VIDEO: Let's Not Have A Civil War, Please

Donald Trump’s refusal to say whether he’ll concede if he loses has surfaced some pretty terrible possibilities for our country. Donald’s demagogic attempt to delegitimize democracy by claiming the election is rigged is sparking fears that a Trump loss could lead to violence or worse.

Take this headline in the Washington Post: Trump supporters are talking about civil war. Could a loss provide the spark? 

Here in the great swing state of North Carolina, we’ve got some Civil War experience. We’ve even got a monument honoring our Confederate dead that makes us more uncomfortable every year. So take it from us America: the only good civil wars are the ones produced by Marvel comics.

Now to be clear, I’m sure that the vast majority of Donald Trump supporters are peaceful. When they lose they’ll be angry, they’ll be upset, but I don’t think even they’ll be violent.

Trump doesn’t actually want to lead a Civil War. He just sometimes likes to imagine that he could.

After all, the real Civil War killed about 750,000 Americans - about 2% of the country’s entire population.

And this, oddly, gives me hope. It’s easy to think our country is more divided than ever but I’d bet Abraham Lincoln would gladly trade his political problems for ours.

America survived. But we paid a terrible price. So, how about let’s not do anything like that ever again?

Instead, no matter what happens on Election Day, let's all just be cool to each other. Here in North Carolina, you don’t have to go far to find someone with opposing political views. After this, we all still have to live together.

Whether you think American is great or that it needs to be made great again, let’s detox from this election by assuming the best in each other. Because that’s what it means to be a great country. 

Podcast | A Moral Monday Mom Runs for Office

When you think about the kind of candidates that get state Democrats excited this year, you might not think of a woman who once received unemployed benefits, was once arrested, and was once a Republican.

But that’s Jen Ferrell, the now-Democratic challenger of a long-serving Republican member of the state House. Democrats hope she can flip that seat and help end the GOP supermajority.

Also available on StitcherTuneIn and Google Play.

Podcast | Captain & Repeal

Jane Campbell is a retired Navy captain and an unaffiliated candidate for NC House. She's also openly gay.

After learning her state representative was an architect of HB2 and running unopposed for reelection, she decided to do something about it.

UPDATE 10/5/16

If elected, Jane Campbell would be the only openly LGBTQ member of the NC House next year. Rep. Chris Sgro, a current openly LGBTQ lawmaker, was appointed to his seat and is not seeking election.

Former openly LGBTQ state lawmakers include Senator Julia Boseman and Representative Marcus Brandon.

Also available on StitcherTuneIn and Google Play.

Podcast | Patsy Keever: Don't Call Her a Chairman

24 years after her first campaign, Patsy Keever chairs North Carolina’s Democratic Party for what she implies is her last election in an official role. 

Keever says it’s time for a new generation of leaders to take over. Before leaving, all she has to do is help her party win one of the most important, divisive, and insane elections of all time.

Also available on StitcherTuneIn and Google Play.

VIDEO: 7 Things NC Voters Need To Know

Today’s episode is brought to you by “I Voted” stickers. Sticking up for a democracy that’s holding on by thread.

This is the North Carolinian, the politics show about what the heck is happening in our home state. I’m James Kotecki.

Well this is it, my fellow North Carolinians. 2016. We are one of if not the most crucial swing states in the country. Our US Senate race is neck-and-neck, international controversy around House Bill 2 threatens to drag down our Governor, and major court decisions have reshaped the election itself.

Simply put, my fellow North Carolina voters, we are squarely at the center of the political universe. Your vote matters. So I put together this simple list of seven things you need to know before you go vote.

1) You Don’t Need ID To Vote

You may have heard a lot of talk about how you’d need to bring an ID to the polls this year. But now, thanks to a court ruling, you don’t.

2) You Don’t Need Pants To Vote

Any registered North Carolina voter can request an absentee ballot and vote by mail for any reason -- actually, you don’t have to give any reason at all. You can request your ballot right now, fill it out at home, and send it back pants free.

To be clear, you still may want to wear pants because you need to vote in front of two witnesses or a notary public, and then you need to go to the mailbox. So really the need for pants depends on the open-mindedness of your family, friends, and neighbors.

3) You Don’t Need To Vote On Election Day To Vote

Early in-person voting was another issue caught up in the voter ID court ruling. The upshot is that you can vote early in-person but you should check with your local county board of elections for specific times and locations. 

Early voting is my personal favorite - you usually get the job done faster and you’re not stuck in a three hour line on Election Day.

