Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Reflections on National Term Limits Day

By Christopher Cooper

February 27 was National Term Limits day. While it didn’t exactly sweep the nation, politicians and citizens alike posted on Twitter (#TermLimitsDay), placed signs in their yard, and otherwise let it be known that they thought politicians’ terms should be limited. Heck, there’s even a podcast devoted to the movement.


Surveys that ask about the issue consistently find that term limits are popular with the public. For example, a McLaughlin and Associates survey found that 82% of the public supports term limits. A 2013 GallupPoll came to a similar conclusion—75% of the people surveyed supported term limits for members of the US House and Senate. Various state polls also indicate strong support for term limits. The polling data are clear: people like term limits.


It's easy to understand why term limits are so popular: trust in government is at an all-time low, people don’t like Congress, they don’t like their state legislature, they don’t like politicians in general, and yet incumbents win the vast majority of the time. So, why don’t we just “throw the bums out” and start over every few years?


The problem is that term limits don’t solve the problems they were meant to solve. They introduce new ones. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Getting What We Pay For

By Chris Cooper

I am pleased that The Assembly, a new "digital magazine about the people, institutions, and ideas" that shape North Carolina recently published my piece, "Getting What We Pay For." In it, I make the case that we should give more resources (salary, staff, session length) to members of our General Assembly. I thought readers of this blog might be interested in the piece, and in what the folks at The Assembly are doing.

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Conversation about Trumpism vs. Trumpian vs. The Party of Trump

In this ‘conversation’ blog piece, the four of us (Whitney Ross Manzo, aka WRM; Michael Bitzer, aka MB; Chris Cooper, aka CC; and Susan Roberts, aka SR) consider recent developments within the Republican Party and what “Trumpism” may, or may not, necessarily mean in our politics. 

Just to get a sense of things before we dive into the specifics, how do you teach what a political party is to your students?

WRM: I use V.O. Key’s famous 3-part description: the party in government, the party organization, and the party in the electorate. The hardest part is getting students to understand the difference between the party organization and the party in government, because usually the party organization is unknown to all except the most ardent political watchers. When you add in all 50 states’ party organizations, the “organization” becomes even more murky.

MB: Same for me. And, for the most part, students tend to find the “triangle’s corners” fairly easy to remember (especially in my Southern accent): PIG, PIE, and PAO (the last one is a bit weird, granted, but it’s basically “pay-oo”). And not just with students, but with reporters as well. To me, it makes a clear sense of how a party might be ‘viewed,’ and with those three corners, where perhaps Trump’s greatest influences might be found. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Slow Erosion of Swing Counties in North Carolina

By Christopher Cooper

Anyone with even a passing familiarity of American politics is well-aware of the "swing state" concept--the idea that most states are increasingly locked into one party or the other, whereas a small number of swing states can "swing" from one party to the other. 

In the past few elections, there has been increasing attention on swing counties--counties (often situated in battleground states), that could swing from one party to the other, from one election to the next. As this brief post will demonstrate, North Carolina counties are increasingly red or blue and the number of "swing counties" is at an all-time low. This trend has important implications for polarization and for the future of North Carolina and American politics.

Monday, February 8, 2021

When Parachuting Journalists Don't Even Bother Jumping Out of the Plane

By Michael Bitzer 

A recent article in The Atlantic is getting a lot of play in the Old North State's political arena by asking the question, "What Does This Man Know That Other Democrats Don't?", regarding the success that North Carolina governor Roy Cooper has had over his political career. 

In the article, the author traces Cooper's time as a state representative up to currently serving as the state's chief executive officer (note to author: we don't call our state representatives "general assemblyman," but rather our legislature is known as the General Assembly, with representatives and senators who compose the bicameral body).

And while several of the state's leading political strategists weighed in on Cooper's success and trying to define it, there was no mentioned made of several important facets that could have helped further explain, or at least address, the question "what's so different about Roy Cooper winning in North Carolina?"

