Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Book for Democrats to Read: Drew Westen's "The Political Brain"

After having read several positive reviews and hearing about it either on NPR or a similar news program, Melanie and I picked up a copy of Drew Westen's "The Political Brain." The subtitle is "The Role of Emotions in Deciding The Fate of the Nation." It was recently published by Public Affairs Books.

Though I am only about 75 pages into it, I already recommend it highly to all Democrats ... most particularly to our candidates and their campaign teams who handle media/message/platform development. What is most educational so far in this book is the message that Democrats often lose elections because we focus on dry facts/details/reason to the detriment of how voters are driven by emotions and passions. Mr. Westen shows how we - using hypothetical examples from real races for President - can be "passionate" and emotive in our appeals to voters while still remaining committed to the facts and what is right, proper, moral and honorable.

Once both Melanie and I have finished the book and compared notes then I'll update this post.

Meanwhile, check it out at your library, pick one up at your bookstore, or go online and order it. You won't regret it.

Tackling the Myths Against NC's Electoral College reforms

Here are some points I shared with legislators this week as they considered whether to pass SB 353, the Presidential electors bill.

* * * * *

Good morning!

By now you have already received a barrage of emails and calls against this bill.

However, this is not one of them.

As a former lawmaker who introduced similar legislation in the past, and as a director of the NC Center for Voter Education, and, more importantly, as a voter who wants my vote and your vote for President to count, please VOTE YES on SB 353 today. In brief, here is why:

You have heard various points for and against the bill.

Many opponents of SB 353 want you to believe several outright misrepresentations (at best).

Myth/Misrepresentation #1:
NC has always awarded its electors using a "winner take all" method.

Answer: FALSE. NC, like many states, did not use a "winner take all" method until well into the 19th century. My thorough, accurate research - including several published articles of mine over the years - detail this.

Myth/Misrepresentation #2: Adopting any presidential elector change like in SB 353 violates the US Constitution and the intent of the Founding Fathers.

Answer: FALSE. Anyone who says the above to you is either ignorant of the Constitution (and the the process that led to its creation) or purposely misleading you. A clear, direct reading of the relevant provisions of the Constitution says that how a State chooses its presidential electors is LEFT UP TO THE STATES. In fact, presidential electors - starting with the election of George Washington - were NOT awarded on a winner-take-all basis. It was a concept that did not catch on until the 1840s and then gradually began to emerge for decades. ... In fact, by supporting SB 353 you would be what is called a "strict constructionist" of the Constitution, a conservative position that even the John Roberts/Antonin Scalia U.S. Supreme Court could not oppose!

Myth/Misrepresentation #3: SB 353 is less democratic and harms the weight of each voter's ballot for President.

Answer: FALSE. Most people do not realize that the current system of "winner take all" is not about who gets a majority of votes in NC ... it actually is who gets a "plurality" - that is, the most votes, even if many more people actually oppose the vote-leader. In other words, a presidential candidate in NC, under the current system, could get ALL of the the State's electors even if that candidate received, for example, only 33% of the vote! This is not merely a hypothetical. As recently as 1992 in NC, the current system awarded ALL of its NC electors to incumbent President George H.W. Bush (father of the current President) even though he ONLY received 43% of the votes in NC. Clinton received 42% and Perot received the balance. Compare with the elections here in NC in 1948, 1968, and 1980. ... Equally compelling is this question: Is it fair if 49.9999% of the States' voters have no electors to represent their preference for President? ... If anything, adopting SB 353 will ensure that votes are not wasted and that the awarding of our State's electors better reflects the will of our State's voters by basing it mostly upon Congressional districts. SB 353 is a bold underscoring of what our "democratic republic", or representative, form of government is all about.

Myth/Misrepresentation #4: NC has not considered this bill in recent years.

Answer: FALSE. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, a similar bill passed the NC House of Representatives. In 2001, the bill I filed on the subject passed the House Election Laws Committee. That same year, the Senate passed its version (sponsored by former Senator Howard Lee) out of the Senate.

Myth/Misrepresentation #5: SB 353 is a bill only sought by Democrats.

Answer: FALSE. As recently as 2001 forward, countless Republicans have filed and pushed similar bills in States all around the country, as well as Democrats. By my count, at least 20 States have been considering this positive election law reform in recent years.

Myth/Misrepresentation #6: SB 353 will dilute our weaken our State's role in the presidential election contest.

Answer: FALSE: To the contrary, given that we are one of the 10 largest states, presidential candidates from the major parties will flock here more than ever to visit voters and not just come by to rake up campaign cash. If Republican and Democratic presidential candidates know that several Congressional districts - and their presidential electors - are in play in NC, then they will spend more time here. Another plus: NC will have an economic benefit, probably in the many millions of dollars, by the additional spending of campaigns and supporters of candidates here. It is high time that more of our presidential candidates pay attention to NC. If we can't move up our presidential primary, then SB 353 is a welcome alternative. And it is good for business.

