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How Faith Shapes My Politics – The New York Times

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Over the past few decades, whenever a Republican president puts up an important judicial nominee — especially a Catholic one — we go through the same routine. Some Democrat accuses the nominee of imposing her religious views on the law.

“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Senator Dianne Feinstein notoriously told Amy Coney Barrett in a 2017 confirmation hearing. Then Republicans accuse Democrats of being religious bigots. Then the nominee testifies that her personal opinions or religious faith will have absolutely no bearing on her legal judgments.

This unconvincing routine gets us no closer to understanding two important questions: How does faith influence a person’s political views? How should we look at religiously devout people in public life?

To the extent that I have answers to these questions it’s through my own unusual experience. I came to faith in middle age after I’d been in public life for a while. I would say that coming to faith changed everything and yet didn’t alter my political opinions all that much. That’s because assenting to a religion is not like choosing to be a Republican or a Democrat. It happens on a different level of consciousness.

When I was a kid, I was raised, like most people in our culture, on certain stories: Moses leading the Israelites out of oppression, little David slaying Goliath, Ruth swearing loyalty to Naomi.

During my decades as an atheist, I thought the stories were false but the values they implied were true. These values — welcome the stranger, humility against pride — became the moral framework I applied to think through my opinions, to support various causes. Like a lot of atheists, I found the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr very helpful.

About seven years ago I realized that my secular understanding was not adequate to the amplitude of life as I experienced it. There were extremes of joy and pain, spiritual fullness and spiritual emptiness that were outside the normal material explanations of things.

I was gripped by the conviction that the people I encountered were not skin bags of DNA, but had souls; had essences with no size or shape, but that gave them infinite value and dignity. The conviction that people have souls led to the possibility that there was some spirit who breathed souls into them.

What finally did the trick was glimpses of infinite goodness. Secular religions are really good at identifying some evils, like oppression, and building a moral system against them. Divine religions are primarily oriented to an image of pure goodness, pure loving kindness, holiness. In periodic glimpses of radical goodness — in other people, in sensations of the transcendent — I felt, as Wendell Berry put it, “knowledge crawl over my skin.” The biblical stories from Genesis all the way through Luke and John became living presences in my life.

These realizations transformed my spiritual life: awareness of God’s love, participation in grace, awareness that each person is made in God’s image. Faith offered an image of a way of being, an ultimate allegiance.

But when it came to forming opinions or writing columns, I was still in the same business. Sure, my style of thinking changed a bit. I spent more time listening, trying to discern how I was being called. I began to think with my heart as much as my head. (That could just be male middle age.) But my basic moral values — derived from the biblical metaphysic — were already in place and didn’t change that much now that the biblical stories had come alive.

My point is there is no neat relationship between the spiritual consciousness and the moral and prudential consciousnesses. When it comes to thinking and acting in the public square, we believers and nonbelievers are all in the same boat — trying to apply our moral frameworks to present realities. Faith itself doesn’t make you wiser or better.

When it comes to judges, I don’t believe any operate without a moral framework, like perfect legal automatons. I don’t believe faith alone points any of them to concrete answers. Look at how judges from the same faith come out all over the map on all issues. Look at how, deep down, the anti-abortion Catholics you know are driven by intellectual and moral conviction, not by mindless submission to Rome.

And to be honest about it, our worldly connections are usually more influential than our faith commitments when it comes to our political and professional decisions. If you want to know how Amy Coney Barrett is going to rule, pay more attention to the Federalist Society than to People of Praise, her Christian community.

In a society that is growing radically more secular every day, I’d say we have more to fear from political dogmatism than religious dogmatism. We have more to fear from those who let their politics determine their faith practices and who turn their religious communities into political armies. We have more to fear from people who look to politics as a substitute for faith.

And we have most to fear from the possibility that the biblical metaphysic, which has been a coherent value system for believers and nonbelievers for centuries, will fade from our culture, the stories will go untold, and young people will grow up in a society without any coherent moral ecology at all.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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LETTER: It's a myth that young people don't care about politics – North Shore News

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Dear editor:

We’ve all heard the myths that young people don’t care about politics. When post-secondary students come to the table to engage in political discourse and bring forward the concerns of our peers, we are often met with dismissive attitudes, and the assertion that if we don’t show up to the polls, we don’t get to criticize the way that things are.

