperous south.

He said, “When it comes to building back better, we’re totally on the same page. It’s been very interesting and very refreshing.”

As Democrats struggle to tell their story in today’s divided America, they might study how Johnson tells his. Sometimes he might be a clown. But sometimes clowns are on to something. And given today’s angry politics, it wouldn’t hurt to laugh and lighten up a bit.


Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/07/boris-johnson-minister-of-chaos/619010/

How Democrats Win NC Senate Races

Can a Democrat win the race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina next year?

History isn’t encouraging. Since the two-party era began in 1972, Democrats have won only four of 17 U.S. Senate elections here – a puny .235 batting average.

Let’s look at the lessons those four wins might hold for 2022.

The first win was in 1974, when then-Attorney General Robert Morgan was elected to succeed retiring Senator Sam Ervin.

That was the Watergate year. President Nixon resigned in August; Republicans got routed in November. Only one Republican was left in the 50-member state Senate. Morgan won almost 62% of the vote.


Lesson One: Pick a good year to run.

After that, a Democrat didn’t win for a dozen years.

In 1986, former Governor and Duke University President Terry Sanford beat Jim Broyhill, a long-time congressman and furniture heir. Broyhill had been appointed to succeed John East, who resigned because of poor health and later committed suicide.

Like 1974, 1986 was a good year for Democrats. President Reagan was enmeshed in the Iran-Contra scandal. It was Reagan’s second mid-term election; historically, those are good for the opposition party.

Sanford was a respected senior statesman – and a savvy campaigner. When Republicans called him soft on defense, he put on his World War II paratrooper jacket and campaigned in a helicopter. He won 52-48%.

Lesson Two: Pick a strong candidate. And remember Lesson One.

The next win came another 12 years later, in 1998. John Edwards beat Lauch Faircloth, who had beaten Sanford in 1992.

Edwards was a fresh face, a newcomer to politics who had spent his legal career representing victims of accidents and malpractice. Edwards was good on TV and willing to spend millions of dollars of his own money putting himself on TV.


Faircloth was showing his age. He ducked debates and joint appearances. Edwards was the perfect contrast. He ran as a Washington outsider who would fight for North Carolinians, not take money from lobbyists and avoid politics as usual.

It was President Clinton’s second mid-term, and it was the year of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Clinton’s impeachment. But Republicans overplayed their hand. They made the election about Clinton’s lies and sex life, not about the country.

Edwards won in an upset, 51-47%.

Lesson Three: Pick a weak opponent. And remember Lessons One and Two.

The final victory, 10 years later, was Kay Hagan in 2008 over incumbent Elizabeth Dole. Dole had been elected to succeed Helms in 2002.

Hagan was a popular and respected legislator and Greensboro civic leader. She picked a good year; Barack Obama carried North Carolina for President and helped elect Bev Perdue Governor.

Dole was hurt by independent ads suggesting she was too old for the job. She hurt herself by running an ad that suggested Hagan didn’t believe in God.

Hagan won comfortably, 52-44%.

Lesson Four: Pick the rare good year when the Democratic presidential candidate runs strong here. And remember Lessons One, Two and Three.

The 2022 race comes 14 years after Democrats’ last win. It will be a midterm election. Neither President Biden nor former President Trump will be on the ballot. But their records will be, for better or worse.

It will be a rare open-seat race, with no incumbent running.

In a year like that, you can’t do anything about the national political winds. You have to take what comes.

You can’t pick your opponent, although you can weaken him or her.

You can only pick your best candidate, run your best campaign and hope for the best.


Election links for 1974, 1986, 1998 and 2008:





One-Party Control = Campus Chaos

The School of Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill fostered North Carolina’s tradition of great newspapers, reporters and editors. Now it fosters a debate engulfing the school, the entire university and journalism itself.

The debate flows from one-party control of universities’ boards of trustees.

UNC-CH trustees refused to grant tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was offered a Knight Chair in Investigative Journalism. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Black journalist who led The New York Times 1619 examination of slavery in America. Both previous Knight Chairs, who were White, were tenured.

Each university’s Board of Trustees has 13 members. Before December 2016, the UNC Board of Governors elected eight trustees and the Governor appointed four. Each student body president is the 13th member.

Then Democrat Roy Cooper was elected Governor in November 2016. The next month, the Republican-majority legislature hurriedly passed – and outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed – a bill stripping the governor of trustees’ appointments.

