Up & Coming Weekly

November 24, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 8 of 24

8 UCW NOVEMBER 25-DECEMBER 1, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM D.G. MARTIN, Host of UNC's Book Watch. COMMENTS? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. JOHN HOOD, Chairman of the John Locke Foundation. Contributing Writer. COMMENTS? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200 LITERATURE Greek and Hebrew guides to our political differences by D.G. MARTIN Party extends down the ballot by JOHN HOOD How can ancient Greek and Hebrew thinking help us understand why our friends who support other political candidates see things so differently from us? It is dangerous for anyone to try to explain why people support opposing political figures or parties. We sometimes rush to describe our opponents in strong, condemning and disrespectful ways. e temptation is strong to say simply that they are too stupid or too uninformed to reach the right conclusions. On the one hand, we say they are too unthinking, too old, too white, too conservative, or on the other hand, too diverse, too young, or too smug about their univer- sity educations. Candidates who support nationalistic or conservative positions get accused of ignoring science and rejecting wholesale the conclusions of scientists about the causes of pandemics, global warming and pollution. Mean- while, progressive candidates get accused of rejecting out-of-hand the deeply held religious views of others about marriage, abortion and freedom of religion. Have we separated ourselves into two groups? One that holds out science as the path to knowledge and guidance for governmental policy and action? Or an- other that asserts we must look to some higher author- ity to be the guide for public decisions about morality and public policy? University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Lloyd Kramer, director of Carolina Public Humanities and a professor who specializes in the history of different ideas throughout the ages, points out that our division into these two groups is not something new. In an outline that accompanies his "e Great Courses" lec- tures on "European ought and Culture in the 20th Century," he writes that these kinds of differences "expressed the ten- sion between the two oldest strands of thought in the West- ern cultural tradition. Historians have often described Western civilization as a com- plex fusion of two ancient cultural traditions: the Greek culture that developed especially in Athens and the Hebrew culture that developed in ancient Palestine." Kramer points out how these different ways of searching for the truth still guide and undergird our dif- ferent approaches. He explains, "e Greeks developed the philo- sophical understanding of reason, stressed the rational pursuit of knowledge, and (in such thinkers as Aris- totle) emphasized the observation or study of nature. Although the Greeks talked about the gods and a higher metaphysical realm, they were fascinated by the human body and the material world. "e Hebrews, in contrast, developed the idea of monotheism, stressed the unique human ability to communicate with God, and (in such thinkers as the prophets) emphasized God's role in human history. "Although the Hebrews wrote about political events and real people acting in the world, they gave great attention to spiritual issues and to divine powers or ethical injunctions. "To summarize these distinctions in very broad terms, the Greeks saw reason as the path to truth and the Hebrews saw divine revelation as the path to ulti- mate truth." ese cultural debates have continued throughout the centuries and today's differences can, in part, be seen as the modern expression of those long-existing tensions between the Greek and Hebrew traditions in Western intellectual life. Kramer reminds us, however, that "nothing in history ever stays exactly the same; of course, the debate be- tween what we might call 'reason' and 'revelation' took new forms as society, science and culture evolved in the late nineteenth century." Americans on both sides of today's cultural divide are influenced by both of these lasting traditions. But few, if any of us, are pure Greek or pure Hebrew. Nevertheless, applying the Greek and Hebrew differ- ent models to modern American political differences has helped me put some of our different approaches in perspective. In 2020, North Carolina Republicans and Demo- crats took their respective cases to the public. Each party asked voters to put them fully in charge of North Carolina government. e voters said no. Well, to be more precise, the vast majority of voters actually said yes to the pitch — each party's base vote was about 46% of the electorate — but the remaining 8% chose to split their tickets. Some of them left individual races blank or went third-party, most notably in Senate race (4.4% voted for neither om Tillis nor Cal Cunningham). Others chose an assortment of Republicans and Democrats, depend- ing on the office. Longtime readers know that I like to look at outcomes beyond the headline races to get a better handle on the state's political trajectory. anks to data gathered by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, and crunched by my col- league Anna Martina, I can now supplement what you've already heard about the elections with a closer look at county commissions. Going into the 2020 cycle, 56 of North Caro- lina's100 counties were governed by Republicans. at was a high-water mark for the state GOP. For most of the 20th century, their local candidates had been irrelevant in all but a handful of Piedmont and mountain counties. As recently as 1976, 89 counties had Democratic boards. Higher up on the ballot, the 1970s was the time that true two-party competition arrived in North Carolina. Republicans won ground-breaking guber- natorial and Senate races. It just took several cycles for the effect to filter down to counties. Republicans secured 20 county commissions in 1980, 33 in 1988, and 42 by the big red-wave election of 1994. At that point, however, the GOP's rise to political parity began to stall out. During the rest of the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, North Carolina Democrats enjoyed significant success in rebuilding their previous electoral majorities, with coalitions that included progressives, moderates and even rural voters with conservative leanings. As recently as 2004, way more than 8% of voters split their tickets. President George W. Bush won reelection that year with 56% of North Carolina's vote even as Democratic Gov. Mike Easley won reelection with, yep, 56% of the vote. ose days are past, however. During the first midterm of President Barack Obama's tenure, state Republicans blasted through their previous blue ceiling. ey didn't just win congressional seats and take over both chambers of the General Assembly in 2010. ey also won 49 county commissions. Over the next four cycles, the GOP became the majority party in North Carolina county government. So what happened in 2020? e trend contin- ued. e number of Republican-controlled boards jumped from 56 to 61. A decisive outcome? Not so fast. While each has its own government and political climate, counties dif- fer widely in population. Even as Republicans have been winning more and more local offices in rural and suburban counties, they've been losing ground in urban ones. It wasn't that long ago that the most populous one, Wake County, had a Republican county commission. Not long before that, Mecklenburg's board was also up for grabs. Not anymore. While a few high-popu- lation counties still have GOP boards, the party lost its majority this year in the county with the third- highest population, Guilford. As a result, while 61 of the state's 100 counties now have Republican governments, approximately 51% of North Carolinians live in counties with Democratic governments. Before the 2020 election, most North Carolinians lived in GOP-run counties. Looking at these county trends brings the state's overall political picture into sharper focus. Demo- crats used to be competitive in much of rural and small-town North Carolina. ey are less so today. On the other hand, when Republicans first became a competitive force in state politics, much of their strength was found in the suburbs of Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and other metros. at strength has ebbed. e net effect? We are a closely divided state — which is evident all the way down the ballot. OPINION Lloyd Kramer

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