These myths ignore some crucial evidence about students and our political engagement. Studies show that students are 15% more likely to vote than non-students in our respective age groups. In BC, the voter turnout amongst people aged 18-24 increased by 17.1% since 2009 according to Elections BC. The under 40 population now makes up the largest voting demographic, and our needs and concerns need to be fully considered by each party and every candidate this election. Students do care, and we do show up to vote. We are engaged in our communities, and are participating in an enormous undertaking by pursuing an education for the betterment of ourselves and our province.

Young people were the hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of job loss, meanwhile, many students were unable to get the financial assistance they needed through this economic downturn. Students are continuing to pursue their education in hopes of improving their situation and positively contribute to our communities, despite the fact that 75% of students have suffered significant financial hardship and will be impacted well beyond 2020.

We need to see our party leaders putting forward policies that not only consider the interests of students and how we have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic, but that properly recognize the diversity within the student experience. Students with dependents are navigating childcare and schooling during the pandemic while trying to complete their studies. Students living in remote areas that have poorer wifi connection are struggling to keep up with the demands on online learning. Student mental health was already declining, and is in serious jeopardy due to these exacerbating circumstances.

We call upon every candidate and each party leader to commit towards putting forward initiatives to support students as we move forward through the pandemic. The future is uncertain, but students are working hard to find solutions and support our recovery efforts. Students are not just the leaders of tomorrow, we are already working for a brighter future for our province.

Grace Dupasquier
North Vancouver

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Managing a Team with Conflicting Political Views – Harvard Business Review

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Wulf Voss/EyeEm/Getty Images

Politics around the world seem to be getting more and more divisive, and it’s impossible for the topic not to enter into our everyday conversations — including those that happen at work. When people on your team have differing views, those conversations can often get tense.

As a manager, what should you do? Should you ban political talk? What sort of ground rules can you lay down for these conversations? And how can you make sure you don’t harbor grudges against colleagues who don’t share your beliefs?

What the Experts Say

In a typical election years, managing a team with opposing political views is not easy or straightforward. But this polarized, pandemic-weary period has made the task even more complicated, says Tina Opie, associate professor in the management division at Babson College. In the U.S., the high-stakes presidential race, combined with the Covid-19 health emergency and continued social unrest over racial injustice, is “affecting employees as people, and it’s also affecting how they show up at work,” she says.

Even the most dedicated workers may find it difficult to compartmentalize their jobs from what’s happening in the political arena. “It’s on their minds, and since people spend the majority of their waking hours with their colleagues,” it’s inevitable that it will seep into their everyday conversations, Opie says.

Your challenge as a manager is to make sure that as passions run high and viewpoints clash, the workplace remains respectful and productive, says Emily Gregory, a vice president at VitalSmarts, the leadership training company. “A manager’s job is to create an environment where people feel safe to contribute their ideas and experiences,” she says. Here is some advice on how to do that.

Set an example.

Leading a team of people with dissimilar political stripes requires a “robust understanding and appreciation of different perspectives,” says Opie. In that way, it’s similar to managing a team comprised of employees from different cultures, races, genders, and backgrounds. Party allegiance is another element of diversity. A certain degree of conflict may be unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to be uncivilized. You set the right tone and tenor for how your team members relate to one another.

Gregory recommends laying the groundwork during meetings by modeling inclusivity, encouraging divergent views, demonstrating respect for others, and showing a willingness to challenge your own assumptions — not just on political topics but about anything on which the team disagrees. Acknowledge the taxing political environment and appeal to your team members’ compassion. Remind them that even if “someone on the team is voting differently” from them, “they can still care for and deeply respect that person,” says Gregory.

Don’t ban political talk.

It may be tempting to make your workplace a politics-free zone in the interest of team cohesion and unity, but at a time when nearly 60% of American employees say they have engaged in political discussions at work, banning political talk is impractical and counterproductive, according to Gregory. “Putting down barriers about what people can and can’t say hurts team culture more than it builds it,” she says. “Topics shouldn’t be off-limits.”

Prohibiting political conversation could also backfire, says Opie. “Some people already feel they are rendered invisible because of what’s happening” on the national stage, and if you, the manager, make certain topics off limits, it could be viewed as sanctioning ignorance and even aggression. So many of today’s big issues concern social justice, equality, and “basic human rights — which are larger than politics.”

