Podcast | The Wedge: NC’s Urban-Rural Divide

When Wake County Commissioner John Burns won office in 2014, he and his colleagues were a bright blue spot in an otherwise bad year for Democrats. Then, months after his swearing in, he found out just how badly Republican state lawmakers wanted the commission red again.

Urban Democrats in local government vs. rural Republicans in the General Assembly: it’s a simplified view of state politics that explains a lot - including HB2. Burns is well aware of the urban-rural tension. But he insists that growth is not a zero-sum game.

“We’re not interested in stealing jobs from other parts of the state. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re trying to bring jobs to North Carolina that spin-off effects for the rest of the state.”

Podcast | Senate Candidate Deborah Ross Talks Trump, Yoga, and the US Constitution

North Carolina’s US Senate race in 2016 could be one of the most bitterly fought in the country. Democrats hope to defeat Republican incumbent Richard Burr in their battle to retake the upper chamber.

But it won’t be easy: the race will be expensive, contentious, and, now that North Carolina is a swing state in a Donald Trump campaign, unpredictable.

Deborah Ross is the woman who’s stepped up to the challenge. We talk about how Trump might impact her race, how she stays sane on one of the country’s rockiest campaign trails, and her judicial beef with Burr:

“...the Constitution says that the Senate gives advice and consent on judicial nominees. It does not say the Senate decides whether it gives advice and consent. Period. If you don’t like the nominee, vote him down.”

Update: In the podcast, Ross mentions "the most recent poll." Since our conversation, a new poll shows Ross is still within the margin of error. 

Podcast | Jeff Jackson: Senator From The Internet

How does a junior legislator in the minority party become a bona fide political celebrity? Two words: the Internet.

Senator Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte) unpacks his viral hits, from solo legislating on a snow day to creating the #WeAreNotThis hashtag. For this 33-year-old lawmaker, social media is not a gimmick: it’s a necessity and an obligation.

We also talk about his fight against gerrymandering, which he calls “as morally ambiguous as bank robbery,” HB2, and his vision for a reasonable state government. 

On Social Media in Politics

“Right now it’s kind of considered fashionable for politicians to be on social media. But more and more it’s going to be part of your job. That’s where your constituents are. That’s where they want to interact with you. . . . It’s not really your decision whether or not you ‘do’ Facebook. That’s how people want to talk. They’re your boss. You have to make yourself available to them through that medium.”  

On His Republicans and HB2

“I’m 1,000% confident that if they could go back in time they would not pass HB2. Maybe Charlotte City Council would do something different, too, if they could go back. They didn’t mean to start World War III with this.” 

On A Reasonable State Government

“What we should aspire to is a state government that listens to people, that respects people, and that is fundamentally reasonable. Just imagine what an improvement that would be over the status quo.”

“As Unions Have Declined, So Too Has The Middle Class”

From low wages to non-existent benefits, things are not right for many American workers. But why do some workers vote against their own self-interest?

MaryBe McMillan is the Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, a federation of unions across the state.

We discuss the use of anti-union fear as a political tool, the one thing she likes about Donald Trump, the devious distraction of House Bill 2, and why the fight for a higher minimum wage gives her hope.

On Donald Trump

“He’s good on trade, I’ll give him that. But he’s not good on a whole lot of other issues that working families care about.”

On House Bill 2

“It’s ironic that the Republicans say they’re all about making North Carolina business-friendly, yet with this one piece of legislation they’ve managed to run all these good employers out of the state.”

On Wages

“We’ve seen CEO pay skyrocket. It used to be in the ‘80s they earned about 40 times the average worker, and now we’re almost at 400 times the average worker. . . . We keep debating how much is enough at the bottom, but we need to be talking about how much is enough at the top as well.” 

On Political Fear Mongering

“We’ve seen politicians really use fear to keep people from voting in their own self-interest.  So whether it’s fear of the government or fear of terrorism or fear of unions, ultimately it’s really about fear of each other, and this fear that somehow if you get more, I’m going to get less.” 

Where The Party At? Defining “Democrat” With The DJ In Charge

2016 could be the year that North Carolina Democrats come out of the political wilderness. But just as a they’re staging their comeback, the party system itself seems to be unraveling.

What is the Democratic Party in the age of super PACS and Senator Sanders? Wake County Party Chairman Brian Fitzsimmons has to answer that question. If he gets it right, he could change the course of the state - and the country.

“There's going to have to be a time when we recognize that Hillary - the Secretary - is not as bad as people think she is. And the Senator and his supporters are not as vitriolic as people think they are. And my goal is to get us to that point.”

Some Disassembly Conspired: The Plot Against Public Education

Low teacher pay. A decline in per-student investment.  Teachers leaving the state. But the most troubling thing about public education in North Carolina may be that it’s all going according to plan.

Rodney Ellis, the President of the North Carolina Association of Educators, is at the center of the fight.

“I get the sense sometimes that not enough people are actually tuned into what is happening,” he says, “and nor have they connected the dots to see the bigger picture.”

Photo courtesy NCAE.

How a (Bad) Bill Becomes a Law: Senator Dan Blue & the Democratic Walkout

NC Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Raleigh) breaks down the fast and flawed process that birthed House Bill 2 a process so bad, he and his colleagues walked out in protest.

“…we could not, in good faith, give legitimacy to a system that followed that process and used that as a way to turn back the hands of time with respect to anti-discrimination efforts in this state."

If #WeAreNotThis, Why’d We Pass HB2?

Hate extremist legislation? Blame gerrymandering. Laws like HB2 come out of a rigged system.

Jane Pinsky, Director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, explains why extremism is linked to election maps and how we could do things differently. Plus, James offers some potentially crazy advice on how you - yes, you! - could help change our system this year.

Sign the petition at EndGerrymanderingNow.org.

Best Of: Josh Stein Dodges A Molotov

Josh Stein, the Minority Whip in the North Carolina Senate, has statewide aspirations in 2016.

We discuss what life is really like in the superminority, his 2014 opponent named "Molotov", and his political future. But first, he breaks down the Republican actions of the recent past.