The legislation gave the Governor’s appointments to the General Assembly, two elected by the House and two by the Senate. The legislature also selects all members of the Board of Governors – and always has.

So now, directly or indirectly, the legislature appoints all trustees.

According to research by a UNC alum, who asked not to be named, here’s a breakdown of the Board of Governors’ 25 members: 20 are male (80%), 21 are White (84%), 20 are Republicans (80%), four are Unaffiliated and one is a Democrat.

Of the UNC-CH Board of Trustees’ 13 members, 11 are male (84%), 12 are White (92%), seven are Republicans (53.8%), two are Unaffiliated (15.3%) and four are Democrats (30.8%).

The alum wrote me:

“More diversity on the board could theoretically rein in some of the craziness over there. Or would at least ensure that other perspectives are included before they do something.”

More diversity might also help keep strong women leaders.

First Margaret Spellings left as President of the UNC system. She had been Education Secretary for George W. Bush, but wasn’t conservative enough for the Board of Governors. Then Carol Folt was forced out as UNC-CH chancellor after she took a strong stand for removing the Silent Sam monument.

Dean King and Hussman

Will today’s controversy jeopardize Susan King, the dean of the journalism school since 2012?

John Drescher reported in The Assembly digital magazine that the man the journalism school was named for in 2019 – Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – emailed King and other UNC-CH leaders last December about Hannah-Jones:

“I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project…. Based on her own words, many will conclude she is trying to push an agenda, and they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it.”

Drescher wrote that the pushback from Hussman, who pledged $25 million to the school, “underscores issues about donor influence at the university, which is increasingly reliant on major gifts in light of mandated tuition freezes and minimal legislative-funding increases.”

Drescher, a graduate of the journalism school, is former executive editor of The News & Observer and a former editor at The Washington Post.

He wrote that a debate is raging between journalists like Hussman, “an evangelist of old-school objectivity,” and “a growing number, including many younger journalists, (who) see objectivity as a trap.”

Hannah-Jones put it this way in an NPR podcast:

“(W)hen white Americans say to me, ‘I just want factual reporting,’ what they’re saying to me is they want reporting from a white perspective … with a white normative view, and that simply has never been objective.”

The journalism school is the right place for that debate. But can the school survive the debate?


A personal note

My mother, Rebecca Parker Pearce Dickerson, died last week. She was 92.

After she and my father married, he was a printer and she was a proofreader at a newspaper in Murfreesboro, NC. Years later, she worked at Edwards & Broughton Printing Company in Raleigh as a proofreader and at the N.C. Department of Commerce as a statistical aide and proofreader.

She loved to read – books, magazines, newspapers, anything. To the day she died, she delighted in spotting a mistake in spelling or grammar.

I’ll always have her sharp eye looking over my shoulder.


Board of trustee appointments: https://catalog.unc.edu/about/unc-system/#:~:text=Each%20institution%20has%20a%20board,body%2C%20who%20serves%20ex%20officio.

Drescher article: https://www.theassemblync.com/long-form/nikole-hannah-jones-a-mega-donor-and-the-future-of-journalism/

Hannah-Jones podcast: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/09/873172499/the-debate-over-objectivity-in-journalism

Race Defines NC Politics – Again

A national political reporter recently asked me how I would explain North Carolina politics to a class of college students.

“One word,” I told him: “Race.”

It has always been about race. It still is.

The latest front is the battle at UNC-Chapel Hill over tenure for a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Conservatives cloak their objections to her in academic robes. But they dislike Nikole Hannah-Jones, a UNC alumna and New York Times reporter, because she produced “The 1619 Project” about slavery’s impact on America.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

As with conservative complaints about public schools teaching “critical race theory,” opposition to her is aimed at stifling uncomfortable discussions about history – and stirring political passions.

The 1619 Project goes to an inescapable and fundamental contradiction in American history: Our great nation is the only one founded on a set of ideals: freedom, liberty and equality. Yet, our nation was also built on the cruel, ugly brutality of human slavery.

Our Constitution was designed to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Yet, it also protected slavery.

Thomas Jefferson wrote eloquently in our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” Yet, Jefferson owned slaves and fathered children by an enslaved woman. Four of our first five Presidents – George Washington, Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe – owned slaves.

Slavery caused secession and the Civil War.

This tension between the ideals of 1776 and the reality of 1619 – and its impact on our history – is worth studying.