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Georgia, North Carolina, and the Illusion of "Turning Blue"

The Asheville Citizen Times is kind enough to give me some space every now and again to write about politics. This piece is about the similarities and differences between Georgia and North Carolina (TLDR? Their outcomes were almost identical, despite the fact that one "turned blue" and the other "stayed red.") I thought it might be of interest to readers of this blog. Please click through to read the whole piece and, if you're not already a subscriber, please consider a subscription to the Citizen Times.

By Chris Cooper

On Nov. 4, 2020, the eye of the constantly moving political storm shifted to the 59,425 square miles that make up the state of Georgia. Not only did Georgia surprise political observers by giving its 16 electors to Joe Biden on Nov. 3, but thanks to quirky runoff rules, and a nationally competitive environment, majority control of the U.S. Senate was ultimately determined by voters in the Peach State. 

Georgia was generally considered a “second tier swing state” prior to the election, as opposed to North Carolina, which was generally considered one of the states most likely to swing.  After the votes were counted, a series of articles soon appeared attempting to explain why Georgia “flipped blue” and North Carolina “stayed red.”

Please click through to read the rest: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/opinion/2021/02/07/georgia-north-carolina-and-illusion-turning-blue/4394177001/


Chris Cooper is Madison Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. He tweets at @chriscooperwcu

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

ONSP Contributors on the Tying It Together Podcast

Drs. Chris Cooper, Susan Roberts, and Michael Bitzer talked with Tim Boyum of Spectrum News 1 for his podcast Tying It Together about the calls for "unity" and share their thoughts about what that means and how it can be achieved, if it can. 

You can find the podcast here or on any of your favorite podcast venues. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Exploring NC's Republican Switchers

By Susan Roberts & Michael Bitzer

As has been noted in several news articles, numerous North Carolina registered Republican voters have left the party to another registration, most notably going 'unaffiliated' in their party status. Some speculation for the switch could be due to the storming of the Capitol at January 6th insurrection.  

Yet even before the divisive nature of the 2020 election came to a head, public opinion polls have shown a deepening and unsettling frustration with the two major parties since the 2000s. However, a closer examination is needed of the actual number of North Carolina Republicans abandoning their party label in the context of the 2020 Election, its aftermath, and potentially in light of the events of January 6. 

Party registration can be fluid, and in this day of intense party polarization, it might be thought that only the true partisan—the loyalists, the die-hards—associates with a party, while other voters may want to avoid the public party label for the comfort of being ‘unaffiliated’ in their party registration status (granted, this could be just one of many reasons). Even before the divisive election of Donald Trump in 2016, some Americans were calculating the social desirability of identifying with either party

But while a few weeks data can paint a picture of the party switchers, we decided to look more broadly and deeply into the data to see what has happened since the general election last year, and in particular who these North Carolina GOP defectors are, based on some key demographic details. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

A Brief Look Back at the Green and Constitution Parties in North Carolina

By Chris Cooper

This week's memo from the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) lays it out pretty clearly: “the Constitution and Green Party are no longer recognized political parties in North Carolina.”  As of January 27, 2021, neither party is listed listed on the voter registration application (h/t Gerry Cohen, the oracle of NC election law, for linking this on his Twitter account). Unless they can successfully re-qualify for ballot access before the February 22, 2021 meeting of the NCSBE (h/t to everybody's favorite Libertarian candidate, Sean Haugh for spelling this out clearly), members of both parties will have their party affiliation switched automatically to Unaffiliated. 

The elimination of both parties wasn't done out of spite, but rather because neither party achieved "the required 2% of the total vote for their candidate for governor or for presidential electors in the 20202 general election” (see this piece from Danielle Battaglia for a good run-down on what happened).

Given the impending demise of both parties, it seems like as good a time as any to take a look at life and times of the Green and Constitution parties to see if it can teach us anything about the future of party registration in the Old North State.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

ONSP "Vlog" Episode 4: Is 2021 vying to be 2020 version 2.1?

Well, 2021 certainly is trying to up the ante on 2020: from insurrection to impeachment to an inauguration, the first few weeks of January has been historic...yet again.

So, it was time to gather the Old North State Politics crew together for our fourth 'vlog,' which can be found here and on YouTube, along with the audio file on Soundcloud.