Here's What I Think Of Donald Trump

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This is the North Carolinian. I’m James Kotecki. And I want to try something different. For the first time, there is no guest. There’s just something I have to say.

If you’re hearing the show for the first time, it’s actually never about me - it’s about conversations with state leaders. I try to have constructive, respectful, interesting dialog with people across the political spectrum. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing.

The tagline for this show is “the politics podcast about what the heck is happening in my home state.” But today, I have to talk about what the heck is happening in my home country.

We live in a world of self-selected messages, a world where people consume media to confirm what they already believe. It’s hard to truly persuade anybody to change course, but as tough as it is I want to try to speak to those of you who have yet to make up your minds about this presidential election.

I have to try.

Because, my fellow North Carolinians, my fellow Americans, my fellow human beings: Donald Trump cannot become our president.

Now, if you’re undecided, I’m going to assume you’re squeamish about Trump for, you know, the obvious reasons. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s run a campaign based on bigotry, fear, and exclusion.

Maybe it’s the fact that his behavior is that of a sixth grader in detention. Although to be fair, sixth grade might be a little generous.

Maybe it’s the fact that Donald Trump has the support of white nationalists like David Duke. Or maybe it’s one of the many other things he’s said that would immediately disqualify any normal person from running for dogcatcher, let alone President of the United States.

But for whatever reason you are still undecided. Maybe you were feeling the Bern, you don't like Tim Kaine, you’re upset with the Democratic National Committee, and somehow this quote from Trump’s RNC acceptance speech rings true for you:

“I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance. Never had a chance. But his supporters will join our movement...”

Honestly, if you supported Bernie Sander’s ideas and now you’re honestly thinking of voting for Trump, I’m not sure there’s anything I can really tell you here, it’s clearly more about emotion than logic for you at this point.

But if you’re like many of my family members - you’re a normal Republican who despises Donald but has spent decades hatin’ on Hillary - then let’s talk. While I don’t usually share your Republican views, I do respect them, not just because I enjoy friendly debates with my family, but because robust debate - built in facts, not fear - is at at the cornerstone of a healthy Republic.

And by the way, speaking of facts, rated rated over 60% of Trump’s statements either False or Pants-on-Fire, compared to just 13% for Clinton. But I digress.

Look, I know I can’t undo 20+ years of Republican anti-Hillary sentiment on one podcast episode. If the Republican nominee were anybody but Trump I probably wouldn’t even be making this appeal. Even though I’m voting for Hillary Clinton and I hope you do too, I’m really just here to ask you: please vote against Donald Trump.

For the sake of argument, I’ll grant you that Hillary Clinton would maintain a status quo you don’t like, maybe she’d even move things a little further to the left. To you, Hillary Clinton might be bad for the country. But Donald Trump has the potential to be so much worse for the entire world.

See, you could hope that Congress or the courts could constrain Donald domestically - even though that strikes me as wishful thinking. But presidential power is at its peak in the realm of foreign policy.

So when I vote, I will not be voting for a man who supports torture, claims to know more about ISIS than the generals do, said he might not defend NATO allies, says he gets his foreign policy advice from watching “the shows” and that his number one foreign policy consultant is himself because “I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.” Oh, and some of those “things” include praise for Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong Un.

The single most important decision any president can make is whether or not to use nuclear weapons and other tools of military force. We empower our president to potentially end millions of lives in an instant. Donald Trump has proven time and again that he should not have that power. This is way beyond whether you dislike Hillary Clinton’s plans for taxes or tuition, or even dislike her personally. This is life and death. This is existential.

And lest you think I exaggerate, remember - to Donald Trump, “bomb the shit out of ’em” passes for military strategy.

At least when John McCain sang about bombing Iran, it kind of sounded like he was joking. Plus John McCain actually has military experience, unlike Donald Trump, who insulted McCain for being a prisoner of war.

For me, this election is personal. My brother and my cousin are now active duty members of the US military.  To be clear, I don’t speak for them. But I worry about about a world in which Donald Trump becomes their Commander in Chief.

One person I do speak for is my son. This is my first presidential election as a father.

It’s a common political trope that whatever election we’re currently having is “the most important election of our lifetime.” But this time, it’s actually true. And it’s doubly true for my son.

If Trump becomes president, my son will remember nothing but the country that Donald Trump will build. A country under constant threat from outsiders. A country in which intolerance is allowed to creep further and further into the mainstream. A country governed not by a system of values but by a cult of ignorant personality. A country that is closed off and afraid.

