“Jackson projects centrist platform in NC campaign for Senate.” 
That recent headline raised the dreaded c-word that deeply divides Democrats: Centrist.

Jackson, in this case, is state Senator Jeff Jackson of Charlotte. The story was by Will Wright in The News & Observer/The Charlotte Observer, who wrote:

“(Jackson’s) primary message is rooted in the idea that he can restore a sense of professionalism and honesty to Washington that some feel has been lost. He couples that message with policy points that most moderate Democrats support: passing new voting rights legislation; ending gerrymandering; and supporting the right of workers to form unions.

“But it is unclear if moderate campaigns will lead the Democrats to success in the upcoming midterms.”

Also unclear is whether Jackson embraces the “centrist” and “moderate” labels. But the story shows that centrist-or-progressive will be one frame for the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in 2022.

The same divide marked Democrats’ 2020 presidential race. Centrist Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders, a “democratic socialist.”

A recent New York Times analysis of data from Pew Research Center concluded that Biden’s “apparent strength among traditionally moderate or even conservative constituencies, and especially men, is emerging as one of the hallmarks of his victory” in November.

Those groups included married men and veteran households — “probably not the demographic groups that Democrats assumed would carry the party to victory,” the Times noted.

Trump won married men in 2020 by 54-44 percent, a 20-point decline from his 62-32 percent victory in 2016. He won veteran households by 55-43 percent, down 14 points from 61-35 percent in 2016.

The Times said:

“The data suggests that the progressive vision of winning a presidential election simply by mobilizing strong support from Democratic constituencies simply did not materialize for Mr. Biden.”

Looking at the same Pew data in a different way, The Washington Post concluded that independents and suburban voters swung the election to Biden:

“Pew’s figures show Trump winning independents by a single point in 2016 …. Biden then won them by nine points.

“The battle for suburban voters, long the key geographic battleground in presidential elections, went decisively for Biden, by Pew’s findings. Trump won them by two points in 2016. Biden carried them by 11 points in 2020.”

The data has disquieting news for Democrats: Trump gained among Black and Hispanic voters. Biden won both groups, but Trump got 12 percent of the votes of Blacks under 50 (compared to 4 percent of Blacks 50 and older). In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Hispanics by 38 points. Biden carried them by 21 points, according to Pew’s findings.

Race and gender also will define the Democratic Senate race here. Jeff Jackson is white; two other leading candidates are Black women: former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and former state Sen. Erica Smith.

Some Democrats believe the key to victory will be to register and mobilize new, progressive-minded voters, most of them young, Black and Hispanic. Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham lost the 2020 Senate race by less than 100,000 votes, even after his personal scandal.

But does that strategy jibe with the reality of President Biden’s victory in 2020, in both the race for the nomination and the November election? Moderate voters swung both contests to a candidate who some progressive Democrats viewed as out of date and out of step.

It’s a familiar Democratic debate: Go left or go down the middle? It will get a new hearing in North Carolina in 2022.

Gary Pearce is a former political consultant and frequent Pilot contributor. He was an adviser to Gov. Jim Hunt, 1976-1984, and 1992-2000, and is author of the book “Jim Hunt: A Biography.” He also blogs at www.NewDayforNC.com.

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(3) comments

Kent Misegades

Thanks for the humor. The Democrats lost any centrists they still had when they put Jimmy Carter in the WH back in 1976, who brought a band of fruit loops with him. In order to have any chance at elections as they lurch further and further left, they push identity politics, burn cities, steal elections, kill innocent people with drone strikes and open our southern border to the riff raff of the world. With a clear nut case AOC running the show, its hard to see them ever moving away from the far left again. Since they tend to have few offspring and like aborting babies, it’s pretty clear that they are doomed to self-extinction like the Shakers.

Jim Tomashoff

Nearly every single person dying of Covid right now are unvaccinated, people who refuse to wear masks indoors, and won't social distance. They are all, essentially, a multitude of Kent's. They're the ones most likely facing extinction, and I'm perfectly o.k. with that.

Dwight Kidd

Democrats: Go Left or Down The Middle. For The Good of This State and Nation I Say Democrats: GO HOME

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