Don’t force it.

Of course, not everyone will be interested in having political discussions. Talking about politics or certain politicians “could be a trigger for some colleagues,” says Opie. Make clear that these conversations should only happen between team members who are willing and eager to participate, and no one should be dragged into the discussion, even if they were willing to talk about it previously. These interactions require curiosity and humility — and some days for whatever reason, some people might not be able to summon the interest and restraint, says Gregory. Make sure employees know they can delay the conversation indefinitely, too.

Establish rules of engagement.

Even with you modeling the right behavior, your team may not be skilled at having these types of conversations. “It isn’t your job to teach your team members about politics, but it is your job to teach them how to talk about tough issues,” says Gregory. Even in a poisonous political atmosphere, she believes it’s possible for people from opposite sides of the spectrum to have “positive, productive, and relationship-enhancing conversations.” Some ground rules are necessary, says Opie. “You don’t want employees to feel unsafe discussing certain topics.” As the manager you need to:

  • Emphasize respect. “In functioning teams, there’s a baseline level of respect, but in high-charged conversations, people can sometimes lose sight of that,” says Gregory. As the manager, be proactive in maintaining courteous and considerate interactions, says Opie. Don’t tolerate name calling or interruptions. Keep an eye on flickering tempers. And be prepared to act if conversations cross the line between healthy debate to bitter acrimony.
  • Promote self-reflection. Many discussions about political issues can go wrong because “we don’t bother trying to understand each other,” says Gregory. “We end up being more interested in proving the other person wrong than listening.” As the team leader, help your team members move past this inclination, says Opie. Inspire them to seek common ground. “Ask, ‘What do you find attractive about the other side’s position or argument? And what concerns you about your argument?’” Your aim, she says, is to “try to find some wiggle room.”
  • Seek to understand. “Our political values are shaped by our life experiences,” says Gregory. In order for these conversations to be as constructive as possible, you and your team members must “seek to understand others’ experiences and what led them to their beliefs,” she says. Encourage vulnerability by asking your colleagues to “humanize the people they disagree with.” These conversations can sometimes be messy and uncomfortable, but they also often result in moments of enlightenment. 

Call out inappropriate comments.

One of the biggest challenges arises when someone makes an insensitive remark or says something antithetical to the values of your team culture and organization, says Opie. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it. As the leader, “speak up and take a stand,” she says. Gregory concurs. You need to “signal to the group that the comment was inappropriate,” and follow up individually with the person who said it so you don’t give tacit permission for people to speak that way. While it may sound harsh, it’s important you make clear that what they said was offensive and hurtful. Gregory suggests talking to the employee in private and saying something like, “Our organization values diversity and inclusion, and we are going to promote and develop people in alignment with those values. Your comments [about a certain political topic] makes me question whether you have the competencies needed for growth in this organization.”

Talk one on one.

Managers also need to be thoughtful about how the volatile political climate is affecting their employees — particularly on teams where political allegiances vary. The Covid era has made work a lonely place, says Opie. And if you’re in the political minority, the experience is all the more isolating. “If your colleague is feeling upset about the [decision by a grand jury not to charge any police officers with killing Breonna Taylor] and no one brings it up, she might feel ignored. She might wonder, ‘Does anyone care? Do they understand?’ As a manager, you need to bridge that gap,” she says. Focus on connecting with and caring for your employees. Opie suggests you ask, “How can I help you feel heard?” Your goal is to reach out and demonstrate that you “recognize your employees as human beings.”

Foster open-mindedness in your team…

“We are living in self-reinforcing echo chambers,” says Gregory, where we often imagine that others see the world precisely as we do. As a result, many of us make incorrect assumptions about others’ political leanings. The risk is that we end up alienating people because they hold a different view. You need to nurture open-mindedness and urge your team not to jump to conclusions. Remind colleagues that working side-by-side with someone who sees things differently can often be a boon to personal growth. “When we start to disengage with people — when we say, ‘I choose not to have relationships with people who believe X’ — we forego the opportunity to learn about how other people think and to influence them,” says Gregory.

… and hold yourself to the same standard.

