Now that the official inaugural festivities have concluded, the real work of governing begins for North Carolina’s Republican state government.
Governor McCrory, Speaker Tillis, and Senate President Pro Tempore Berger are three leaders who seek to bring a distinct change to the state.
Beyond what commentators have observed, North Carolina Republicans could begin a more important transformation of the party for their national aspirations.
Most chief executives’ inaugural addresses present a long laundry list of goals and ambitions, with the likelihood that they won’t accomplish everything on their political wish list. And there was certainly a lot on McCrory’s dream list for his first administration.
Echoing themes from past governors, from good roads and transportation to education, McCrory laid out an idealistic-yet-pragmatic course to pursue. And while more centrist in presentation, McCrory’s true test will be to see if he can translate those goals into practical policies without being pushed too far to the right.
If so, then he could present the GOP with its own roadmap to rebuilding the party’s direction and identity. With continued political gridlock and fiscal constraints in the nation’s capital, the states could serve as the central platform for pressing issues confronting the nation.
Transportation and infrastructure, energy, continuing to tackle educational reform, and many other issues will continue to confront our society. States will most likely be the “laboratories of democracy” to experiment, and both parties could use the states as platforms for their national ideas.
But what about the “loyal opposition” in North Carolina? Democrats haven’t faced a similar situation since 1870 — but, like the GOP for so long, this time in the wilderness could be helpful in planning a Democratic revival in the state.
As some have noted, the Democratic Party faces a generational transition period. With the open election for their party’s chairmanship, Democrats should face the next few years contemplating what got the Republicans to power. Yes, the 2010 backlash proved the first formidable wave for the GOP to ride into power on, and they certainly used the power of redistricting to perhaps insulate themselves for several election cycles.
But the GOP also built a grassroots foundation, most notably through the power of idea-development and candidate grooming aided by conservative financing (read Art Pope and his associates).
While many Democrats are loath to follow the money trail that Republicans burnished into power, rebuilding their ranks and putting forth their ideas is critical to renewing the Democrats’ opportunities.
Just look at the new GOP “foundations” having emerged with the Republican ascendancy. One is already in operation, the other being seriously contemplated. No major party can avoid having financial resources on its side and come back into power in today’s climate.
Granted, some would argue that money isn’t everything. And Democrats could be well positioned for a comeback in North Carolina with changing demographics and rising urban strength. But planning requires money and political infrastructure, which is what the GOP invested in.
Should the GOP decide to take its newfound power and veer too far off the pragmatic center-right road, Democrats should be prepared.