Plus, you still get the satisfaction of seeing your ballot go into the machine, and, at least in Wake County, you don’t just get an “I Voted” sticker, you get an “I Voted Early Sticker” which you can wear around for days and even weeks to impress your friends.

Early in-person voting starts as early as October 20th and ends on Saturday, November 5th at 1pm. So don’t be that guy knocking on the door trying to vote on November 6th before jetting off to Mongolia. Nobody like that guy.

4) You DO Need To Register to Vote

If any of the above voting options sound enticing to you, remember you actually have to register to vote first. Now thanks to that court ruling you can actually register to vote when you go to vote - but only if you vote in-person early. Otherwise, you need to register to vote by Friday, October 14th. You can find the form on the state’s Board of Elections website, and I promise your favorite political campaign will also be happy to hook you up.

If you’re wondering whether and where you are registered, you can find out by looking up your name here.

5) You Can See Your Ballot In Advance

You know how when you go to vote and you get to that bottom half of the ballot and there’s a bunch of names you never heard of and you want to pick one but you don’t know how to choose and you feel like you’re letting down the Founding Fathers?

Avoid that feeling this year by seeing your specific ballot in advance so you can do some research or at least ask a friend. Just go to that same voter lookup portal, click on your name, and you’ll see a link to your sample ballot.

6) You US House District Has Changed

The politically nerdy among you may remember that North Carolina had two primaries for US House this year after a court forced the General Assembly to redraw those districts. This is the first general election under the new maps. You may be in the same district, you may not. You may have a familiar name on your ballot. You may not. 

Why is this so convoluted? The court was attempting to address racially gerrymandering, the process by which politicians pack minority voters into certain districts for political advantage. Speaking of which:

7) Your State House and State Senate Districts May Change Soon

There was yet another major court ruling this year - are you sensing a pattern - and this one said that 28 of our state legislative districts were racially gerrymandered. The court said that since there wasn’t enough time to redraw the maps before the 2016 election, lawmakers would have to make new maps before the 2018 election. 

Now, this doesn’t make complete sense since the lawmakers doing the redistricting are the ones from the districts that the court rejected in the first place. Still, it’s a strong incentive to you care about who you send to the General Assembly this year. To be fair, only a few of those races are actually competitive - because of gerrymandering. 

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So - that’s it. Seven things you need to know before you vote. Share this guide with your friends and especially on Facebook to make everybody smarter about voting. Please vote! Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th!

Until next time, I’m James Kotecki trying hard to be rather than to seem.

I beseech you: vote on or before Tuesday, November 8th!

I beseech you: vote on or before Tuesday, November 8th!

Podcast | Justice Is Nonpartisan. Justice Bob Edmunds Says He Is, Too.

Bob Edmunds is an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court currently running for this third eight-year term. 

This episode is the counterpoint to our recent conversation with Mike Morgan, the Superior Court Judge vying for Edmunds’ seat. As you might expect, Edmunds offers some dissenting opinions. 

Edmunds rejects the notion that his campaign or the court itself are partisan entities. But can he - can anyone - really stay above partisan politics while running a campaign?

Also available on StitcherTuneIn and Google Play.

Podcast | Thomas Mills, The Last-Minute Candidate Who Could Flip The US House

2016 is the year of political impossibilities. Among them: Democrats could actually take back the US House. If they do - and it’s still a big if - candidates like Thomas Mills will be riding the crest of the wave. 

A political consultant and blogger, Mills filed to run in NC’s 8th district at the last minute when no other Democrat stepped up. At first, his goal was to deny the Republican incumbent a free pass. Then he realized he could actually win.

Also available on StitcherTuneIn and Google Play.

Podcast | “You’re Polling Behind a Dead Gorilla”: Tom Jensen Predicts Our Political Present

Overwhelmed by the media’s obsession with polls? Curious about the long-term trends shaping our state and our country? Wondering why presidential candidate “Deez Nuts” once polled at 9% in North Carolina?

Tom Jensen, the Director of Public Policy Polling, is here to help sort things out.

Also available on StitcherTuneIn, and Google Play.

Podcast | Chaz Beasley’s Millennial Mission

Finance attorney Chaz Beasley is one of a handful of Millennial Democrats running for the General Assembly this year.

His Mecklenburg County race against Republican incumbent Charles Jeter was one of the most competitive in the state - that is, until Jeter unexpectedly resigned his seat and ended his campaign.

Beasley’s new opponent is off to a late start, and it seems more likely we’ll have a new Millennial on Jones Street. But what does that really mean?

Also available on StitcherTuneIn, and Google Play.