Talking about your political views with a team member is complicated by the power dynamic: You’re their boss. Opie recommends “treading carefully.” In the case where a direct report doesn’t share your political inclinations, you mustn’t abuse your position by holding their views against them even on a subconscious level. “You don’t want them to feel that they’re going to be negatively evaluated” due to your different stances, she says. Try to keep an open mind, adds Gregory. “Acknowledge that other people can have different viewpoints” and still be decent human beings, she says. “If you can’t see shades of gray, you’re going to have a hard time being a manager.”

Seek outside advice.

It’s not easy to “develop and maintain a cohesive workplace” amidst a hyper-partisan political atmosphere, says Opie. There’s no shame in asking for help. She recommends “connecting with other leaders and managers to learn about how they’re handling these heated situations.” They may offer advice, insight, and ideas that hadn’t occurred to you. Even after Nov. 3, the challenges of running a team with divergent views are likely to remain. “Regardless of who wins, organizations need to think about how they are proactively developing guidelines and discussions for how employees debrief” and process the election, Opie says. “In this charged climate, it will be necessary.”

Principles to Remember

Do

  • Be a good role model. Embrace inclusivity, demonstrate respect for divergent views, and be willing to challenge your assumptions.
  • Encourage your team members to seek to understand others’ experiences and what lead them to their political beliefs.
  • Tread carefully with direct reports whose politics differ from yours. You don’t want them to feel that they’re going to be negatively evaluated due to your differing stances.

Don’t

  • Ban political conversations. It’s impractical and counterproductive.
  • Shy away from calling out inappropriate remarks. Otherwise you have given tacit permission for people to speak in insensitive ways.
  • Lose sight of how this politically turbulent period is affecting your employees as people. Focus on connection. Ask, how can I help you feel heard?

Advice in Practice

Case Study #1: Establish ground rules for discussion; be open to others’ perspectives.

Over the course of her 25-year career, Susy Dunn has managed a number of teams that had divergent political views. For the most part, her employees have learned to agree to disagree.

“In the end, it’s all about handling conflict with respect and empathy,” says Susy, the chief people officer & chief of staff at Zapproved, which makes software for corporate legal departments. “It’s about how you step outside yourself to think about others.”

A recent experience stays with her. In 2018, Susy’s team — which is in charge of the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts — organized an event on racism and classism, at which Ijeoma Oluo, the author of the book, So, You Want to Talk about Race, spoke to employees. Many workers were enthralled and energized by the book’s ideas; they began sharing articles on white privilege and organizing discussion groups.

This year, as the Black Lives Matter movement and issues surrounding systemic racism became a focal point in the national dialogue, internal conversations around privilege started again. Some colleagues bristled. “Some stepped forward and said they felt uncomfortable and excluded,” says Susy. “They said they were being made to feel ashamed because they were white.”

Together with the company’s CEO, Susy met with employees to listen to their perspectives. “Our purpose was to bring people together and to create a safe space to have a difficult conversation.”

Susy’s team laid out the ground rules in line with the company’s values: Assume good intent, listen with empathy and curiosity, show respect, and be thoughtful. If things got heated, they would pause and regroup for another time.

Employees told personal stories about their lives and explained their perspectives. People were open and honest.

When it came time for the CEO and Susy to speak, their message was clear and unapologetic: “If we are going to be asked to prioritize between the comfort of the dominant group over the justice of a marginalized group, we will select the justice of the marginalized group.”

It was an “aha moment” for everyone, she says. “People got it.”

But Susy also says she recognizes that those who felt uncomfortable had a point, too. “They said they wanted to tune out politics and focus on their work,” she says. “We realize that people need to be able to opt in to certain conversations.”

To that end, they created Slack channels dedicated to diversity and equity content. But employees who don’t want to be a part of the dialogue, doing have to join in.

Susy says she is proud of how the team came together. “It was a tough but constructive conversation.”

Case Study #2: Check in with employees one on one and don’t make assumptions about how they lean.

Aimee Pedretti, a senior manager at Mammoth HR, vividly recalls how the results of the 2016 presidential election played out in her office.

“The morning after, you could feel the tension,” she says. “Some people were upset and crying, and there were others who, even if they were not expressing jubilation, it was clear they were satisfied with the outcome.”

