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How to resurrect North Carolina's Democratic Party 

The situation in Raleigh gets worse every day

The situation in Raleigh gets worse every day. The reactionary policies of Republicans in the General Assembly pose a serious threat to our environment, our safety net, and the public education system that made this state what is today. Once a moderate mayor of Charlotte, Gov. Pat McCrory has stocked his administration with conservative firebrands like Art Pope, who is now free to turn North Carolina into a soulless land of dollar stores and desperate poverty.

How were Democrats planning to respond? With the same vapid, reactionary policies that have left voters fed up with politics in general. A confidential memo produced by Blueprint North Carolina for the state's liberal advocacy and policy organizations recently leaked to the press proposed that rather than revamping a progressive agenda that could win over voters, Democrats should try to "cripple" Republican leaders and "pressure McCrory at every public event."

The plan was to play gutter politics for the next couple of years, but voters are disillusioned by that system — one that seems, or in most cases is, rigged — and Democrats in the capital who became known more for corruption than progress.

The electorate turns to conservative government when they lose faith in the political process, so resurrecting the Democratic Party in North Carolina goes hand in hand with restoring that faith. Democrats need to listen to what people need, not just what they want, and offer an agenda that makes them believe in politics again; an agenda that inspires voters to get off the couch and to the polls, no matter what obstacle stands in their way.

It is for that reason that the Democratic Law Society at the Charlotte School of Law is organizing "Plotting A Comeback" April 11.

Diverse leaders will come together for the forum to discuss issues facing North Carolina's Democrats and how to overcome the most pressing obstacles. Moderated by Sam Spencer, president of Young Democrats of North Carolina, the panel will include 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, College Democrats of America President Tori Taylor, state representatives Paul Luebke and Rodney Moore, and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, with other distinguished guests to be added.

Instead of investing energy in opposing everything McCrory does, Democrats should focus on the future, starting at the local level. They should recruit talented candidates to run for mayor, sheriff and school boards across the state in 2013 and offer innovative solutions to local issues based on community values. Democrats should take on meth and prescription drug abuse. They should try to win over those who rarely vote.

Some argue that shifting demographics in the state will put Democrats back in power in time for the next presidential election. But we cannot rely on changing tides to fix the party's or North Carolina's problems. There is too much suffering happening on the outskirts of the big cities, in hundreds of small towns that are falling apart. People are losing not only jobs, but their culture and way of life.

Michael A. Cooper Jr. is a student at the Charlotte School of Law and was a 2009 New Leaders Fellow at the Center for Progressive Leadership.

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