Podcast | Mike Morgan's Supreme Competition

North Carolina’s Supreme Court races are technically non-partisan, but nobody’s fooling anybody: the current court is divided 4-3 in favor of Republicans.

Judge Mike Morgan is running against one of the incumbent Republicans and could flip the Supreme Court's balance of power. If you care about things like HB2, taxes, housing, the environment, crime, and our system of government itself, you should really care who sits on the bench.

Morgan also has a powerful personal story. In 1964, he was the first black student at his all-white elementary school.

Also available on StitcherTuneIn, and Google Play.

Podcast | The GOP Would-Be NC AG

He wants to fight North Carolina’s most contentious legal battles. He doesn’t mind when his opponent calls HB2 “Buck’s Bill.” But for Senator Buck Newton, the key issue in his race for attorney general is whether the job gets done at all.

And yes - we also talk about his infamous exhortation to “keep our state straight.”

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | A Question of Power

Durham City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson sparked controversy this summer when she wrote on Facebook that “the most dangerous people with guns are cops and soldiers.”

Can a fiercely progressive, community-organizing “radical nerd” change the system from the inside without compromising who she is? 

For more about Jillian Johnson, check out these stories by News & Observer reporter Virginia Bridges:

Police call for public apology from Durham city councilwoman

Jillian Johnson: Can activist also lead?

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Here's What I Think Of Donald Trump

Trump on Screen.jpg

This is the North Carolinian. I’m James Kotecki. And I want to try something different. For the first time, there is no guest. There’s just something I have to say.

If you’re hearing the show for the first time, it’s actually never about me - it’s about conversations with state leaders. I try to have constructive, respectful, interesting dialog with people across the political spectrum. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing.

The tagline for this show is “the politics podcast about what the heck is happening in my home state.” But today, I have to talk about what the heck is happening in my home country.

We live in a world of self-selected messages, a world where people consume media to confirm what they already believe. It’s hard to truly persuade anybody to change course, but as tough as it is I want to try to speak to those of you who have yet to make up your minds about this presidential election.

I have to try.

Because, my fellow North Carolinians, my fellow Americans, my fellow human beings: Donald Trump cannot become our president.

Now, if you’re undecided, I’m going to assume you’re squeamish about Trump for, you know, the obvious reasons. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s run a campaign based on bigotry, fear, and exclusion.

Maybe it’s the fact that his behavior is that of a sixth grader in detention. Although to be fair, sixth grade might be a little generous.

Maybe it’s the fact that Donald Trump has the support of white nationalists like David Duke. Or maybe it’s one of the many other things he’s said that would immediately disqualify any normal person from running for dogcatcher, let alone President of the United States.

But for whatever reason you are still undecided. Maybe you were feeling the Bern, you don't like Tim Kaine, you’re upset with the Democratic National Committee, and somehow this quote from Trump’s RNC acceptance speech rings true for you:

“I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance. Never had a chance. But his supporters will join our movement...”

Honestly, if you supported Bernie Sander’s ideas and now you’re honestly thinking of voting for Trump, I’m not sure there’s anything I can really tell you here, it’s clearly more about emotion than logic for you at this point.

But if you’re like many of my family members - you’re a normal Republican who despises Donald but has spent decades hatin’ on Hillary - then let’s talk. While I don’t usually share your Republican views, I do respect them, not just because I enjoy friendly debates with my family, but because robust debate - built in facts, not fear - is at at the cornerstone of a healthy Republic.

And by the way, speaking of facts, rated rated over 60% of Trump’s statements either False or Pants-on-Fire, compared to just 13% for Clinton. But I digress.

Look, I know I can’t undo 20+ years of Republican anti-Hillary sentiment on one podcast episode. If the Republican nominee were anybody but Trump I probably wouldn’t even be making this appeal. Even though I’m voting for Hillary Clinton and I hope you do too, I’m really just here to ask you: please vote against Donald Trump.

For the sake of argument, I’ll grant you that Hillary Clinton would maintain a status quo you don’t like, maybe she’d even move things a little further to the left. To you, Hillary Clinton might be bad for the country. But Donald Trump has the potential to be so much worse for the entire world.

See, you could hope that Congress or the courts could constrain Donald domestically - even though that strikes me as wishful thinking. But presidential power is at its peak in the realm of foreign policy.

So when I vote, I will not be voting for a man who supports torture, claims to know more about ISIS than the generals do, said he might not defend NATO allies, says he gets his foreign policy advice from watching “the shows” and that his number one foreign policy consultant is himself because “I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.” Oh, and some of those “things” include praise for Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong Un.