For Aimee, the experience was eye-opening. While she hadn’t necessarily talked politics with each and every one of her colleagues, she had assumed that most people at her company, headquartered in Portland, OR, held similar political values. “I realized the importance of not making assumptions about people’s opinions,” she says. “Not everyone shared the same political beliefs.”

She remembers taking solace from the company’s leadership. “Things were heated, and emotions were running high — similar to what’s happening today,” she says. “When I think back on those days, I remember messaging from our CEO. He acknowledged that it was pivotal moment for all Americans. It was comforting to feel that management cared about how the election was affecting us.”

The CEO also reminded the team of its company values regarding equality and inclusion. “That really helped level-set us and bring us back to reality: Even if we didn’t all see eye-to-eye on politics, we were all committed to the same purpose and organizational principles.”

Today, amidst another turbulent political season, that lesson has served her well. Aimee says she is “focused on her team’s wellbeing,” and regularly checks in with employees one-on-one to make sure they’re coping alright.

“Things are so divisive right now outside of work,” she says. “As a leader, it’s important to acknowledge there is a lot of fear and distress about the election regardless of which political party you belong to.”

She says she’s also more sensitive about the way she engages with colleagues in conversations about politics — and no longer makes assumptions about how they lean. She tries to lead by example: She demonstrates respect for others’ opinions and an openness to different perspectives. “Managers need to make sure their people feel safe and respected,” she says. “No one should have to stifle who they are.”

Recently, Aimee gathered that she holds very different views from some of her colleagues. “In these cases, it’s important to separate the person from their political positions,” she says. “Managers need to be transparent about how they’re assigning work, how they’re promoting people, and how they’re treating people.”

Sometimes, she says, it’s easier to engage on neutral topics like pets and hobbies. “There’s no need to force a political conversation.”

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North Carolina is the center of the political universe as the state's demographics shift dramatically – CNN

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The state the President won by more than 3 percentage points four years ago has continued its gradual political transformation, moving away from the red states to its south and toward its bluer neighbors to the north. The transformation has been propelled by a mix of factors: The state is growing more diverse with Hispanic and Asian immigrants, its cities and suburbs are booming with unbridled growth from northern transplants, older voters from the northeast who are fleeing Trump have retired to the state’s coast and the Tar Heel State’s once large rural population is shrinking.
This shift has been occurring for years, but it could present Trump and Republicans with a perfect storm of problems at the same time that the state has become the center of the political universe with close races for president, Senate and governor. And many of his diehard voters in rural Eastern North Carolina know it.
“We realize that we have been infiltrated by other people that have more liberal views… than we do,” Cheryl Miles, a Trump supporter, said as she stood in line in Williamston, North Carolina, with Greg, her husband of more than 50 years. “To me, it is important, as a Christian, that you need to go out and express yourself.”
Cheryl and Greg Miles voted in Williamston, North Carolina. They say Trump stands for Christian values.
Martin County, after twice voting for President Barack Obama, narrowly backed Trump in 2016, helping him cut into margins in the bigger metropolitan areas. Republicans in the area believe the same could happen this November, as Christian conservatives who were somewhat skeptical of Trump four years ago are now fully behind the Republican leader. But the county, like others around it, has been losing population over the last decade.
“He stands for Christian values,” Miles said. “I know that sometimes when he talks, he doesn’t talk the way I would like for him to talk. But I like the stands that he takes. And sometimes you have to look beyond what the person is saying and (to) what he is doing.”
Williamston is just 90 miles to the east of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. That short physical separation represents a vast political divide.
The greater area around Raleigh, including college towns like Chapel Hill and Durham, is known as the research triangle, because of the topflight universities that are crammed into a relatively small area. Those institutions have not only attracted hundreds of thousands of more liberal voters to North Carolina, but they have provided the intellectual capital to fuel a growing technology and health care industry that has led to thousands of new jobs just over the last few years.
It was one of those institutions that brought Glen Almond and his wife Judith McLaren to Raleigh from Canada more than 30 years ago. The couple had been on green cards for decades, unable to vote in any election. But then Trump won, and the couple said shortly thereafter they became citizens almost expressly to vote against the President.
Glen Almond and Judith McLairn are voting in their first US presidential election. They say they were inspired to become citizens in part to vote against Trump.Glen Almond and Judith McLairn are voting in their first US presidential election. They say they were inspired to become citizens in part to vote against Trump.
“I wanted to vote in the worst damn way,” Almond said, standing in line on the NC State campus as rain poured around him and he prepared to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “I’ll be honest with you: I really want to vote against Trump. That was the primary thing.”
These divergent views explain why, just two weeks before Election Day, North Carolina remains a toss-up, according to multiple recent polls that find Biden with the narrowest of margins. But the differences between people like Miles and Almond also show the dramatically divergent paths to victory Trump and Biden have in a key state.
Obama, the last Democrat to win the state in 2008, carried North Carolina because of overwhelming turnout from Black and young Americans. Biden’s path, while similar, has some notable differences: In order to carry North Carolina next month, Biden will lean on a coalition that is Whiter, more suburban and older than the one that delivered the state to Obama 12 years ago. It’s a shift that reflects the changing state.
Trump, on the other hand, can’t solely count on the same turnout from Eastern and Western North Carolina, the two areas that propelled him to victory four years ago. The President will need people like Cheryl and Greg Miles to come up in such force that it overwhelms the growing suburbs around Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh.
“He is going to (need to) boost his numbers in rural counties to make up for what looks like an even bigger defeat in Raleigh, Charlotte,” said Michael Bitzer, a professor at Catawba College and an expert on the state’s politics. “I am just not sure how much more he can squeeze out of those rural areas.”

