Rule #6: Stale Bread and Butter Social Issues won’t Nourish Moderate Voters Hungry for a Meat and Potatoes Economy

by johndavis, August 15, 2013

Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery Rule #6: Stale Bread and Butter Social Issues won’t Nourish Moderate Voters Hungry for a Meat and Potatoes Economy  August 15, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 16            10:13 am The state Democratic Party’s bread and butter social issues like this week’s claims of racist Republican elections laws are
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Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery


Rule #6: Stale Bread and Butter Social Issues won’t Nourish Moderate Voters Hungry for a Meat and Potatoes Economy

 August 15, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 16            10:13 am

The state Democratic Party's bread and butter social issues like this week’s claims of racist Republican elections laws are important for satisfying the appetites of the faithful, but most social issues are not likely to nourish moderate independent voters who are hungry for a meat and potatoes economy.

To recover politically, Democrats must offer moderate independent voters a new menu with revised recipes for meat and potatoes issues like jobs, the economy, education and healthcare.

Reading and listening to the national and state news commentators this week decrying how North Carolina’s election reform legislation, signed into law on Monday by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, is returning the state to the days of Jim Crow suppression of black voters reminded me of the old menu.

One of the Jim Crow laws used to suppress black voters was the requirement that you pay a poll tax to vote.  My collection of political memorabilia includes a $2 poll tax receipt from 1937, issued by the Sheriff's office in Leake County, Mississippi.  In 1937, $1 had the same buying power as $16.40 in 2013.  Paying $2 to vote in 1937 would be like paying $32.80 to vote today.

Would you pay $32.80 to vote?  That, my friends, is voter suppression.  Requiring a photo ID is not.

In 1968, I sat through the week-long murder trial of a Ku Klux Klansman who was one of 13 who raided and burned the home of Forrest County, Mississippi's NAACP President Vernon Dahmer.  Dahmer died the next day of smoke inhalation.  What had he done?  He registered black voters in his store.

That, my friends, is voter suppression.  Changing early voting from 17 days to 10 days is not.

From the New York Times and CBS News to Hillary Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the airwaves and printing presses are afire with bitter hyperbole attacking North Carolina's new election laws.  But when the dust settles, Democrats are going to realize that all they have done is created a feeding frenzy among the liberal faithful.  That all the NAACP has done is cry wolf … again.

This report is the sixth 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.
  • Rule #4:  Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas.
  • Rule #5:  There is Gold to be Mined among Professional Women for the Next Generation of Candidates and Campaign Leaders.

Today I am adding Rule #6:  Stale Bread and Butter Social Issues won’t Nourish Moderate Voters Hungry for a Meat and Potatoes Economy.

Most Important Problems

Each month, the Gallup polling organization asks Americans, "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?"  They divide the responses into two broad categories, Economic Problems and Non-Economic Problems.

What percent of Americans do you think wake up every day thinking Race Relations/Racism is the most important problem facing the country?  Answer: 1%.

As a matter of fact, only 1% of Americans named any of the following as the most important problem facing the country today:  Abortion, Gay Rights, National Security, Welfare, Terrorism, International Problems, the Environment, Lack of Military Defense, Afghanistan, Gas Prices, Corporate Corruption, Taxes, Gap between Rich and Poor, Care for the Elderly.

It's not that those 1% problems are not important problems; it's that they are nowhere near the top of the list of “most important problems” facing the country today.  They are not the issues Americans wake up every day thinking about.

The most important problem facing the country today breaks down as follows.  For 42% of Americans, it is the Economy along with Unemployment/Jobs.  Next in line is Dissatisfaction with the Government, with 16% of Americans naming that issue as one of the nation's most important problems.  Then comes Healthcare at 11% and concern about the Federal Budget Deficit/Federal Debt coming in at 8%.  See the entire list here.

Groups Most Concerned about Each of the Most Important Problems

Another study of the same poll shows a ranking of groups most concerned about each of the “most important” problems.  If you list the groups who said that Unemployment/Jobs is the nation’s most important problem you will discover that African-Americans are at the top of the list.

African-Americans had an opportunity to name racism or voting rights as the most important problem facing the country today, but they didn't.  Instead, they named Unemployment/Jobs.  Other groups topping the list of Americans who named Unemployment/Jobs are those who earn less than $30,000 a year, along with Democrats, and obviously the Unemployed.

Another issue where African-Americans were at the top of the list of groups most concerned is Education.  Joining African-Americans among the demographic groups naming Education as the most important problem are Democrats and Women 18 to 49 years old.

African-Americans were the second highest constituency group naming Healthcare as a most important problem, with Women in the 18 to 49 year-old age group topping the Healthcare list.  The third-highest group mentioning Healthcare was Democrats.

Bottom line: Nationally, African-Americans, Democrats and Women in the 18 to 49 year old age group are most concerned about Unemployment/Jobs, Healthcare and Education, not racism.

If Gallup asked North Carolinians, "What do you think is the most important problem facing this state today?" the results would probably be very similar to the national study.  North Carolinians would far more likely be concerned about Unemployment/Jobs, Healthcare and Education than about the new requirement that you have to show a photo ID to vote or the total number of days for early voting.

Democrats Must Reconnect with the Governed

North Carolina is an ideologically balanced state.  It is not a Republican state.  It is not a Democrat state.

The May 2013 statewide poll conducted by the conservative Civitas Institute showed the following partisan breakdown claimed by North Carolina voters:

  • 33.7 Republican
  • 38.4 Democrat
  • 25.4 Independent

Since only about 40% of North Carolina voters are loyal Democrats, the party needs Independent voters.  The problem for Democrats is that many Independent voters are Conservative.  Here are the responses by Independent voters to a sample of questions from the May Civitas poll:

  • 67.3% favor a photo ID for voting; 28.8% oppose a photo ID
  • 61.4% favor a policy of zero-based budgeting for state government; 26.2% oppose
  • 50.3% favor repealing Obamacare; 41.8% oppose repealing Obamacare

Focusing on Moderate Independents is the best hope for Democrats.  They are the true persuadable voters.  There is no better example of that than the 2012 presidential race when polls showed that 90% of “Independent” voters leaned either conservative or liberal and were not up for grabs.  Only Moderate Independents are persuadable.  Here is the ideological breakdown of North Carolina voters:

  • 41.5% Conservative
  • 31.3% Moderate
  • 20.6% Liberal

Looking only at how the Moderate voters answered the sample poll’s questions, we discover:

  • 54.5% favor a photo ID for voting; 42.9% oppose a photo ID
  • 52.9% favor a policy of zero-based budgeting for state government; 29.1% oppose
  • 40.6% favor repealing Obamacare; 52.4% oppose repealing Obamacare

Moderate Independent voters do not want to see Obamacare repealed, but they do want to see fiscal responsibility in state government and they have no problem with a photo ID when voting.

  • 38% of 18-to-25-year-olds are Moderate, compared to only 27% of voters over 65-years-old
  • 40% of women 18-to-44-years-old are moderate; 29% of women over 65-years-old are
  • 43% of Independents are moderate; 36% of Democrats and 19% of Republicans are moderate

In order to recover politically, Democrats must look to the future; they must offer moderate independent voters a new menu with revised recipes for meat and potatoes issues like jobs and the economy, education, healthcare and an improved quality of life.

Rule #6:  Stale Bread and Butter Social Issues won’t Nourish Moderate Voters Hungry for a Meat and Potatoes Economy.

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John N. Davis, Editor

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