It was a tale of two visions of government. And when politicians from both parties came through Charlotte with plans on what it’s going to take to get the country back to work, the difference was stark.
This week saw the arrival of Democrats Martin O'Malley, governor of Maryland, and Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts. Last week two GOP hopefuls, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, passed through town.
After touring the Time Warner Cable Arena on Monday, O’Malley and Patrick were enthusiastic about Charlotte’s preparations for the 2012 Democratic convention and their candidates.
Fresh off appearances on Sunday talk shows, the pair came to town for a two-day conference on the new economy and emerging technologies, presented by the Democratic Governors Association and the Center for Innovative Policy and hosted by North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, who skipped the tour.
DGA chair O’Malley said the convention is “going to be very grassroots oriented” and interactive, and repeated the DNC’s narrative that it will showcase “the way North Carolina is re-creating its economy.”
When I asked Patrick how the party will energize voters who turned out in the state and across the country to elect President Obama in 2008 — including young people, independents and African Americans — he told me: “Nobody is taking this election for granted and we shouldn’t take it for granted. I say to Democrats who are nervous, ‘Good, good,’ because that edge is important for us. It means we have to get out there and work. It means we have to make the case to people.”
He and O’Malley — who urged support of the president’s jobs bill — said Democrats and Republicans present starkly different views of America, its challenges and how to confront them. The Democratic Party believes, Patrick said, “that we have some responsibility to each other. Not that government can solve every problem in everybody’s life, but that government has a role to play in helping people help themselves.”
The difference was on view last week when Perry and visited Charlotte, which is close enough to South Carolina and its primary scheduled for Jan. 21. “Government doesn’t create jobs; the private sector creates jobs,” Bachmann said after a meeting with the Charlotte Chamber, which does not endorse and has invited candidates from both parties to speak. Bachmann said that it’s the Federal government’s duty to “provide for the safety and security of the American people.”
The Chamber and the city needn’t worry about attracting newsmakers. As the election and DNC 2012 approach, Charlotte is sure to see more from a parade of candidates and officials with competing messages. What we may not see is common ground.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 on TV’s Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.