Thirty Swing Left Greater Boston volunteers have just returned from Union county, North Carolina, where an election redo after Republicans cheated has taught us some valuable lessons about the Republican playbook and what is needed to overcome it.
In the last two weeks of the campaign, Republicans spent over $6 million on a barrage of ads depicting “Greedy McCready” as an avaricious trickster who lined his pockets at public expense while supporting a radical Socialist agenda (including a “crazy” Green New Deal purported to cost American families $65,000 a year.) Many voters in the district apparently were swayed by these claims, despite the former Marine’s exemplary service record, his moderate positions, and his refusal to take special interest donations.
Meanwhile, the Republican contender, Dan Bishop, turned the race into a “Right Dan/Wrong Dan” exercise: Build the Wall! Protect gun rights! Defend the unborn! Many voters were unaware or did not care that Bishop had invested in a hate speech website where the Charlottesville alt-right rally was planned, authored an anti-transgender bill that cost North Carolina millions in lost business, and had voting record that reflected his cosy relationship with Big Pharma.
As canvassers, we saw the effect of these ads. Conservatives began to treat us with disdain and even anger. Moderates who would have supported McCready became disillusioned by the negativity, which they perceived as coming from both campaigns. The ad campaign seemed to be most effective in the rural areas. Compared to 2018, the Democratic turnout was lower than Republican turnout in every rural county in the district.
So what can we learn for the 2020 races to come? Dan McCready tried to rally the district around the idea that we are all Americans with a respectful attempt to connect with voters of all political persuasions. The Republican National Committee, the Republican Congressional Leadership PAC, President Trump and Dan Bishop countered with distortions of reality, stirring up anger and distrust. While this election is now over, Democrats have a new opportunity to learn to heal the acrimony and divisions that remain.