Rule #4: Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas

by johndavis, July 15, 2013

Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery Rule #4: Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas July 15, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 14            9:13 am During the past month or so, I have had the pleasure of talking with many people
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Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery


Rule #4: Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas


July 15, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 14            9:13 am

During the past month or so, I have had the pleasure of talking with many people of substantial financial means who have a history of investing in North Carolina Democrats.  Ultimately, the conversation comes around to my question: "What will it take for you to write the check to help the party recover?"  The answer is always the same:  "Who do I give it to?"  Then silence.  Loud silence.

North Carolina Democrats need investors.  They need investors because you can't govern if you don't win political races.  Nine out of ten times the candidates with the most money win.

When the 2014 races roll around, what the New York Times wrote in July, 2013 about the “grotesque damage” the Republicans are doing in our state or what the Moral Monday protestors shouted in 2013 will be irrelevant if the GOP has a $3-to-$1 campaign spending advantage.  TV ads and mailings in legislative races touting how they, the Republicans, rescued our state from Democrats will hold sway.

So, why isn't the political investment community in a relatively progressive state like North Carolina willing to invest in the party that considers itself the party of bold, visionary leaders and ideas?

First, there is the obvious “the party doesn’t have any power” reason.  Most political money is invested by those who want something in order to buy access to state government leaders who can help them.

But more important than access is this:  Political investors inclined to help Democrats are struggling with the disconcerting sense that there is a missing generation of bold, visionary leaders.  Others say Democrats have become the party of stale, old ideas; the party hanging on to half-century-old priorities.  The party in denial about failed programs.  The anti-business party.

Who are the bold, visionary leaders of today’s Democrats?  What are the bold, visionary ideas?

This is the fourth in a 10-part series on the keys to political recovery for North Carolina Democrats.  As with the previous series on the keys to Republican political longevity, no state legislator or legislative staff member was interviewed.  All interviews were conducted with the promise of anonymity.  The rules thus far are:

  • Rule #1: If You want to Lead a Purple, Business-Friendly State, You have to Recruit a Purple, Business-Friendly Slate.
  • Rule #2: It's All About Who Does the Asking; Get the right person to ask the right person to do the right task.
  • Rule #3 Moral Mondays - A Therapeutic Dose of Political Energy Restoring Rhythm to the Heart of the Democratic Party.

Today I am adding Rule #4:  Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas.

Investors Back Leaders of Good Ideas, Not Good Ideas Alone

Good ideas are a dime a dozen.  Ask any person of means how many solicitations they get each year and they will tell you that they would literally go bankrupt if they funded every good idea opportunity.

What investors look for is the competence and trustworthiness of the person responsible for making sure the good idea succeeds.  They know that the key to the success of good ideas is leadership, not the ideas.

Jim Hunt, North Carolina’s only four-term governor (1977–1985; 1993–2001) is the quintessential bold, visionary Democrat.  He hails from the Wilson County farming community of Rock Ridge.

Hunt’s record of accomplishment is so exceptional that he is recognized worldwide in the fields of education and technology-based economic development.  The Saturday Evening Post once suggested if there were a Mount Rushmore for governors, Jim Hunt would be one of the faces carved in stone.

Gary Pearce, lifelong political adviser to Hunt and author of Jim Hunt, A Biography, writes that Hunt's many political and legislative successes during the past four decades are due to his appreciation for free market economics and his solid reputation with private sector business leaders.

Recalling early years of working with business leaders, Hunt told Pearce, "When business people spoke, average citizens listen to them.”  “People just trusted them,” said Hunt, “And so did most legislators."

During his first stint as governor, Hunt created the North Carolina Council of Business Management and Development, which provided him an opportunity to rub elbows once a quarter with the state's most respected CEOs.  He listened to their concerns about the need for fiscal restraint and they listened to his dreams for growing the North Carolina economy.  "We must be both frugal and compassionate," he said in an address to the legislature, “We must govern with our heads as well as our hearts."

Good ideas are a dime a dozen.  The key to the success of good ideas is leadership, not the ideas.

Jim Hunt succeeded time and time again with bold, visionary ideas because he sold business leaders first and then leveraged their credibility and influence to get the votes he needed to pass his legislation.

Hunt’s Free Market Philosophy was Hatched in the Himalayas

Hunt became an economic pragmatist in his mid-20s when he took his wife and young children to the impoverished country of Nepal to work with a team of Ford Foundation economists on an economic development plan.  After two years with poor Himalayan villagers, Hunt’s life-long commitment to economic growth through education and a technology-based infrastructure was set.

"It isn't just a matter of dividing the pie,” Hunt told Pearce in an interview. “You can grow the pie.”

Hunt did not agree with those who see government’s role as simply taking from one person to give to another.  “My approach," said Hunt, “has always been that, if we're smart about it and have the right policies, we can find a way to grow the pie, and everybody can have more."

Unfortunately for Democrats, growing the party or grooming the next generation of bold Democratic leaders was not one of Hunt’s priorities.  He created his own political and public policy machine for his exclusive political and public policy purposes.  It was all about him and his vision.

Fortunately for the state however, Hunt’s vision was a good one.  He persuaded business, education and government leaders that a successful economic development program that would attract the worlds leading technology-based corporations had to be built on a foundation of a great public education system and research parks supported by an internationally acclaimed university and community college system.

Further, Hunt persuaded pubic sector leaders that a balanced corporate tax and regulatory environment would stimulate economic growth that would provide them the resources for their dreams.

Democrats need to rebuild credibility and support among the political investor community.  They need investors because you can't govern if you don't win political races.

Rule #4:  Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas.

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