* * * * *

Though there are many other misrepresentations being advocated by opponents, please consider the above and VOTE YES for SB 353.

It will be the best way to give voters more say in who NC actually supports for President.

Thank you for your consideration.

Wayne Goodwin
Former member, NC House of Representatives (1997-2004)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Public Financing of Campaigns Preserves Campaigns By, Of, For the People

Public Financing of Campaigns Preserves Power for the People
By Wayne Goodwin
July 2, 2007

So why do we elect so many statewide officials?

Back in the 1700s, fear of King-picked Royal Governors and their great powers helped sow strong sentiments against strong State executives. Those seeds sprouted into many revisions of our State constitution, guaranteeing a weak governor and a State government with decentralized executive authority.

As our state grew, responsibility for important policy areas such as agriculture, education, labor policy, and the regulation of insurance was divided among independently-elected constitutional offices, together called the Council of State.

Because of this division, each Council of State officer is continuously and increasingly bombarded by special interests who want to influence these policy areas. The bombardment reaches fever pitch leading up to elections, when special interests ratchet up their pitch with campaign contributions or promises of contributions to candidates they approach.

Witness recent scandals involving disgraced former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, House Speaker Jim Black, and others during the last few years. What have these scandals done to public trust in government? It is vastly important for such officials to remain free from actual or perceived undue influence. That is why campaign reforms for these offices, and others, is so badly needed.

This is not merely academic for me: It is real. As an eight-year State Representative and a candidate for Labor Commissioner in 2004, I witnessed first-hand what our candidates for Statewide office endure. While it used to be that a candidate would visit all the county seats and the respective Sheriff in each courthouse, and call on a few people in each county while enjoying an RC Cola at a country store or humpteen BBQs, today campaigning is about the money chase and spending every waking hour raising campaign contributions. Why? Because campaigns today cost more and involve expensive TV ads, countless polls, and consultants in a world where fewer and fewer folks pay attention to elections. In my own 2004 race, like other candidates, I had to lock myself in a cubicle – a campaign War Room – and spend up to 12 hours daily, 6 days weekly, on the phone between 6 and 12 months. Frankly, asking people you know – and those you don't know - to each donate up to thousands of dollars is awkward … but a necessary component of the current system. Asking someone to donate to a charitable cause or a church or a scholarship program is one thing, but making 200 calls daily for your personal campaign's benefit decimates what a candidate should be doing: Spending time with voters.

To accumulate the amount of cash most campaigns are told they need these days, they choose to focus more often on donors of larger sums.

It should also be no surprise that many persons who donate to Council of State offices are often persons directly or indirectly regulated by those very offices, a situation which is potentially fraught with all sorts of problems. Big donors sometimes use their influence to seek tax breaks, weak regulations, or favors that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.

In 2007 legislators have filed a bill that's a first step toward solving this problem. House Bill 1517 would create a voluntary public financing option for certain Council of State candidates. Lawmakers, current and former Council of State leaders, and thousands of North Carolinians believe it is a good idea because it gives candidates a chance to forego the dreadful money chase in exchange for limited public money to run their campaigns. In exchange for participating, candidates waive their right to seek contributions from big donors and from political action committees (PACs). If the General Assembly passes this pilot program, then in 2008 we will take a gigantic step towards cleaning up the campaign process. We will increase the number of qualified candidates willing to run and interaction between them and the voters.

North Carolina has a history that recognizes the value of a government based on power sharing and not powerful State executives. Public financing of campaigns is a voluntary method that helps ensure this power-sharing continues. Let's keep North Carolina elections voter-owned. We all win when the public knows our politicians are not beholden to powerful special interests, but only beholden to us.

# # #

Wayne Goodwin is a Director and Secretary of the N.C. Center for Voter Education. A native of Hamlet, he represented Richmond, Scotland, Stanly, and Montgomery Counties in the N.C. House of Representatives for eight years. He was co-sponsor of the original judicial public financing legislation. Today he is the Assistant Commissioner of Insurance. His spouse, State Representative Melanie Wade Goodwin, chairs the House Election Laws and Campaign Finance Reform Committee.

