It is an absolutely gorgeous autumn day here in central North Carolina. After another unseasonably warm fall (the last three days topped out in the low 80’s with equal humidity), a cold front has moved in, leaving us with 55 degree temperatures the lowest dewpoints we’ve seen since last February, bright sunshine, and an abundance of falling leaves. The breeze is gusting, stirring up leaf filled wind devils in front of my neighbor’s garage and playing a tune on the windchimes in the front garden. It is all very Maryland-esque.
I’ve decided to take a sick day today, though it’s more a mental health day than anything else. Work has been very busy, and despite my best intentions, I’ve been reminded lately in a thousand little ways that I am not, perhaps, on the right pathway. What better day than election day, which is a referendum on the nation’s priorities, to review and reset one’s own personal priorities as well?
So my plan this morning is to go vote (of course) with my husband, grab a pumpkin spice latte (very basic, I know) from the local coffee kiosk in Rolesville, and then spend the rest of the day hanging with my youngest daughter. Because a democratic election is apparently enough concern for violence in our post ‘he who shall not be named’ world that schools are officially closed for the day. I am taking the opportunity to spend valuable time with her before she’s off to a college far far away from here next year.
If you’re currently considering moving to North Carolina and wondering what the political landscape here is like, I’ll tell you – it’s highly charged much like the rest of the country.
For many years North Carolina was considered a fairly moderate, even democratic-leaning state. In the past twenty years or so that I’ve lived here, I’ve seen it increasingly lean Republican and, of course, it tilted red in the last presidential election although it was a close race. It’s a big state, mostly rural, and political leanings often match this … urban areas are blue, rural areas are red.
You can go to almost any neighborhood in downtown Raleigh and find plenty of Black Lives Matter and Vote Democrate yard signs to make you feel it’s pretty progressive. Governor Roy Cooper, a democrat, is often cited as a potential presidential candidate.
The further out you get, though, the redder the landscape becomes. It is my perception that people in these outlying areas are very pro-gun ‘don’t tread on me’ types. There is a great deal of poverty in the state, plenty of mobile homes in various states of disrepair, and the inequity is laid bare as it isn’t uncommon to see run down properties adjacent to high dollar neighborhoods along rural roads. High school education is often the highest level of achievement, drugs are a problem, students who do go to school are viewed with suspicion, and there is enough small-town government corruption to keep anyone from doing anything to improve it.
If you take issue with this characterization, just remember that Madison Cawthorn, the embarrassing 27 year-old republican congressman is from Hendersonville, a small town in western North Carolina that is 70% white, the median income is $39,000, and nearly 17% of the population lives below the poverty line. And the town of Spring Lake, North Carolina saw its governing authority stripped after rampant fraud was uncovered among many of its elected officials and government employees.
It’s also worth noting the huge role that church / religion plays in NC in terms of politics. The state is filled with churches – non-denominational community churches, Baptist churches, small country churches – all of which enjoy tax-exempt status while collecting quite a bit of money from their congregations, and push Christian morality while inexplicably throwing questionable support behind impressively immoral candidates.
Finally, know that despite the idea of southern hospitality, people here can be as aggressive and ugly about politics as anywhere else, and frankly, that aggressiveness can be scary and intimidating. I have great conviction in my opinions and beliefs, and do not personally appreciate the bullying that has been taking place over the last five or six years in regard to political belief. And yet, I will not engage in conversation about gun restrictions, critical race theory, LGBTQ, homeowner’s associations, or personal rights, and I also will not attach a political sticker on my car, since doing so here is an invitation to be tailgated, honked at, run off the road, etc. I have put yard signs out before, with great hesitation. In polite circles, politics is not discussed – probably a good thing.
In the end, North Carolina has its positive aspects, but it’s important to understand what you’re getting into moving here, especially if you’re someone who is concerned about the state of politics in this country today. Like so many other things you encounter when you move somewhere different, the political culture, and the general mindset, is an important consideration.