As Allen Torrey, associate editor of The N&O's Editorial pages, heads into retirement today after almost two decades in the post, he leaves with these parting thoughts on the post-election doom and gloomers.
Reader William T. Lynch, Ph.D., of Apex sent this submission on data that show how many voters really have no party that perfectly fits their views. That'd be half of us.
I don't claim to understand the graphic shared here, but I have no trouble believing that a lot of us settle uncomfortably on our election choices.
A look at the avalanche of emotion in the community in the wake of the school board's firing of Superintendent Tony Tata:
Syndicated columnist George Will, in town to give the keynote address tonight at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce banquet, made a pitstop at The N&O this afternoon.
How I wish I could give a full accounting of what he had to say, most of it in response to questions from N&O employees, but I could hear about only a third of what he said and typing at my usual speed would have meant no one around me could have heard that third. I reckon he was saving his voice for the Chamber.
But here, nonetheless, is a look at my limited, nonverbatim, very quietly typed notes:
Will said he'd be talking tonight to the Chamber about the presidential race -- and about why whoever wins is going to regret it. Stopping the death spiral of our entitlement state is a tall order. This is Will's 11th presidential campaign since he moved to Washington.
It's not a pretty picture out there, but we're an industrious, educated people who have proved we can create wealth.
President Obama is a true progressive, a direct descendant of Woodrow Wilson. Both believe the Constitution is a nuisance. The question is whether it's a document to secure our rights or to offer a fountain of rights.
Answering a question as to whether Congress will ever return to bipartisanship, Will said this will not be a big election that actually settles something.
Barack Obama, in 2008, had one of the best hand of cards ever, Will said. He was an African-American at the best time. The Republicans nominated an implausible 72-year-old lawyer with an even more implausible running mate. And yet Obama got only 53 percent of the vote. This year, Obama will get even less. In 2008, he was a national Rorschach test. Now he’s had four years of making presidential choices. Expect him to get even less of the popular vote, although he can still pile up an enormous Electoral College victory.
Question: Given the state of the economy, why isn't Mitt Romney doing better?
Answer: Romney should be 10 points ahead. People like to say Americans vote their pocketbooks, but, no, they don't. They're much more interesting than that. Romney has been elected to one office: one term as governor. He speaks conservative as a second language. It's very difficult to be Mitt Romney and to have to stand about 3 feet away from yourself to watch and make sure you get things right. He’s just not a very gifted politician. Some have the aptitude, and some don't. Politics is 98 percent making small talk with strangers.
Question: How do you feel about Super PACS?
Answer: I regret that they're necessary. But If you're going to have the McCain-Feingold Act, PACS are a good thing. People who say there is too much money in politics are saying there's too much political speech. People say, "There's going to be $2 billion spent on this election." That's what Americans spend every March on Easter candy.
Question: Should a man such as Mitt Romney who made a comment this week denigrating half the American public as moochers be president?
Answer: The subject of dependency on government merits a speech that is careful and public. But dependency is the Democrats' agenda. The more who are dependent, the better for the party. Democrats stress equality. Republicans stress liberty. Democrats want everyone to be equally dependent. More than 1 in 7 Americans are using food stamps; 50 years ago when the program started, it was 1 in 50. Increasing dependency is a problem. When the top 1 percent of Americans pay 37 percent of the income tax, it's a problem.
Challenged again on Romney's comment, Will reiterated that dependency on the government is a subject worthy of serious public debate. Someone who is not worried about increasing dependency on the government is the one who is not qualified to be president, he said.
Asked how he can separate those increased "dependency" numbers from the recession that caused so many Americans to lose their jobs, Will noted that the limit for unemployment benefits has increased from 26 weeks to 98 weeks, a fact that offers a clear disincentive for people to rejoin the working. (audible groans from the audience)
Government programs have a way of going too far, he said. More is always better in Washington.
Asked why he's so critical of Obama without noting the problems that the president took control of in 2008, Will said that Obama is not the first president to inherit an imperfect world from his predecesssor. "There is an expiration date on alibis," he said. Obama told us if we pass the stimulus, we won't have unemployment over 8 percent.
