Georgia has changed from a solid red state to a light blue state that voted for Biden and elected two Democrats, one black and one Jewish, as Senators. Will North Carolina follow in Georgia’s footsteps and what would that mean for the Democrats?  

A lot depends on how well Biden does in the next 4 years. And how NC members of Congress respond to his initiatives. Burr will be stepping down in 2022, leaving the door open for a Democrat if Biden is popular. Tillis was re-elected in 2020 but won primarily because his opponent (who led in the polls) had a sex scandal. He could be vulnerable in 2026. 

In his first 100 days, President Biden has been a surprisingly activist and progressive leader. He pushed through his massive relief plan. He’s making progress on getting his infrastructure plan approved, even if it is scaled down a bit. But he has received virtually no support from across the aisle from GOP Congressional representatives from NC or elsewhere. In fact, this seems to be a repeat of what McConnell and the GOP leadership did during the Obama years. Oppose and delay everything Biden proposes for the first two years of his term… and then turn over Congress in 2022, as the GOP did in 2010. 

Our nation’s voters have been moving into warring tribes for decades. Notably, this trend started with contentious House Speaker Newt Gingrich who got President Clinton impeached over lying to Congress regarding sex with an intern. Of course, the Trump MAGA era exacerbated the tribalism trend, further demonizing the opposition. 

It has gotten so that each camp believes that it is 100% correct. And thinks that most Americans agree with them, believing exactly what their camp believes versus what the other side advocates.  

With this in mind, let’s examine the findings of an April Morning Consult/Politico national survey

A majority of Americans (59%) approve of the job Biden is doing, versus 37% who do not. He gets relatively high approval marks on coronavirus (63%); the economy (55%), jobs (53%), education (52%), the environment (52%); voting rights (53%), national security (50%), Social Security/Medicare (51%) and healthcare (55%).  

But Biden’s ratings are not as high on energy (49%), immigration (41%); gun policy (47%); and foreign policy (43%). 

Unfortunately, surveys of this type can be misleading. For example, are Biden’s rating lower on energy, a. because he is not moving fast enough implementing the “Energy New Deal” or b. because people are skeptical of moving away too quickly from coal and oil? The same goes for gun policy, although given other surveys it would be safe to assume respondents don’t believe that Biden is moving forcefully enough on gun control (even though Congress and the courts are in reality responsible). 

Focus groups of typical voters need to be conducted to find out exactly why respondents gave these answers and how to reach them politically. In the past, the GOP has been much better at this game than the Democrats. In particular, brilliant GOP pollster Frank Luntz has done a great job of analyzing what wording voters respond to and why. As Luntz stated about his work with focus groups, “my job is to look for the words that trigger the emotion” 

For example, the GOP’s faltering opposition to the estate/inheritance tax became their successful opposition to the Democrat’s “death tax.” The GOP using “energy exploring” rather than oil drilling when opening public lands is another example. 

If the Democrats want to retain power in 2022, they must win the messaging battle, portraying the GOP as an out-of-touch extremist party and themselves as the reasonable party of compromise, even if that may not always be true. And that means getting their own progressive version of Frank Luntz to show them the correct messaging to reach the voters. 

In that Burr is retiring, North Carolina will clearly be a primary battleground in the 2022 election. If the Democrats continue to build on their strengths while countering via messaging their perceived weaknesses on immigration, guns, energy and foreign policy, North Carolina may provide the Democrats with a 51-member Senate majority. If a somewhat progressive candidate along the lines of a Warnock or Ossoff wins, that could mean that the Democrats could move their progressive agenda via reconciliation regardless of Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition. 

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The feature caricature of North Carolina Senator Richard Burr was created by DonkeyHotey (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.