"Are you guys ready to make a political revolution," Senator Bernie Sanders asked the crowd of approximately 9,000 supporters who had been earnestly awaiting his arrival at the Greensboro Coliseum Sunday evening. "What we are doing is an experiment never done before," he asserted.
Sanders delivered similar remarks at Liberty University, a private, nonprofit Christian university located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Monday evening, thereby causing commentators to question whether he would be able to succeed, here, in the South.
The question, as it pertains to North Carolina, is of particular significance.
Public Policy Polling recently surveyed North Carolina Democrats and found that 55 percent of them support Hilary Clinton, whereas only 19 percent of them support Sanders--a spread almost indistinguishable from that observed in July.
In other states, and, especially, other Southern states, a different trend has become evident. In Iowa and New Hampshire, the states in which the first two Democratic primaries are scheduled, Democratic support for Sanders has exceeded that for Clinton by 10 and 22 percent, respectively. In Florida, the spread between Democratic support for Clinton and Sanders decreased by 9 percent between July and September. In South Carolina, the spread decreased by 47 percent.
Among North Carolinians, in general, Sanders fares comparably to Clinton in hypothetical elections against Republican candidates. Indeed, support for Sanders, akin to that for Clinton, is slightly less than that for Donald Trump and Jeb Bush and moderately less than that for Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Scott Walker. In such elections, however, support for Sanders is less than that for Clinton.
Nonetheless, North Carolina Democrats and non-Democrats alike would be hard-pressed to find a candidate more ready, willing and able to address their concerns than Bernie Sanders, especially when such concerns pertain to income inequality, healthcare, education and civil rights.
North Carolina, a state in which the increase in the average income of the top 1 percent has encapsulated 188 percent of the most recent economic recovery, has long endured income inequality. Income inequality in North Carolina has been exacerbated as a result of the reductions in the length and maximum amount of unemployment benefit provisions and in the personal and corporate income tax rates, the repeal of the estate tax and the earned income tax credit and the expansion of the sales tax recently proposed, and implemented, by the state legislature.
In order to address such inequality, Sanders intends to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020, a proposition similar to, yet more significant than, that adopted by President Obama two years ago. Raising the minimum wage to a mere $9.00 an hour would affect approximately 693,000 North Carolinians, the vast majority of whom are women and people of color.
Sanders has also proposed to increase personal and corporate income tax rates within the highest tax brackets, enact an estate tax and amend free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, which resulted in reductions in wages and manufacturing employment opportunities within the state.
Additionally, the state legislature recently approved a measure which prevented the expansion of Medicaid coverage to approximately 488,867 uninsured North Carolinians, but Sanders aims to guarantee healthcare as a right by introducing, and maintaining, a single payer national health insurance system.
Moreover, although the state legislature reduced funding for the North Carolina prekindergarten program by 20 percent between 2010 and 2012, thereby significantly decreasing enrollment and increasing demand for services, Sanders has long supported the implementation of a national childcare and prekindergarten program. Sanders also intends to eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities nationwide, a proposition of much value within a state in which 61 percent of students graduate with an average debt of $24,319.
Finally, two years ago, the state legislature systematically disenfranchised low income voters and voters of color by eliminating voter pre-registration, same-day registration, straight-ticket and out-of-precinct voting, reducing early voting by seven days and requiring that citizens provide government-issued photo identification prior to voting. In order to address such disenfranchisement, Sanders has advocated the automatic registration of all voters, the recognition of Election Day as a federal holiday, the restoration of the Voting Rights Act preclearance requirement and reenfranchising those who have been disenfranchised as a result of a felony conviction.
No other candidate, Democratic or Republican, has endorsed proposals as distinctively tailored to contemporary concerns within this state as Bernie Sanders. For that reason, North Carolinians ought not to miss out on the unique opportunity that could very well be a Bernie Sanders presidency.