But powerful forces in North Carolina don’t want that study: the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, the John Locke Foundation and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. The latter two are creations of conservative megadonor Art Pope, who sits on the UNC Board of Governors. The ultimate opposition to Hannah-Jones, some at UNC believe, comes from Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

This is nothing new in North Carolina politics.

The right of Blacks to vote – and white opposition to that right – dominated the decades after the Civil War. The white supremacy campaign at the end of the 19th Century disenfranchised Blacks for 60 years. The civil rights movement in the 1960s led to the rise of the Republican Party and, ultimately, to today’s politics.

Race has infused modern campaigns since Willis Smith’s “White People Wake Up” campaign against Frank Porter Graham in 1950. Graham was President of UNC.

Conservatives have always resented the university; they think it turns too many young men and women into liberals. That’s why the General Assembly passed the infamous Speaker Ban Law in 1963.

Jesse Helms, who had a hand in the Willis Smith campaign, editorialized on television in the 1960s against alleged communists at UNC and against civil rights. Race-baiting helped him win five U.S. Senate campaigns. When Jim Hunt challenged him in 1984, Helms filibustered (unsuccessfully) against the national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since 2011, the conservative majority in North Carolina’s legislature has pursued a voter ID law that one court said targeted Blacks with “almost surgical precision.”

Now, the targets are “critical race theory” and the 1619 Project.

Growing up in North Carolina and working in politics, I’ve seen this over and over all my life. But I’m hopeful.

Last week, 1,619 UNC-CH alums signed a newspaper ad protesting the handling of Hannah-Jones’s tenure. More than 90% of them graduated after 1990.

They, like many young North Carolinians today, are free of the prejudices of older generations. They’re committed to a fair and just society.

They’re stepping up. They’re ready to move North Carolina forward, not backward.

More power to them.


Smith campaign flyer: https://www.ncpedia.org/sites/default/files/images/enc/IS-18.png)

1950 campaign: https://www.ncpedia.org/smith-graham-senate-race

Poll Finds Cracks in Trump’s Base

When Carter Wrenn says Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is slipping, I listen.

Carter and I have fought on different sides of North Carolina’s political wars for years, most notably the Jim Hunt-Jesse Helms Senate race in 1984. Despite that bitter campaign and our political differences, we’ve become friends.

Carter is smart, tough and experienced. Above all, he’s blunt and candid; he calls them like he sees them.

Now, Carter is challenging the conventional wisdom that the Republican Party is Trump’s party.

He recently did a national poll with John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. Carter wrote:

“When a candidate’s popularity begins to wane it’s seldom like a titanic crash – it’s more like watching a row of dominoes fall: People who once said ‘He’s great’ roll downhill saying ‘He’s okay;’ people who used to shrug ‘He’s okay’ roll downhill saying ‘I no longer like him.’ That’s what’s happening to Donald Trump.”

Here were Trump’s numbers among Republican voters last October in a New York Times/Siena College poll: very favorable, 77; somewhat favorable, 15; unfavorable, 6.

Here were Trump’s numbers this April in Carter’s poll: very favorable, 58; somewhat favorable, 27; unfavorable, 13.

Carter and me

Carter wrote, “Trump’s ‘base’ – very favorable Republicans who say ‘He’s great’ – dropped by 19 points, from 77% to 58% – a 25% drop.”

He added, “That erosion, which ties to disapproval of Trump’s personality, is significant.”

What happens if Trump runs for President in 2024? The poll found that “44% of the primary voters said they’d vote for Trump – but 56% didn’t. And that’s not set in stone. Trump may decline more. Or rebound.”

Further. the poll found:

“Trump opposing a candidate in a Republican primary does not appear to matter a great deal to Republican primary voters. 50% said Trump opposing a candidate makes no difference to them. 26% said they would be more likely to vote against a candidate Trump opposes; 24% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate Trump opposes – a margin of only 2 points.”

Trump would face even bigger problems in November 2024. Carter says, “Trump’s Republican ‘base’ is not large enough to elect him in 2024. To defeat Biden, Trump needs to win a majority of Independents.”

But the poll found that 55% of Independents are unfavorable to Trump; 44% are “very unfavorable.” Only 37% are favorable.

That’s not just a challenge in November; 29% of Republican primary voters are Independents.

The poll traced Trump’s negatives to his personality – “exaggerating, bragging, bullying, lying.” The big problem is the “Big Lie” – Trump’s claim he won the election and it was stolen from him.

