Will the North Carolina GOP Choose a Black Leader?
The departure of Republican State Chairman Tom Fetzer creates an opportunity for Timothy Johnson, an African American, to move up from the No. 2 position. His selection could signal the end of the Southern strategy.
Ask Meg Whitman whether raising exorbitant amounts of money automatically translates into victories in November. Furthermore, the small-donor momentum that has served candidates from Obama in 2008 to Tea Party-backed winners in 2010 has shown that big political dollars can be countered if a political personality or movement is better able to connect with undecided voters and politically charged newbies than with old-money activists.
The American voting public -- obviously upset with how politics have played out over the past several years -- has made it perfectly clear: If they have a guy they believe in, they will work to overcome past financial shortfalls and perception issues to make victories happen in both primary and general elections.
The names being thrown about to counter Johnson would suggest that North Carolina Republicans don't see him as their type of guy. But that argument doesn't hold water once you remember that Johnson won the No. 2 position with 62 percent of the vote in a two-person race. So it appears that a question of political maturity has cropped up once again -- for black Republicans, for the legacy Republicans of the infamous Southern strategy, for the millennials and Gen Xers coming into the fold, and for the Tea Party's assortment of activists.
The North Carolina GOP statewide race means a lot more to local and state elections over the next two years than one would anticipate. If Johnson -- a man not from legacy money and clearly not the "legacy choice" of the GOP, but one who has garnered respect from all sides, including his political opponents in the Congressional Black Caucus -- wins the top post in a few weeks, it could signify an important change for the local and state brands of the Republican Party, perhaps one that Michael Steele couldn't make as the national chair.
Until then, it will be interesting to see if the powers-that-be within the state's GOP determine whether the substance of what a man can do for the party -- including a track record over the past two years of successful advocacy -- outweighs the scuttlebutt from haters and the myths of the power of money in political leadership today. Ultimately we will know how far the core workings of Republican grass-roots leadership have changed -- and what has stayed the same.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of the morning radio show Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister at 5 a.m. on WVON, The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. He will appear on The New School on Sirius-XM Radio's POTUS channel this Saturday (check local listings for the airtime in your area). He is the author of an upcoming edition of the book The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010): Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative). Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.