The presidential election of 1896 and the N.C. legislative election of 2010: 114 years apart and remrkablyy similar.
Democrat William Jennings Bryan thundered against Robber Barons like Rockefeller and Carnegie, vowing to break up their empires.
Republican William McKinley was managed by Mark Hanna, who had one political belief: money wins. His fundraising was easy. The Robber Barons were terrified of Bryan. Rockefeller, Carnegie and J.P. Morgan contributed the modern equivalent of $20 million each. They gave McKinley a 23-to-1 money advantage. Then as president, McKinley delivered for them, and their profits soared.
Early in 2010, as The New Yorker magazine reported, former Bush chief-of-staff Ed Gillespie flew from Washington to Raleigh to meet with multimillionaire GOP super-activist Art Pope. He pitched a plan to take over the N.C. General Assembly. With redistricting coming up in 2011, GOP computers could change N.C.’s Congressional delegation from 7-6 Democrat to 10-3 Republican. And legislative districts could be drawn to give permanent Republican control.
Gillespie’s key component was money. Relatively little was spent in off-year legislative races in N.C., so big dumps of cash in key races could bring a GOP majority. The U.S. Supreme Court had just decided Citizens United vs. FEC, so big money could flow.
Pope jumped into the flow. He set up and mostly funded two organizations: Real Jobs NC and Civitas Action. They plastered N.C. with half-truth and no-truth mailbox cards against Democratic incumbents.
The New Yorker article details how in Senate District 50, in far-west N.C., two dozen mailers plastered John Snow. Nearly a million dollars was spent against Snow in a district where both candidates wouldn’t normally spend $250,000. They beat Snow.
As we all know, Republicans took the General Assembly in 2010 and redistricted as Gillespie wanted.
In 2012, Pope encored 2010. To view his mailers, visit https://www.civitasaction.org/mailers/.
Democrats knew Pope’s barrage was coming in 2012 but lacked resources and state party leadership (they still do) and could do nothing about it.
Since then, the Supreme Court has further struck down limitations on campaign contributions.
So, here we are. Money is practically unlimited. Redistricting is blatantly stacked. Republicans are expert axmen.
As the philosopher says, “It is what it is.”
Now, what do we do about it?
Remember how Redcoats grumbled when Patriots fired from behind trees? Well, Democrats have been Redcoats long enough. Blunt-force tactics work. People say, “I hear terrible things about Kay Hagan” – untrue terrible things in TV ads.
I don’t say match lies with lies. Tell the awful truth about Raleigh Republicans – but tell it like Civitas Action would.
Money to do it? Gotta get it – race-by-race, county-by-county, precinct-by-precinct, dollar-by-dollar. The future’s at stake.