Regardless, not much will change, no matter who is elected. The world of 2013 is going to look remarkably like the world of 2012. Political forecasting is much like weather forecasting. More than 90 percent of the time, if you say today is going to be like yesterday, you're right.
A Republican Party that loses in November is one that will go farther to the right.
Foreign aid isn't worth discussing. It's a rounding number in the federal budget.
If we're ever going to manage to return to bipartisanship, it will be over tax reform. The tax code is our principal means of how favors are granted. Simplifying the tax code would bring about political reform because you put out the parasite class of those who are in Washington simply to influence the tax code.
Income inequality is a concern. 200 years ago, wealth was land. 100 years ago, it was fixed capital: steel mills, etc. Today, it's education, information, minds, human capital. And there are limits to how much that can add value to the economy. The biggest reasons we have increased income equality are because the illegitimacy rate has increased and because public education has deteriorated. We all understand the pathologies that arise from single, uneducated parents.
And, lastly, anybody willing to do what it takes to be president shouldn't be president.
This week, we get the Democratic National Conventional, which starts on Tuesday in Charlotte.
Unlike the Republican convention, which was scheduled to run Monday through Thursday last week, the DNC only runs three days, Tuesday through Thursday. Broadcast networks will mostly handle the Democratic convetion the same way they handled the RNC: Coverage on morning news shows and on their nightly news programs, but just one hour of primetime coverage each night starting at 10 p.m. (only NBC deviates from this standard -- see below).
PBS (UNC-TV locally) will devote three hours of primetime to the convention each night, but no daytime hours. Cable news shows will be almost around-the-clock for the Charlotte action.
As with the Republican show in Tampa last week, much of the TV coverage will start ahead of time on Sunday's political discussion shows.
Here's a brief breakdown of what everyone will offer:
Fred Foster, president of the Durham NAACP branch, has become the third official unofficial candidate for the Board of County Commissioners.
Candidate filing does not open until Feb. 13, but this week Foster (right) registered a campaign committee with the Durham County Board of Elections.
A long-time Democratic Party activist, Foster ran unsuccessfully for a commissioners' seat in 2000 and 2008, and for the state House in 2010.
He joined Duke University biologist Will Wilson and former Durham Planning Commissioner Wendy Jacobs, who had already registered their campaign committees. Both are registered Democrats.
Political newcomer John Owens, also a Democrat, registered an "exploratory committee" this week, but has not specified an office he is seeking.
The disruption expected when the Democratic National Convention comes to Charlotte next year may force a significant adjustment to the academic calendar at UNC Charlotte.
The university may push back the start of the fall 2012 semester by more than three weeks to both accommodate infrastructure demands from convention visitors and to avoid disruptions caused by the event, which is expected to draw 35,000 to the Queen City.
"It would be very difficult to conduct regular business with the convention going on," said Phil Dubois, UNCC's chancellor. "If the president comes to town, everything stops."
Currently, fall classes next year are slated to start Aug. 20. But Dubois told members of the UNC system's Board of Governors this week classes may be pushed back 25 days.
"It looks like we could make it work if we push close to Christmas," Dubois said, adding that the university may add Saturday classes to help make up the lost class days.
The convention is slated for the week of Sept. 3, and UNCC's downtown facility is just three blocks from the convention site.
In addition, the university has been asked to help provide housing for visitors; Dubois has offered up 1,500 residence hall beds but will charge $500 per person per night. That's what the university needs to charge to make up for lost revenue.
UNCC would have to alter contracts for student housing and food service and make other adjustments that, in total, would cost the university $3 million.
"There's a cost to our cooperation," Dubois said. "We're not going to do anything to be subsidizing the Democratic National Convention."
The university also hopes to turn the convention into a learning lab for some of its students. It hopes to place some as volunteers and perhaps create courses that involve the convention; a fourth summer session may be squeezed in during the 25-day delay at the end of the summer, Dubois said.
"Yes, it's an inconvenience," he said. "But with that inconvenience comes a chance to do something meaningful. The faculty see it as an opportunity for students."