Several North Carolina high school journalists are covering the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week.
Anna Talarico is the co-editor of the Providence Prowl, the student newspaper at Providence High School in Charlotte. She writes about a panel hosted by the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Sunday.
The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication hosted “The South and Presidential Politics 2012” dialogue seminar at the Charlotte Observer on Sunday. Panelists from UNC-CH spoke about every election issue from the economy to education and how they are influenced by the South. Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent of PBS NewsHour, moderated the event. Other special guests included Ferrel Guillory of UNC-CH and Scott Keeter of Pew Research Center.
Susan King, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, opened the forum and was followed by Rick Thames, editor of the Charlotte Observer. Guillory spoke next about the shift from the Old South to the Modern South, and the rapid development of southern cities. “Rural areas aren’t declining, they just aren’t growing,” said Guillory. North Carolina was the sixth fastest growing state in the last decade, according to Keeter’s research. The research also shows that metropolitan jobs have increased by over 17 million jobs since 1987, whereas rural jobs have only increased by about 2 million jobs.
The Pew Research Center has also discovered that along with the changing job market in the South, political party preference has also changed with the years. The voting demographic of southern Democrats has shifted toward white southerns who account for half of the party. The South is undeniably becoming a Democratic region, and this is becoming obvious to more and more southern citizens.
UNC-CH’s Hodding Carter called Obama’s win of three southern states in the 2008 election “revolutionary” when he commented on the change in political parties. “The New South is not static,” he said. “It’s a different place entirely.”
With the economy being a major election issue, Peter Coclanis, director at the Global Research Institute, suggested southerners are hungry for economic change and progress. North Carolina’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate is the fifth highest in the United States, and it is higher than the national rate of 8.3 percent. “Southern workers have to become more skilled,” Coclanis said. How? Coclanis suggested that the South must “develop new pathways to ensure post-secondary education.”
Political representation causes concern among southerners as well. UNC-CH professor Kareem Crayton noted that of the seven African-American representatives in the state senate, none of them represent African-American constituents. Crayton also pointed out to guests at the event that in this election, voters will have to consider new voter I.D. laws that are key issues to some state politicians along with politicians potentially challenging the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Jacquelyn Hall, also a professor at UNC-CH, discussed the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on the city of Charlotte. “Charlotte wouldn’t be the same without the Civil Rights Movement,” she said. Hall also commented on the recent re-segregation of Charlotte schools and its counter-productive nature. Hall says that the landmark case of Swann vs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is being reversed because of the community planning of legislatures. This issue aligns with the absence of poverty in Southern politics, noted Gene Nichol, director of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. Nichol also added that of the ten most impoverished states in America, eight of them are in the South. Panelist Jesse White, another UNC-CH professor, agreed with fellow speakers that the South is rapidly changing politically, economically and socially, and these changes are evident in the upcoming election.
Quotes from the panel:
- “The moto of the Southern labor force has become ‘I’m pretty expensive, and I’m not very skilled.’” -Peter Coclanis
- “The South is worse in economic circumstances than the rest of the country” -Gene Nichol
- “We have the most poor people and the politics that is the most opposed.” -Gene Nichol
- “The South has the invisibility of poverty, the removal of poverty from our political agenda.” -Gene Nichol
- “The fact that we don’t remember the war on poverty (during the Civil Rights Movement) has helped feed a disillusionment with the hope that government efforts can actually make a difference in the economy and in poverty.” -Jaquelyn Hall
- “Deliberate policies and propaganda have intensified and stirred up and renewed feelings of racism.” -Jaquelyn Hall
- “The identification of welfare with African-Americans and the notion that these are people who are getting something for nothing, lazy this is very, very powerful, and it has helped not only to perpetuate these racial stereotypes, but it helps again to discredit efforts to create and maintain a strong safety net.” -Jaquelyn Hall
- “So what are the limits? The lingering stereotypes along with the rise of modern forms of segregation. I think the convergence we’re seeing is that the growth of metropolitan populations is good for the Democratic party, it’s where our hope lies. But, the most segregated cities in the country are all north of the Mason-Dixon line, and they al have to do with de facto segregation, and that is the type of segregation we are going to have in the new south.” -Jaquelyn Hall
- “Reps have had a good holding in this region, but NC is the one state where you have twelve years of uninterrupted Democratic control of the governor’s seat. You aren’t going to find another state where that’s true.” -Kareem Crayton
- “I’ve long been aware of how I think it is a part of the country that is not well understood.” -Judy Woodruff
- “A Democratic party, which had to have the solid south to do anything, and a Republican party, which used to win without it, now is a Republican party which has to have a near solid south, and a Democratic party that doesn’t have to have it to win in a nation election. This is a fundamental change in the politics of America and certainly the South.” -Hodding Carter
- “In many ways what we’re seeing in the South looks like what many development economists looking at the rest of the world call a ‘middle-income trap’, similar to places like Thailand and Malaysia today.” -Peter Coclanis
Photos by Anna Talarico.