‘He is just the President — he is not God’

For Keith Kidwell, it made more sense for him and his dog Biscuit to set up shop next to an early voting site in Washington, North Carolina, than attend a Trump rally 30 minutes down the road.
“I’ve got a pretty good fix that most of the ones going to the Trump rally are probably voting for me,” said Kidwell, whose signs tout him as the “most conservative” member of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Rep. Keith Kidwell greets voters near an early voting site in Washington, North Carolina.Rep. Keith Kidwell greets voters near an early voting site in Washington, North Carolina.
Kidwell has earned that reputation. He is staunchly against wearing masks to combat the coronavirus and did not wear one when greeting voters in Washington. He believes the right to life “covers you from conception until natural death” and his website states he will defend the right to bear arms “to my death.”
That conservatism is paying off for the first-term representative — scores of voters told him they had just voted for him as he stood outside the Beaufort County early voting site. Kidwell feels confident he will do fine in his district. With many new voters statewide, however, he has some concerns.
“It worries me more on the statewide and national elections. … But I think we are going to do well. North Carolina is, even if our metro areas are more liberal leaning, we still have a good number of people who are conservative.”
That confidence hinges on conservative voters like Brian and Joan Buck, who were both wearing Trump plastic wristbands and whose keys was affixed to a Trump keychain.
Brian Buck and Joan Buck voted for Trump in 2016 and say they're concerned about North Carolina becoming more liberal.Brian Buck and Joan Buck voted for Trump in 2016 and say they're concerned about North Carolina becoming more liberal.
Both voted for Trump in 2016, but their support for the President has deepened in the last four years. Brian Buck said it is “concerning” that liberals are “coming from up north down to North Carolina” and he feared it would eventually “change us from a toss-up state to a blue state.”
Both wore masks as they made their way into the voting booth, but gave Trump some leeway on his handling of the coronavirus, the issue that has dominated the general election.
“The damn Democrats don’t realize that he is just the President. He is not God,” Brian Buck said. “What was he supposed to do? Go into the basement and go hocus pocus and make a damn treatment for it? No. So they blame him for it, but he had no more control over it getting here than I did.”
That sentiment was echoed by Pamela Sawyer, who was so eager to vote for the President a second time that she said, “And I will vote for him in four more years.”
Pamela Sawyer says she believes Trump supports Christians more than Democrats do.Pamela Sawyer says she believes Trump supports Christians more than Democrats do.
“I believe he is more for the Christians than the Democrats,” said Sawyer. “And that is one of the most important things.”
Trump’s campaign is banking on voters like these in Eastern and Western North Carolina, believing that enough turnout in these areas could provide a counterbalance to the growing cities.
“In 2016, President Trump brought out a lot of voters in the Eastern part of the state that previously voted for Barack Obama, or didn’t vote, because he wasn’t a stereotypical Republican,” said Nick Trainer, Trump’s director of battleground strategy. These voters “saw Barack Obama as a change agent and saw Donald Trump as a change agent.”
But Trainer added that he believes that 20% to 25% of Black men voting in North Carolina this year could back the President, providing the Trump campaign with a firewall against a possible “progressive wave” in more urban areas. Trainer said that level of support would be “icing on the cake in North Carolina, rather than critical to success.”
Little on the ground in Beaufort County backed up that assertion. And voters like David Holmes, a Black Army and Air Force veteran, took issue with that Trump claim.
“I really don’t trust Donald Trump,” he said, wearing a Desert Storm veteran hat, US Army mask and white veteran T-shirt. “It has been awhile since there has been this kind of unrest in politics in this country. … It is best not to discuss politics because there is always going to be some friction involved.”
David Holmes, a Black Army and Air Force veteran, says he doesn't trust Trump.David Holmes, a Black Army and Air Force veteran, says he doesn't trust Trump.

