Exile on Jones Street: Elections in the political hot zone

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kirk rossby Kirk Ross

Mullet are running down the coast in great schools, right at the breakers at times. Farther out, bluefish are on the move, too. And in between, just above the waves, large flights of ducks and geese head south along the flyway.

The mountains are aflame in a good way, in a beautiful way — one of the best fall foliage seasons in a while.

You should go see these things, these wonders of our beautiful state because, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, every last bit of media — social, anti-social, broadcast, cable and otherwise — is stuffed full of utter crap and will be for some time.

The best thing you can do for your mental health and the republic is vote early and go commune with nature for a couple of weeks.

Many of us just watched a wonderful World Series laced with a heavy rotation of venomous ads and ominous warnings. Most Tivo’d Series Ever would be my bet.

These are but some of the rewards of being a purple state. Another is being profoundly misunderstood.

North Carolina, as seen from the heights haunted by Washington punditry and whoever really does the reporting on the various cable news networks, is just another money game. Polls are a minor part of the calculus. The ups and downs of candidates are measured in the number of ads bought and the amount of spending from acronymed party organizations or dark-money groups with Orwellian names.

The numbers roll out daily on the Federal Elections Commission’s web site. Yes, you too can be a political reporter. Just wait for the daily list of new spending to hit the internets and post the totals along with whatever wild guess as to what suits your mood that morning.

This year, the burning issue of our US Senate election seems to be not who will win, but whether it will be the most expensive or just the second-most expensive in history.

If you think all this outpouring of treasure to win is some new twist of fate, some new sinister direction, you’re dead wrong. This is the old sinister direction playing out.

The people who broker the provisions in our laws that affect the bottom line of one industry or another have long sought to circumvent or, if necessary, subvert the political system.

They’ve played the long game. For several decades they have sought to erode what minor protections exist to even the playing field in our political system between people with lots of money and the rest of us. Then, with Citizens United, they won. And kept on going.

The effort to undo any public funding for elections in this state and others is a perfect example of one of corporatism’s new pet projects. Here, as in other places, it has reopened judicial races to the influence of money at a time when money is flowing freely. What could possibly go wrong, indeed.

The reason professional influence peddlers and the political upper castes plunge into places like North Carolina is that we are so evenly split, the kind of place where a few million here or there could break a race wide open. One political science prof I interviewed recently said he has a better insight into what it’s been like in Ohio for so many years.

North Carolina is a political hot zone, a place where the actual conflict in a very large, long national struggle is taking place.

We might as well learn to adapt because sorting this out might take time and, as a result, the mudslinging business is settling in for the long haul.

Our US Senate race has turned into a live exercise for 2016, when we’ll see yet another competitive Senate race, an epic battle for the governorship and a presidential race from, probably, hell.

Just a guess.