"Those who have succeeded at anything and don't mention luck are kidding themselves." - Larry King
"Anyone who pretends that some kind of luck isn't involved in his success is deluding himself." - Arthur Hailey
So is the case of Jerry Meek, former chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Lucky to be in the right place at the right time, Meek benefitted immensely from the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign's aggressive grassroots efforts to turn North Carolina blue for the first time in 34 years. However, progressive democrat and elected official, Dan Besse, took this NCDP Insider to task on BlueNC's website yesterday for poking holes in the Meek Myth.
"All I can tell from his/her blog is that he/she detests Jerry Meek and blames him for everything wrong with the NCDP. Which, if nothing else, certainly overstates Jerry's degree of influence," said Besse. "And, of course, it doesn't provide much in the way of coherent narrative--since two years ago while Jerry was chair a Democratic presidential candidate won NC for the first time since 1976. Personally, I don't credit our chair party at any given time with magical powers for either good or evil, but let's be consistent."
Okay. If you grant Meek credit for turning the state blue, then you have to grant Meek credit for the state party's failures, too. Were it not for the Obama campaign opening 52 field offices throughout NC in 2008, a presidential election year where turnout is expected to be higher, NC would have remained a political "red state."
The fact is of the 4.3 million votes cast in NC, a mere 14,177 more people voted for the democratic presidential candidate over the republican one. That's less than a third-of-one-percent (.003 %). Those 52 field offices diligently registered new voters and it paid off. North Carolina had the highest increase in voter turnout in the country, growing from 57% to 65%. For that the Obama campaign deserves full credit, not Jerry Meek as some might want to believe.
"The essential ingredient of politics is timing." - Pierre Trudeau, former Canadian Prime MinisterMany a great idea that failed initially was labeled as ahead of its time, a polite way of saying "bad timing." Conversely, when things work out well, it's because the timing was right. And that brings us to Meek who had the good fortune to chair the democratic party at the right time -- during a historic presidential election year with unprecedented turnout and democratic-momentum. That's not to say that Meek didn't contribute to the state democratic party's success in some ways.
So where did Meek screw up? Consider his bullying the 2008 gubernatorial democratic candidate into supporting Meek's personal choice for state party chair, David Young, in an overt effort (and some say personal vendetta) to block contender David Parker. By hand-picking an ineffective successor, Meek is fully responsible for setting up the party's candidates to fail in subsequent elections. Today, Wake County, the state's largest county, has new republican majorities on both its school board and county commission after democratic candidates got slaughtered at the polls.
Then there's the money excuse. Republicans raised way more money than Democrats since 2008 and out-advertised them as well. But that's not the real reason democrats lost recent elections. The NC Democratic Party slipped into cruise-control after the presidential election, smugly expecting the newly registered voters to just show up at all future elections.
That didn't happen. By letting voter engagement dissipate, the party had to reactivate the base, and that didn't happen either. As a result, Democrats lost ground and control of the state legislature to Republicans for the first time in over 100 years.
Republicans gleefully watched as egotistical democratic party leaders, here and in Washington DC, tried to force Cunningham on voters and ended up imploding the democratic candidates' war chests. Slyly, Meek eventually endorsed Marshall publicly after polls showed Cunningham's numbers dropping weeks before the primary run-off. Like a rat escaping a sinking ship.
For those who insist on wearing rose-colored glasses, it can be hard to see the facts clearly. Still, nothing is as obnoxious as taking credit for others' work and results, nor as transparent as the denial of pure dumb luck.