Carter’s poll asked if voters agree or disagree that “Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election.” Most Republicans, 64%, agreed. But 23% disagreed. Democrats disagreed by 93%-6%. Most important, Independents disagreed by 61%-27%, more than 2-to-1.

This isn’t the only bad poll for Trump. The Washington Post reported that the National Republican Congressional Committee’s recent polling in core battleground districts found that “Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones…. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.”

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who has stood up to Trump over the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, said NRCC staffers left out that finding when they briefed a party retreat in April.

Republican leaders are in denial – about the election, the January 6 riot and, now, Trump’s polls. If his poll numbers keep going down, will Republicans go down with him?


Link to Carter’s blog: https://talkingaboutpolitics.com/a-poll-about-trump/#.YKJ1LahKiM8

Link to poll: https://boltonsuperpac.com/pdfs/crostabs_04202021.pdf

Washington Post story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cheney-trump-mccarthy-republicans/2021/05/08/12e6c41e-adcf-11eb-acd3-24b44a57093a_story.html

Can Democrats Do the 2022 Math?

North Carolina Democrats want to change the U.S. Senate math in 2022. But is their problem math or English?

In 1990, Harvey Gantt lost the Senate race to Jesse Helms by 100,000 votes. Afterward, a Democratic consultant assured me: “North Carolina’s demographics are changing. We’ll win next time.”

Gantt in 1990

Thirty years later, Cal Cunningham lost the Senate race to Thom Tillis – again, by 100,000 votes.

The electorate definitely has changed. In 1990, 2 million people voted. In 2020, 5.5 million voted.

The percentages have changed. Gantt lost by 5%; Cunningham, by 1.7%.

But the outcome was the same. In fact, Democrats have lost nine of 11 Senate races since 1990.

Demographics haven’t changed Democrats’ destiny.

North Carolina is growing fast. We added nearly a million people between 2010 and 2020, from 9.5 million to 10.4 million, a 9.5% growth rate. We’re one of just six states that will get another congressional seat.

Many of the new people are urban, college-educated, younger, and racially and culturally diverse – more likely to be Democratic voters.

But many people moving here obviously aren’t voting Democratic. Many are older retirees, or military retirees. Many left other states because of high taxes.

There are still many rural, religious, conservative white voters. In both 2016 and 2020, the Trump turnout surprised Democratic pollsters.

James Carville, the sharp-tongued Democratic warhorse, thinks the problem is language. In a scathing interview with Vox, he said, “Wokeness is a problem, and we all know it.” Democrats are guilty of “faculty lounge language”:

“You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people? They come up with a word like “Latinx” that no one else uses. Or they use a phrase like ‘communities of color.’ I don’t know anyone who speaks like that. I don’t know anyone who lives in a ‘community of color.’ I know lots of white and Black and brown people and they all live in … neighborhoods.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with these phrases. But this is not how people talk. This is not how voters talk. And doing it anyway is a signal that you’re talking one language and the people you want to vote for you are speaking another language.”

He added, “And maybe tweeting that we should abolish the police isn’t the smartest thing to do.”

In an essay, “The Bitter Heartland,” Clinton Administration veteran William A. Galston says “social conservatives and white Christians” – that is, Trump voters – feel a powerful resentment toward political and cultural liberalism.


“They have a sense of displacement in a country they once dominated. Immigrants, minorities, non-Christians, even atheists have taken center stage, forcing them to the margins of American life.

“They believe we (liberals) have a powerful desire for moral coercion. We tell them how to behave — and, worse, how to think. When they complain, we accuse them of racism and xenophobia….

“They believe we hold them in contempt.

“Finally, they think we are hypocrites. We claim to support free speech — until someone says something we don’t like. We claim to oppose violence — unless it serves a cause we approve of. We claim to defend the Constitution — except for the Second Amendment. We support tolerance, inclusion, and social justice — except for people like them.”

Carville concedes, “Democrats are never going to win a majority of these voters….  But the difference between getting beat 80-20 and 72-28 is all the difference in the world.”

For their 2022 homework, Democrats should study both math and messaging.


Carville interview: https://www.vox.com/22338417/james-carville-democratic-party-biden-100-days

Galston essay: https://www.americanpurpose.com/articles/the-bitter-heartland/

Mercedes Drove NC to Incentives

Once upon a time, North Carolina didn’t believe in big incentive deals to entice big companies here.

