The progressive left’s tale of two states
Don’t like progressive-left policies? Then don’t go to North Carolina. “We’re going to flip it,” was the warning from one of the architects of Colorado’s “Blueprint” shortly before I left the Rocky Mountains for the warmer, friendlier confines of North Carolina in January 2020.
When Colorado’s professional left speaks, my experience is that we should listen. I’m still recovering from PTSD from being on Colorado’s political frontlines as the state went from solid red to blue to progressive green in a decade.
If you haven’t read the book The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care), you should, regardless of political affiliation. It’s a fascinating clinical read about the dramatic transformation of Colorado’s political landscape through the left’s strategic investments in data and infrastructure. The left’s campaign changed the political trajectory of that state for a generation.
Once considered a destination state, “Colorado lost 3.2% more people than it gained in 2022,” reports KDVR. It’s no wonder; progressive-left policies have spurred a surging crime rate, massive homeless encampments, burdensome regulations, horrific traffic, and climbing property taxes.
Since 2016, Colorado has dropped five places on Cato’s freedom index. I expect that decline to continue. Only the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights keeps the state from going over an economic cliff. As Colorado’s business climate deteriorates, CNBC names North Carolina as the top state in the nation for business.
My Colorado experience provides some context for an interesting Politico article about how the same professional left that flipped Colorado is faring in the Tar Heel State.
The headline is revealing: “How Democrats got sidetracked in their swing state of the future. North Carolina has never evolved into the true tossup state Barack Obama’s 2008 win once appeared to foreshadow.”
“[T]he party has never been able to push North Carolina into true tossup-state status like it has with Arizona or Georgia.”
“That’s left North Carolina Democrats having to fight for the resources now flowing freely into places like Arizona and Georgia, now two of the most tightly divided battlegrounds in America (which did not turn blue in 2008).”
Democrats haven’t won North Carolina’s presidential electors nor a U.S. Senate seat since 2008. Currently, the GOP has a veto-proof majority in the state Senate and are one seat shy of a veto-proof majority in the state House. Republicans rule the judiciary and Council of State. The only lever of power they don’t control is the executive branch.
The left’s lack of success hasn’t been from lack of trying or resources. North Carolina was supposed to be the left’s gateway to the South. By our estimates, leftist millionaires, billionaires, foundations, corporations, and others have pumped well over $450 million into the state over the last decade. That doesn’t include political-party or PAC dollars.
Arabella Advisors, a left-wing consulting company controlling nearly a billion-dollar nonprofit nexus from its plush headquarters in Washington, D.C, opened its fifth national office in Durham.
With all those resources, why hasn’t North Carolina “flipped”? Having been involved in both states, the answer isn’t complicated, at least not from my perspective.
First, North Carolina enjoys better leadership among the center-right network and those who invest in it. They’ve done a superb job building a public-policy and capacities infrastructure. A number of influential entities, including the John Locke Foundation and our news outlet Carolina Journal, operate in that space.
Second, notwithstanding Medicaid expansion, N.C. GOP elected officials, especially in the legislature, have focused primarily on unifying issues like tax reform, voter ID, safe streets, reliable power, and educational choice. These policies provide individuals, families, businesses, and communities the freedom to thrive.
I can’t stress the importance of unity enough. One of the original funders of Colorado’s flip is the state’s current governor, Jared Polis, who said, “Discussion of issues that might divide the group was strictly verboten. … All the participants checked their political agendas at the door.” Colorado Democrats had the discipline to stay on message about issues that concerned Colorado voters. It worked.
Third, North Carolina has a large percentage of pragmatic, rural voters. Shoot straight with them about good ideas like those mentioned above. Leave their guns alone. Let them worship as they choose.
New Democratic State Party Chair Clayton Anderson believes the party needs to focus on rural districts. She’s not wrong. However, Democrats may find that’s a losing investment because they’re advancing a party more focused on identity politics and an oppression narrative than economic prosperity.
I live in rural North Carolina. Residents take pride in their communities and place faith in local institutions like churches, schools, and small businesses. Scolding them about the past and criticizing them about the present while touting government-dictated, cradle-to-grave programs won’t win hearts and minds.
Everyone in North Carolina should take pride in freedom’s success, but don’t get complacent. That’s when Colorado’s professional left will say, “I told you so.”