The single most important decision any president can make is whether or not to use nuclear weapons and other tools of military force. We empower our president to potentially end millions of lives in an instant. Donald Trump has proven time and again that he should not have that power. This is way beyond whether you dislike Hillary Clinton’s plans for taxes or tuition, or even dislike her personally. This is life and death. This is existential.

And lest you think I exaggerate, remember - to Donald Trump, “bomb the shit out of ’em” passes for military strategy.

At least when John McCain sang about bombing Iran, it kind of sounded like he was joking. Plus John McCain actually has military experience, unlike Donald Trump, who insulted McCain for being a prisoner of war.

For me, this election is personal. My brother and my cousin are now active duty members of the US military.  To be clear, I don’t speak for them. But I worry about about a world in which Donald Trump becomes their Commander in Chief.

One person I do speak for is my son. This is my first presidential election as a father.

It’s a common political trope that whatever election we’re currently having is “the most important election of our lifetime.” But this time, it’s actually true. And it’s doubly true for my son.

If Trump becomes president, my son will remember nothing but the country that Donald Trump will build. A country under constant threat from outsiders. A country in which intolerance is allowed to creep further and further into the mainstream. A country governed not by a system of values but by a cult of ignorant personality. A country that is closed off and afraid.

That means the most important election of my son’s lifetime is one in which my wife and I are entrusted to be his voice and his vote. And so this, really, is for him. When he gets older I want him to know that in this tumultuous and sometimes terrifying election, his dad did not stay silent.

I say all this in a spirit that is very much the opposite of Donald Trump’s: a spirit of love and respect. For my son. For my family. For my country.

I’m James Kotecki. And this is the North Carolinian.

Podcast | This Republican Believes #BlackLivesMatter

Greg Doucette supports legalizing marijuana, opposes HB2, and defends protesters from groups like Moral Mondays and Black Lives Matter. And he’s the Republican - yes, Republican - candidate for NC State Senate District 22.

Doucette faces an uphill election battle, but he’s no stranger to surprising wins. After all, he owes his career to an ill-timed game of Minesweeper.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | Diversity, Guns, & the American Dream with Senator Jay Chaudhuri

Jay Chaudhuri is the son of Indian immigrants, a former attorney for both Attorney General Roy Cooper and State Treasurer Janet Cowell, and North Carolina’s newest state senator.

We talk about how his unique background shapes his politics, his work on gun violence, and what it’s like to be a senator looking for a day job.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | The Family Business: Dan Blue III Runs for NC Treasurer

You may think you know nothing about North Carolina’s treasurer, but if you live in the state, it’s a job that almost certainly affects your life. Dan Blue III is the Democratic candidate for the office. He’s also the son of previous podcast guest Dan Blue, Jr., the minority leader in the North Carolina Senate.

We talk about his nuanced view of Wall Street - he used to work there, after all - at a time when many voters want to watch it Bern.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on HB2, 2016, & The Nature of Truth

A Republican Lieutenant Governor is something of on an anomaly in North Carolina - from the start of the 20th century until now there have only been three out of a total of 27.

Dan Forest, the current incumbent, is one of those three. Loyal listeners will remember my interview last week with Linda Coleman, his Democratic opponent in the upcoming election.

Forest’s take on HB2 - and indeed, the state of our state - reflects a very different reality.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | To Fight Another Day: Linda Coleman Is Back for a Rematch

The 2012 race to become North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor was close. Really close. 0.16 percentage points close.

Democrat Linda Coleman almost became the first African-American woman elected to statewide office in North Carolina. She didn’t concede until nearly two weeks after Election Day. And in a sense, she never stopped running.

This November, she’ll face Dan Forest, now the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, once again. And this time, she says, things are different. Not just for her campaign - but for African-American voters, too.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | Nation Hahn: Politics & The Prism of Loss

Nation Hahn is one of those guys that seems to know everybody, especially in state political circles. By the time I met him in early 2013, it was clear that he and his wife Jamie were poised to make a huge impact on North Carolina.

Then something happened that changed Nation’s approach to politics. Something happened that changed everything.

If by chance you don’t know, it’ll become clear through our conversation.  But this episode isn’t about that day. It’s about right now.

Today, Nation is the Chief Growth Officer for EdNC.org and the Board President of the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, a non-profit developing leaders on issues like poverty, hunger, and public education.

“There’s joy in finding common ground. There’s joy in understanding that our solutions do not have to come from either political party, that our solutions instead can come from well-meaning, well-intentioned, hard-working people who are on the ground and who see a problem and set out to solve it."