Then came Mercedes-Benz. Or, actually, didn’t come.

It was 1993. Mercedes was looking to put a $300 million, 1,500-jobs SUV manufacturing plant in the U.S. Thirty states put in bids. It came down to three finalists – North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama.

Governor Jim Hunt had just begun his third term. He had been a champion industry-hunter in his first terms, 1977-1985. When he ran again in 1992, he promised to put the state on top of the game again. He put on a full-court press for Mercedes.

The Governor thought North Carolina had an edge in workforce training and education. He convinced the legislature to enact limited incentives, like tax credits and local economic-development financing.

But he said in April, “We’re not going to give away the store. I’ve considered, and rejected, more sweeping measures that other states routinely offer, such as tax abatements and free land. I just don’t believe such measures are necessary at this point.”

He was optimistic. He flew to Detroit to meet Mercedes’s chairman. Hunt said the executive “didn’t want to talk about the cost of labor, free land, infrastructure or tax abatement. He wanted to talk about the quality of North Carolina’s workforce.”

Then, in September, Mercedes made its pick: Alabama.

Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama

Alabama had offered a financial-incentive deal three to five times bigger than North Carolina’s $109 million. Mercedes got a 25-year corporate tax holiday and a tax break to help pay for the plant’s construction. And that was just part of the deal.

Some 28 years later, the auto industry is a major part of Alabama’s industrial base.  The state is a national industry leader, poised to play a key role in the expansion of electric-powered vehicle production.

After the 1993 decision, Governor Hunt put out a statement that began, “Well, you win some and you lose some.” He said, “we did not feel that North Carolina should offer those kind of tax abatements.”

He was more pointed privately: “Mercedes told us it wasn’t about the money. But, in fact, it was about the money.”

Legend has it that one of the state’s economic recruiters took a hammer and smashed a toy Mercedes car.

After Mercedes, Governor Hunt decided that North Carolina needed to be more aggressive with incentives if we wanted to out-recruit other states.

We got more aggressive, as the Apple announcement last month showed. Apple got the state’s biggest incentive deal ever, almost a billion dollars over 40 years.

Today, as in 1993, offering incentives is controversial. It’s one of those rare issues that unites critics on the right and left – and provides common ground for pragmatists.

I’ve always thought that critics of incentives should be prepared to say precisely which companies and which jobs they don’t want North Carolinians to have.

It’s easy to criticize incentives in theory. It’s hard to turn away good jobs that pay well and that offer families and communities a better future.


More on Apple: “Apple incentives are the largest in NC history. Here’s how the deal breaks down”: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article250945394.html

More on the Alabama plant:

“Electric vehicles are important to Alabama’s auto industry.” https://www.al.com/opinion/2021/05/electric-vehicles-are-important-to-alabamas-auto-industry.html

“Big Incentives Won Alabama A Piece of the Auto Industry.” Excerpt: “In 1993, Alabama persuaded Mercedes-Benz to build its first U.S. auto plant here by offering the luxury-car maker $253 million worth of incentives — $169,000 for every job Mercedes promised the state. Taxpayers considered the deal such a boondoggle that they voted Gov. Jim Folsom out of office long before the first Mercedes sport-utility vehicle rolled off the new assembly line in 1997. Today, the deal looks a little more like a bargain — suggesting that the controversial practice of spending millions of taxpayer dollars to lure big employers can sometimes have a big payoff.”   https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB1017784548687093560







Apple Brings Good News – and Seeds of Hope

Apple brought Democrats and Republicans happily together – and maybe sowed the seeds for more bipartisan cooperation.

When the big Apple news was announced two weeks ago, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Democratic legislative leaders stood beside Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore on the grounds of the Executive Mansion.

Everybody smiled. Everybody celebrated Apple’s plans to invest $1 billion in North Carolina over 10 years, including $552 million to establish a campus in Research Triangle Park with 3,000 jobs paying an average of $187,000 a year.

At his State of the State speech, Cooper said, “In yet another tremendous accomplishment for our state, today we stood together and announced that Apple has chosen North Carolina for its first new campus and engineering hub in the United States in more than 20 years.”

There were, to be sure, dueling narratives.

Senator Berger said it was “a testament to the success” of Republican fiscal policies like big cuts in corporate taxes.