‘Concentrated area of relocated Yankees’

If there is one city emblematic of the political changes happening in North Carolina, it is likely Cary, a leafy suburb to the west of Raleigh with so many new residents from the north that longtime North Carolinians like to joke that Cary stands for “Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees.”
One of those so-called Yankees would be Bridgette Hodges, an African-American grandmother who moved to the state from New Jersey around a year ago to be closer to her family, like Sanaa, her grandchild. The duo waited for over two hours on a recent rainy Friday so Hodges could not only vote for Biden, but register as a North Carolina voter for the first time.
Biden supporter Bridgette Hodges and her 8-year-old grandchild Sanaa waited in an early voting line for over two hours.Biden supporter Bridgette Hodges and her 8-year-old grandchild Sanaa waited in an early voting line for over two hours.
“Things are changing dramatically for our country and there is so much racism and violence,” Hodges said. Looking at her grandchild, she added, “If she is a kid and she tells me what her opinion is looking at what is going on, it is really rough.”
Democrats in the state believe it is voters like Hodges who hold the key to a Biden victory.
“There are two groups we need to be focused on and that is turning out the African American vote and also suburban women,” said Meredith Cuomo, the executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party. “We have seen just a real shift in our demographics since 2016.”
One of those key changes has been a growing Hispanic community. The state has seen dramatic increases in the number of registered Hispanic voters, growth that has tracked with the overall increase — the state now has roughly 1 million Hispanic residents, up from around 800,000 in 2010.
Lesly Puebla, who was born in Mexico, raised in Texas and later moved to North Carolina for her father’s job, has seen this growth and said that the way the President has talked about Hispanic immigrants encouraged her to vote for Biden this year. Puebla voted for a third-party candidate in 2016.
Lesly Puebla took her three children with her to vote in Durham, North Carolina.Lesly Puebla took her three children with her to vote in Durham, North Carolina.
“I have seen a lot of things said about Hispanics that are not true,” she said, standing in front of Southern High School with her three children, all of whom accompanied their mother while she voted. “(Those comments) encouraged me to go out and vote and especially show my kids about our heritage and that not all the things that are said are true, that we need to speak up as well.”
Turning out voters like Hodges and Puebla was the missing piece for Clinton in 2016, whose campaign went into Election Day believing she would win the state. But turnout was down among reliable Democratic voters and up with voters in Eastern and Western reaches of the state, delivering Trump the win.
To date, turnout seems high in North Carolina. As of this week, nearly 2 million ballots have been cast in the state early, a remarkable surge that represents 25% of registered voters.
For many, like Conrad Plyler, a registered Republican from Durham, that early ballot cast was a proud vote against Trump.
Plyler, who works as a real estate manager in the area, said he had been a Republican for “a long time” but soured on Trump during his 2016 campaign, saying it was clear the would-be President had a “very racist perceptive of life.”
While Plyler left his presidential vote blank in 2016, he has decided to vote for Biden four years later. It’s this voter — the disaffected Republican who lives around a major metropolitan area — that worries Republicans headed into Election Day.
“I don’t think of myself as an anomaly, I think that younger Republican voters are more progressive… and it has now become a generational thing inside the party,” said Plyler, his long red beard hanging out of his mask. “So, if Republicans are scared of these kinds of voters, then they are scared of Republicans. That’s the shame of it.”
Conrad Plyler, a registered Republican from Durham, says he is voting for Biden.Conrad Plyler, a registered Republican from Durham, says he is voting for Biden.

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