NC Democrats & Wayne Goodwin to Hold Regional Town Meetings

July 6, 2007

Dear North Carolina Democrat:

Now that the 2007 congressional district conventions have been held and resolutions passed by those districts have been referred to me and the NCDP Platform and Resolutions Committee, we are now at the time when two vital things occur:

(1) The Platform and Resolutions Committee schedules its work session in advance of the August 25th State Executive Committee meeting in Greensboro; and,

(2) As chairman of the Platform and Resolutions Committee, I announce the schedule of Regional Town Hall Meetings. These regional meetings are opportunities for Democrats to gather together to discuss, comment on, and recommend resolutions that were either passed by one or more district conventions, submitted by an NCDP auxiliary group (whether official or unofficial), submitted by the public at large, submitted by the Resolutions Committee, or submitted by the NCDP chairman.

Do note two additional items. First, because there is no State Convention in odd-numbered years and we adopted a thorough Platform last July, this year we will only consider resolutions. No amendments to the Platform will be considered until 2008 in advance of the State Convention. (This is not to be confused with any proposed amendments to the Plan of Organization, which arise through a separate process and committee.) Second, because we only address resolutions this year, then we are able to start a little later with our regional town meetings than in previous years.

These meetings have been quite successful and productive in the recent past. In 2005 and 2006 more than 300 persons each year participated in the meetings all across the State. We also received hundreds of resolutions and proposed Platform amendments, all indicative of a vibrant Party membership resolute in taking a stand and in taking action on matters of interest to them. I have been very pleased with how inclusive and more efficient we have been with the process during these two years. It has also been pleasing to note that our Democratic legislators, State officials, and Congressional leaders have received the adopted resolutions and Platform as well. This is a vast improvement over years past. We have more improvements to make but the key to success lies with you.

Accordingly, the work session of the full Platform and Resolutions Committee is hereby set for 6 p.m., Thurs., August 9 at NC Democratic Party HQ in Raleigh. Attendance is open to the public, as always. We will allow for participation by conference call and email as needed.

As for the schedule of the Regional Town Hall Meetings themselves, the dates and locations are:

July 16

Wake Co. Democratic Party
NC Dem. HQ, 220 Hillsborough St
6:30 pm
Contact: Jan, 919-828-5656

July 25

Forsyth Co. Democratic Party
Southside Library, 3185 Buchanan Street
6:30 pm
Contact: Fred, 336-391-2381

July 26

Buncombe Co. Dem. Party
Buncombe Co. Dem. HQ, 951 Fairview Road
6 pm
Contact: Kathy, 828-645-0906,

July 30

Mecklenburg Co. Dem. Party
TBD (one of the libraries), Location to be determined by July 12
6:30 pm
Contact: David, 704-579-2006

July 31

Cumberland Co. Dem. Party
Cumberland Co. HQ Library,
Pate Room, 300 Maiden Lane
6 pm
Contact: Roberta, 910-484-7936

Aug 1
New Bern

Craven Co. Dem. Party
Golden Corral Buffet & Grill Restaurant
400 Hotel Dr (near Hwy 70 and U.S. 17)
6 pm
Contact: Rachel,

Aug 2

Pitt Co. Dem. Party
Sheppard Memorial Library, Conf. Rm B
530 Evans Street
6:30 pm
Contact: Johnny, 252-321-7743

Aug 7

Bertie Co. Dem. Party
Bertie Co. Courthouse
Courthouse Square, downtown Windsor
6:30 pm
Contact: Penny, 252-794-2968

Aug 8

Durham Co. Dem. Party
Durham Co. Public Library, SW branch
near Orange Co. line; 3605 Shannon Rd.,
7 pm
Contact: Kevin, 919-416-0445

Aug 9

NCDP HQ, 220 Hillsborough St.
6:30 pm
Contact: Wayne, 910-997-1301

Note: At the time of this printing we were still trying to select the best date for the Wilmington regional town meeting. If there is sufficient interest, we may schedule one in Lexington. Furthermore, you will note that one site is still to be determined (TBD), as we await further input from the county or regional party leaders. Regardless, we are “locked in” on the dates. Watch your email and the NCDP website for updates. Feel free to contact me as well as indicated below.

Please pass the word to members of your respective county Party membership, especially precinct chairs and officers. We would like to equal or exceed attendance this year as we prepare for the August 25th State Executive Committee meeting where we will act on the work done by the Platform and Resolutions Committee. If you have any questions or concerns or resolution suggestions, then please feel free to email me at or call me at (910) 997-1301, or you may fax me via the NCDP at (919) 821-4778 (remember to put my name on the fax). For your convenience I have also enclosed a copy of the material on how to construct a resolution, as found in the NCDP County Chairs Handbook.

In closing, let us recall that resolutions are how we as Democrats collectively express ourselves on issues of the day – whether they concern our Nation, our State, or our own local community. They are ways to educate and inspire; more importantly, resolutions are calls to action.

Thank you for your dedicated service to the North Carolina Democratic Party, and answering this call to action!

With warmest personal regards, I am

Very truly yours,

Chairman, Platform and Resolutions Committee