Governor Cooper said Apple values “diversity and inclusion.” He said CEO Tim Cook told him that repeal of House Bill 2, the 2016 “bathroom bill,” was “important in their decision making.”

Berger said that “never came up” in his conversations with Apple.

He and Speaker Moore said it was just coincidence that they had both quashed bills targeting transgender individuals. And they didn’t kill them quietly. They went out of their way to do it publicly.

Berger maintained, “It had nothing to do with Apple.”

Whatever the reason, give Berger and Moore credit. They did the right thing.

Give Cooper credit. He could have hogged the stage. Instead, he shared it.

Give them all credit for working together and crafting an incentives package that brought in Apple. It amounts to $845.8 million over 39 years.

Three years ago, it looked like North Carolina had missed its bite at Apple. But the Cooper administration kept talking to the company. The administration and the legislature worked together to write the incentive package into law.

Staffers for both, usually sworn enemies, traded compliments at the end.

With Apple, we saw a picture you don’t see in other Southern states these days: The Governor and legislative leaders, Democrats and Republicans, Blacks and Whites – and Machelle Sanders, a former life-sciences executive who is the first Black Commerce Secretary – standing together

State Sen. Dan Blue called it a celebration of an “ecosystem” that has transformed the Triangle and North Carolina.

That ecosystem goes back to Archie Davis, who pushed the crazy idea of building a Research Triangle Park in the wooded wilderness bounded by Duke University, N.C. State and UNC.

Back to Governor Terry Sanford, who persuaded the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to put the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in RTP in the 1960s.

Back to Governor Jim Hunt, who created a state Biotechnology Center and a Microelectronics Center in the late 1970s and early 1980s so North Carolina could compete for the industries of the future.

North Carolina used to call itself “the vale of humility between two mountains of conceit,” Virginia and South Carolina. Then, in the latter part of the 20th Century, we surged ahead of the South and nation.

Since 2010, we’ve been locked in partisan, ideological warfare. Progressives feared the legislature was making us another South Carolina or Mississippi.

Maybe the Apple announcement – and the work behind it – will usher in new spirit of bipartisanship and progress.

Surely, that spirit will be tested soon. There’s redistricting, voter ID and the budget.

But it’s spring. And hope springs eternal.

Will NC Get Real on Climate Change?

When I think about climate change, I think about my brother-in-law Tillman.

Tillman spent his career with Big Oil. He travelled the world finding places to drill, baby, drill. He’s now comfortably retired in Dallas, Texas. And he’s a Republican.

You may suspect he’s a climate-change denier.


Tillman has a PhD in geology from UNC. He’s smart and studious. Some years back, he delved into a study of climate change.

Like most geologists, he concluded it’s real – so real he tells his eight grandchildren that the family’s vacation home on North Carolina’s Outer Banks may be gone when they’re his age. “Act now,” he writes, “to slow the change and preserve this wonderful place.”

The question is whether we – the world, the nation and North Carolina – will get real about fighting climate change.

In North Carolina, environmentalists want Governor Roy Cooper to join Virginia and 10 other states to our north in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, like “Reggie”). The other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Under RGGI, a power plant has to buy an allowance for each ton of carbon dioxide pollution it emits into the atmosphere. Allowances can be bought and sold in a regional auction, which helps to keep costs down. The number of available allowances is reduced over time to reduce pollution.

Duke Energy’s Roxboro plant

The goal: reducing carbon emissions from power plants 70% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Advocates say RGGI is North Carolina’s least expensive and most efficient option – and the only action the Governor can take without the legislature. They fear the legislature will let Duke Energy adopt a less ambitious carbon-reduction plan.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Clean Air Carolina and the North Carolina Coastal Federation, has petitioned the state Environmental Management Commission to adopt rules so North Carolina can join RGGI:

“The threat to North Carolina from global climate change is real, it is present, and it is getting worse…. Sea levels have risen and continue to rise. Extreme precipitation has become more common and will be even more common in the future. The intensity of hurricanes and the frequency of other severe storms will increase. Flooding will increase, but so too will droughts and wildfires. Each of these changes will hit our most vulnerable residents hardest. Unabated, climate change will exact substantial costs on our environment, our economy, and the lives of all North Carolinians.”

President Biden has set an ambitious national goal: an overall 50% reduction in emissions from power plants and transportation by 2030. Joining RGGI would jibe with Biden’s goal and allow North Carolina to do our part, environmentalists say.