That means the most important election of my son’s lifetime is one in which my wife and I are entrusted to be his voice and his vote. And so this, really, is for him. When he gets older I want him to know that in this tumultuous and sometimes terrifying election, his dad did not stay silent.

I say all this in a spirit that is very much the opposite of Donald Trump’s: a spirit of love and respect. For my son. For my family. For my country.

I’m James Kotecki. And this is the North Carolinian.

Podcast | This Republican Believes #BlackLivesMatter

Greg Doucette supports legalizing marijuana, opposes HB2, and defends protesters from groups like Moral Mondays and Black Lives Matter. And he’s the Republican - yes, Republican - candidate for NC State Senate District 22.

Doucette faces an uphill election battle, but he’s no stranger to surprising wins. After all, he owes his career to an ill-timed game of Minesweeper.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | The Family Business: Dan Blue III Runs for NC Treasurer

You may think you know nothing about North Carolina’s treasurer, but if you live in the state, it’s a job that almost certainly affects your life. Dan Blue III is the Democratic candidate for the office. He’s also the son of previous podcast guest Dan Blue, Jr., the minority leader in the North Carolina Senate.

We talk about his nuanced view of Wall Street - he used to work there, after all - at a time when many voters want to watch it Bern.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on HB2, 2016, & The Nature of Truth

A Republican Lieutenant Governor is something of on an anomaly in North Carolina - from the start of the 20th century until now there have only been three out of a total of 27.

Dan Forest, the current incumbent, is one of those three. Loyal listeners will remember my interview last week with Linda Coleman, his Democratic opponent in the upcoming election.

Forest’s take on HB2 - and indeed, the state of our state - reflects a very different reality.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | To Fight Another Day: Linda Coleman Is Back for a Rematch

The 2012 race to become North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor was close. Really close. 0.16 percentage points close.

Democrat Linda Coleman almost became the first African-American woman elected to statewide office in North Carolina. She didn’t concede until nearly two weeks after Election Day. And in a sense, she never stopped running.

This November, she’ll face Dan Forest, now the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, once again. And this time, she says, things are different. Not just for her campaign - but for African-American voters, too.

Also available on Stitcher and TuneIn.

Podcast | Nation Hahn: Politics & The Prism of Loss

Nation Hahn is one of those guys that seems to know everybody, especially in state political circles. By the time I met him in early 2013, it was clear that he and his wife Jamie were poised to make a huge impact on North Carolina.

Then something happened that changed Nation’s approach to politics. Something happened that changed everything.

If by chance you don’t know, it’ll become clear through our conversation.  But this episode isn’t about that day. It’s about right now.

Today, Nation is the Chief Growth Officer for and the Board President of the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, a non-profit developing leaders on issues like poverty, hunger, and public education.

“There’s joy in finding common ground. There’s joy in understanding that our solutions do not have to come from either political party, that our solutions instead can come from well-meaning, well-intentioned, hard-working people who are on the ground and who see a problem and set out to solve it."

Podcast | The Wedge: NC’s Urban-Rural Divide

When Wake County Commissioner John Burns won office in 2014, he and his colleagues were a bright blue spot in an otherwise bad year for Democrats. Then, months after his swearing in, he found out just how badly Republican state lawmakers wanted the commission red again.

Urban Democrats in local government vs. rural Republicans in the General Assembly: it’s a simplified view of state politics that explains a lot - including HB2. Burns is well aware of the urban-rural tension. But he insists that growth is not a zero-sum game.

“We’re not interested in stealing jobs from other parts of the state. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re trying to bring jobs to North Carolina that spin-off effects for the rest of the state.”

Podcast | Senate Candidate Deborah Ross Talks Trump, Yoga, and the US Constitution

North Carolina’s US Senate race in 2016 could be one of the most bitterly fought in the country. Democrats hope to defeat Republican incumbent Richard Burr in their battle to retake the upper chamber.

But it won’t be easy: the race will be expensive, contentious, and, now that North Carolina is a swing state in a Donald Trump campaign, unpredictable.

Deborah Ross is the woman who’s stepped up to the challenge. We talk about how Trump might impact her race, how she stays sane on one of the country’s rockiest campaign trails, and her judicial beef with Burr:

“...the Constitution says that the Senate gives advice and consent on judicial nominees. It does not say the Senate decides whether it gives advice and consent. Period. If you don’t like the nominee, vote him down.”

Update: In the podcast, Ross mentions "the most recent poll." Since our conversation, a new poll shows Ross is still within the margin of error. 

