In recent times, the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) has displayed a troubling pattern of using the claim of “procedural issues” to stifle certain views and groups in a way that looks an awful lot like bullying from behind an administrative cloud.  

One such instance from recent days was the rejection of a Jewish Caucus, after the executive committee voted 17-16 against recognition. The party’s spokesman, Tommy Mattocks, attributed the outcome to “procedural issues.”  

If procedural issues were truly the cause, then why did 16 other executive committee members vote to recognize the Jewish Caucus? Are we to believe that 1/3 of NCDP leadership doesn’t know what the procedural guidelines are, or that the procedural guidelines are so unclear that another 1/3 of NCDP leadership (including the NCDP Chair Anderson Clayton and all three of the party’s vice-chairs) voted to abstain? 

This is not the only time this happened. Recall, the 2022 rejection of the North Carolina Green Party (NCGP) petition by the state Board of Elections’ Democratic majority sparking debates about the NCDP’s commitment to democratic values. Along party lines, a majority of the board rejected the NCGP petition to gain ballot access in a controversial 3-2 vote, despite the party obtaining the necessary number of signatures to be recognized as a political party. 

The cited reasons for the rejection were procedural matters that included petition sheets with nearly identical handwriting, incomplete personal information, duplicate names, and even deceased signatories.  

These issues, while serious, have also raised questions about the motivations behind the decision, especially given that it was revealed during court filings that the NCDP engaged in intimidation tactics. 

The Carolina Journal reported that the NCDP started an intimidation campaign to get individuals to recall their signature, including calling up those who had signed the petition and even going to their homes. Below is one recording of an alleged Democrat-aligned operative calling a Green Party signatory (who happened to be the party chair) to try to convince them to rescind their signature.

“This is not politics as usual,” Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper told the Associated Press. “We expect political parties to want to win — that’s not the problem. It crosses the line when they appear to be resorting to intimidation and, in a few cases, lies.” 

Certainly, the recurrent use of intimidation tactics by the NCDP to compel individuals to conform to a particular behavior has become increasingly visible to the public eye. 

State Rep. Tricia Cotham’s decision to leave the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party was fueled by what she described as “bullying” tactics within the party. She highlighted attacks on social media, name-calling, and even threats against her family. 

“They certainly will slice and dice you in a second with malicious, vicious, untrue rumors and do not celebrate your success,” Cotham said.  

The decision by five North Carolina House Democrats — state Reps. Cecil Brockman, Carla Cunningham, Garland Pierce, Shelly Willingham, and Michael Wray — to support the state budget proposed by North Carolina Republicans also triggered a backlash from the NCDP. Soon after, a joint statement from the presidents of various Democratic organizations was released, demanding these Democrats to “start acting like Democrats and stop helping NC Republicans pass some of the most brazenly anti-Black legislation.” 

Note that the demand is to “start acting like Democrats” and not to be a representative of the people. Of course, they can’t make that claim because that is exactly what those five did. They put the interest of their constituents above the interest of the NCDP. 

As the NCDP navigates being a perpetual minority party in the state, it appears they are responding with undemocratic practices, internal conflicts, and the use of “procedural issues” as tactics to regain their footing. The party’s ability to address these concerns will be crucial not only for its internal cohesion but also for voters’ perception of its commitment to democratic principles.  

In a state where the political balance is delicate, the NCDP’s actions and decisions can also carry weight beyond party lines, impacting norms of democratic processes and appropriate political behavior.