The New York Times said Biden’s plan “would require rapid and sweeping changes to virtually every corner of the nation’s economy, transforming the way Americans drive to work, heat their homes and operate their factories.”

Polls show that Americans, especially young people, believe climate change is real and that real action is needed. Yet, there is a stubborn resistance, much like the resistance to masks and Covid vaccines.

Climate-change deniers rely on scare tactics, not science. They claimed Biden’s climate plan cuts “90% of red meat from our diets by 2030.”

No, it doesn’t.

Biden framed his plan not as cutbacks and restrictions, but as an economic engine. He said it would create “millions of good-paying, middle-class, union jobs” – building a resilient electrical grid, cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells and abandoned coal mines, building electric vehicles, installing charging stations and building clean-power plants.

And maybe saving the Outer Banks.


SELC’s full petition to the EMC and DEQ. Go to page 89 for an overview of how the climate crisis harms North Carolina. https://files.nc.gov/ncoah/documents/Rules/Petitions/2021-01-11-Environmental-Management-Commission-Petiton-for-Rulemaking-with-Attachments.PDF

Explainer video on RGGI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlNgAIyTDNc&t=278s.

Will Governor McCrory Become Senator McCrory?

Maybe you can’t stand Pat, but former Governor McCrory could be future Senator McCrory.

When McCrory announced he’ll run for the Senate next year, many of my fellow Democrats laughed – and pounced. So did Republicans.

Democrats dismissed him as the Governor who signed into law House Bill 2, the controversial transgender “bathroom bill,” and then became the first North Carolina governor to lose reelection.

Another Republican running for the Senate seat, former Congressman Mark Walker, attacked him saying: “With taking back the Senate majority hinging on our success in North Carolina, why would we gamble on Pat McCrory — a career politician who has lost more statewide races than he’s won?”

McCrory lost to Bev Perdue in the 2008 governor’s race, then soundly defeated Lt. Governor Walter Dalton in 2012 after Perdue decided – late in the campaign season – not to run again.

McCrory took shots from both parties because he interviewed for jobs in the Trump Administration after losing narrowly to Governor Roy Cooper in 2016, but didn’t get appointed.

Walker said, “If Pat wasn’t good enough for Trump’s administration, he’s not good enough for our state.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said McCrory “couldn’t even get hired by the Trump administration.”

But he could get elected Senator.

Election night 2016

He enters the race with an advantage in name recognition, as his own campaign’s poll boasted. A Republican primary opponent will need a lot of money to overcome that.

McCrory has been mayor of Charlotte and governor. He has automatic stature.

Critics scoffed when he called himself an “outsider,” but that’s smart positioning. His campaign cited “the strength McCrory has as someone who has not served in Congress but instead has made executive-level decisions as a proven conservative.”

In other words, he’s not a Washington swamp creature like Walker and another Congressman who might run, Ted Budd.

Lara Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, also might run. But why would she give up New York, Palm Beach and a Fox News gig? Plus, does Donald Trump want to risk his brand before 2024?

McCrory had a media gig too. He hosted “The Pat McCrory Show” on WBT radio. His campaign says that was “the top-rated talk radio show in Charlotte.”

It’s not “The Apprentice,” but it’s a big media market, especially in a Republican primary.

And he’s been a regular on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

It’s noteworthy that McCrory’s announcement didn’t mention Trump. You have to dig deep in his campaign website to find a mention of Trump. The former President is obviously a plus in the primary, but may be poison with Independents in a general election.

Senator Richard Burr, who is vacating the seat, got censured by North Carolina Republicans when he voted to impeach Trump over the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Paul Shumaker, an experienced Republican consultant who worked with both Senators Burr and Thom Tillis, is handling McCrory’s Senate race. Shumaker can provide the skilled professional hand that McCrory lost when Jack Hawke died after the 2012 election.

If McCrory wins the primary, history favors him. Republicans have won the last four Senate races in North Carolina and six of the last seven. Since the two-party era began in 1972, Republicans have won 13 Senate races and Democrats, only four.

The last North Carolinian to be elected both Governor (1960) and Senator (1986) was Terry Sanford.

Now, I knew Terry Sanford. Terry Sanford is a hero of mine. Pat McCrory is no Terry Sanford. But he could win Sanford’s old Senate seat next year – and be both a Governor and a Senator.


McCrory’s announcement statement:



McCrory’s campaign poll: