We’ve all heard it. Robeson Republicans met in a phone booth. But times change.
According to a Jan. 23, 1956, The Robesonian article, six local Republicans attended a fundraiser in Winston-Salem for President Eisenhower. They were referred to as the “Phone Booth Boys.” The reason was simple.
Local Republicans sought a meeting place at the county courthouse about 60 years ago. As a joke, the county manager, W.D. Reynolds, offered them the phone booth, which in his opinion would hold the expected turnout. The joke stuck.
Today things are different for clear reasons. Republicans have been playing to full houses lately supported by conservative Democrats.
Gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory recently visited Lumberton for a fundraiser. The local money raised and crowds addressed by Republicans like McCrory have been unprecedented in recent years.
Robeson led the state in approving Amendment One with 86 percent of the vote. That percentage is not obtained in Robeson without a lot of Democratic support. And it’s a Republican issue because the Democratic Party supports same-sex marriage so strongly it was added by unanimous vote to the party platform this week.
And if more evidence is needed, look no further than the public backlash against discretionary fund spending. The only commissioners voting to immediately cut the fund and return the remainder to the general budget are Republican David Edge and a Democratic commissioner in a tight race with a Republican. Finally, Republicans are impacting management philosophy beyond the concept of a phone booth.
It has been said there would have been no Reagan without Carter. Well, in that context change has certainly come to Robeson just as Obama promised. Sunday voting is simply an acknowledgement of this turning tide. Maybe even a last-ditch effort. It also is a risky proposition.
Church congregations across the county were the reason that Robeson led the state in protecting marriage. Not Republicans. Not Democrats.
So although the Democratic Party values issues contrary to these congregations, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, Sunday is the day they chose to remind folks to vote Democrat.
Maybe it’s a brilliant idea, like buying a high-priced kitchen gadget, which requires a live presentation to justify the hard sale. It works.
Either way, conservatives will use the Sunday voting issue to further illustrate the growing contrast between conservative congregations and the Democratic Party. How different is the Democratic Party today?
Well, the DNC platform committee recently removed the word “God” in the context of “God-given potential” from the party platform. It passed a floor vote. Some recognized that God probably didn’t need to be removed. But it would require a two-thirds majority vote to reverse the decision. The vote to reverse the decision was far short of two-thirds but the chair passed it anyway. So although “God” was restored to the Democratic platform, it was restored amid boos from delegates. This isn’t our father’s Democratic Party anymore.
But social issues and platforms will not decide the election. The economy will. And honestly, Republicans would be better off to not concentrate so much on the social issues. To be fair, if you’re going to be the party of less intrusive government then why intrude in private lives?
So while Democrats try to paint Republicans as religious zealots and bigots — which is odd if you understand the history of both parties but that’s another story — Democrats are quietly moving away from their traditional roots. Clearly, local Democrats have started supporting Republicans who represent the traditional values Democrats once championed.
Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller said it best. He never left the Democratic Party. The party left him.
Things always seem to change slowly in Robeson, so maybe that’s the point. Robeson Democrats are the same great folks they’ve always been and it’s not local Democrats who are changing. They aren’t leaving the party. Slowly, their party is leaving them as well. As a result, Republicans have outgrown the phone booth.