Podcast | Jeff Jackson: Senator From The Internet

How does a junior legislator in the minority party become a bona fide political celebrity? Two words: the Internet.

Senator Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte) unpacks his viral hits, from solo legislating on a snow day to creating the #WeAreNotThis hashtag. For this 33-year-old lawmaker, social media is not a gimmick: it’s a necessity and an obligation.

We also talk about his fight against gerrymandering, which he calls “as morally ambiguous as bank robbery,” HB2, and his vision for a reasonable state government. 

On Social Media in Politics

“Right now it’s kind of considered fashionable for politicians to be on social media. But more and more it’s going to be part of your job. That’s where your constituents are. That’s where they want to interact with you. . . . It’s not really your decision whether or not you ‘do’ Facebook. That’s how people want to talk. They’re your boss. You have to make yourself available to them through that medium.”  

On His Republicans and HB2

“I’m 1,000% confident that if they could go back in time they would not pass HB2. Maybe Charlotte City Council would do something different, too, if they could go back. They didn’t mean to start World War III with this.” 

On A Reasonable State Government

“What we should aspire to is a state government that listens to people, that respects people, and that is fundamentally reasonable. Just imagine what an improvement that would be over the status quo.”

“As Unions Have Declined, So Too Has The Middle Class”

From low wages to non-existent benefits, things are not right for many American workers. But why do some workers vote against their own self-interest?

MaryBe McMillan is the Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, a federation of unions across the state.

We discuss the use of anti-union fear as a political tool, the one thing she likes about Donald Trump, the devious distraction of House Bill 2, and why the fight for a higher minimum wage gives her hope.

On Donald Trump

“He’s good on trade, I’ll give him that. But he’s not good on a whole lot of other issues that working families care about.”

On House Bill 2

“It’s ironic that the Republicans say they’re all about making North Carolina business-friendly, yet with this one piece of legislation they’ve managed to run all these good employers out of the state.”

On Wages

“We’ve seen CEO pay skyrocket. It used to be in the ‘80s they earned about 40 times the average worker, and now we’re almost at 400 times the average worker. . . . We keep debating how much is enough at the bottom, but we need to be talking about how much is enough at the top as well.” 

On Political Fear Mongering

“We’ve seen politicians really use fear to keep people from voting in their own self-interest.  So whether it’s fear of the government or fear of terrorism or fear of unions, ultimately it’s really about fear of each other, and this fear that somehow if you get more, I’m going to get less.” 

Where The Party At? Defining “Democrat” With The DJ In Charge

2016 could be the year that North Carolina Democrats come out of the political wilderness. But just as a they’re staging their comeback, the party system itself seems to be unraveling.

What is the Democratic Party in the age of super PACS and Senator Sanders? Wake County Party Chairman Brian Fitzsimmons has to answer that question. If he gets it right, he could change the course of the state - and the country.

“There's going to have to be a time when we recognize that Hillary - the Secretary - is not as bad as people think she is. And the Senator and his supporters are not as vitriolic as people think they are. And my goal is to get us to that point.”

Some Disassembly Conspired: The Plot Against Public Education

Low teacher pay. A decline in per-student investment.  Teachers leaving the state. But the most troubling thing about public education in North Carolina may be that it’s all going according to plan.

Rodney Ellis, the President of the North Carolina Association of Educators, is at the center of the fight.

“I get the sense sometimes that not enough people are actually tuned into what is happening,” he says, “and nor have they connected the dots to see the bigger picture.”

Photo courtesy NCAE.

How a (Bad) Bill Becomes a Law: Senator Dan Blue & the Democratic Walkout

NC Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Raleigh) breaks down the fast and flawed process that birthed House Bill 2 a process so bad, he and his colleagues walked out in protest.

“…we could not, in good faith, give legitimacy to a system that followed that process and used that as a way to turn back the hands of time with respect to anti-discrimination efforts in this state."

If #WeAreNotThis, Why’d We Pass HB2?

Hate extremist legislation? Blame gerrymandering. Laws like HB2 come out of a rigged system.

Jane Pinsky, Director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, explains why extremism is linked to election maps and how we could do things differently. Plus, James offers some potentially crazy advice on how you - yes, you! - could help change our system this year.

Sign the petition at

Best Of: Josh Stein Dodges A Molotov

Josh Stein, the Minority Whip in the North Carolina Senate, has statewide aspirations in 2016.

We discuss what life is really like in the superminority, his 2014 opponent named "Molotov", and his political future. But first, he breaks down the Republican actions of the recent past.