D.G. Martin

Why it’s basketball, not politics, on our minds

Get used to it! Even though we are in the middle of a national election contest with choices so varied, so unusual, so important, and with a possible result that would stretch the traditions of American democracy… Even though terrorist movements challenge our security and the human values important to most Americans and threaten to overturn hopes for a world of tolerance and peace… Even though we have been jarred, locally, by rushed and heavy-handed legislation that flaunts the American tradition of openness and acceptance of different peoples and different ideas… Even with all that, what we want to...

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Tracing the cause of discontent to some demagogue

Have you had enough of presidential candidates flying in and out of North Carolina looking for primary votes? Wouldn’t it be nice if they came to see us after the election, like our first president, George Washington, who visited North Carolina soon after he took office? Thanks to a new book by Warren Bingham, “George Washington’s 1791 Southern Tour,” we can follow that trip traveling in Washington’s shoes. The new book explains that the president of the new country wanted to visit the different regions to promote unity after the recent bitter battles over adoption of the Constitution had...

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She’ll be thanking him in November

If Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, her very first thank-you should go to Bernie Sanders. “What?” you ask. “How could she thank Sanders when his vigorous campaign took people away from her natural and expected support groups– progressive women, young African Americans, and other liberals? “He is smearing her for the Clintons’ ties to big banking and big business. And for her earlier support of international trade agreements that are so unpopular with some workers’ groups. “And,” you assert, “he is pushing her too far to the left on positions that will hurt her with moderate or swing voters in the fall.” You may be right about these things. But Bernie Sanders is doing something for Hillary Clinton that greatly improves her chances for success in the fall. He is giving her a fight. And with that fight behind her, she will be much better equipped for the challenges in the general election. Eight years ago, during the primary battles between Clinton and Barack Obama, I wrote about the advantages of that struggle. Here is what I wrote back then, with a few minor revisions: I think the hard-fought primary campaigns, negative advertising and all, may be the Democrats’ best possible preparation for the fall campaign. Conceding, of course, the downside in bitter feelings and lowered popularity of the ultimate candidate, I think the organizational process, the...

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A Firebrand North Carolinian and the President’s Wife

One more question before we forget about the black history month just ended: How did President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1938 visit to the University of North Carolina lead to a long friendship between the president’s wife and a young North Carolina African American woman? In 1938 in Chapel Hill, Roosevelt made a speech praising UNC for its excellence and progressiveness. In the same year, Pauli Murray’s application to the UNC graduate school was denied because she was African American. She wrote Roosevelt a fiery letter criticizing him for his praise of an institution that did not admit blacks, asking what...

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Would a name change be enough?

Should Fayetteville State University, the state’s oldest public HBCU (historically black college or university), change its name to the University of North Carolina at Fayetteville? Last week The Fayetteville Observer reported that the name change was being considered in the General Assembly. The proposed name change drew mixed reactions from the school’s alumni and students. Some, like Raymond Privott, president of FSU’s National Alumni Association, think the change would diminish its heritage. Others, like Curtis Worthy, president of the Cumberland County alumni chapter, are open to change. According to The Fayetteville Observer, he said, “Things do change. We need to change with it. It’s not the world we grew up in. It’s the world we have to adapt to and live in.” Of the nation’s 104 HBCUs, 11 are in North Carolina. FSU, Elizabeth City State, North Carolina A&T State, North Carolina Central, and Winston-Salem State are part of the University of North Carolina system. In addition, Barber-Scotia, Bennett, Johnson C. Smith, Livingstone, St. Augustine’s, and Shaw are private institutions. Other proposals for some of the public HBCUs are floating around the legislature. Financial and leadership challenges face both public and private institutions. Meanwhile all HBCUs are confronted by the question, why do we need to maintain historically black institutions when the doors to other universities are no longer closed to African Americans? Even the most passionate supporters of...

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Lee Smith’s best story yet

Lee Smith’s upcoming book, “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life,” tells her best story yet. After publishing 13 novels and numerous short stories that have won for her a passionately loyal group of fans and friends, the best-selling Hillsborough author has written a memoir, her first non-fiction book. It turns out that the real stories she tells are even better than the wonderful ones she has told in her novels and short stories. Her descriptions of the real characters in her life are, like her fictional characters, compelling. When “Dimestore” comes out in a few weeks, it will open the door...

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Discarding unelectable candidates, but holding on to their supporters’ enthusiasm

The trick to winning elections, old political warhorses say, is to rally the enthusiasm of the young, the idealistic, and the angry crazies, without getting stuck with a presidential candidate who cannot be stomached by the voters in the middle, the persuadables who decide elections. The Democrats found such a candidate in 2008 in Barack Obama. The Republicans did the trick with Ronald Reagan in 1980. But those successes are rare. More often, when a party’s presidential candidate is out of the mainstream, many of that party’s candidates in North Carolina and other states lose races they would otherwise have won. The Republicans got clobbered in 1964 when the wild enthusiasm for Barry Goldwater’s super conservative platform won the nomination, but frightened away moderate voters in the general election. The same thing happened to the Democrats in 1972 when youthful, idealistic, and anti-war activists won the nomination for George McGovern, whose views were too far left for many moderates to stomach. Democrats won recent presidential elections when they ran moderate candidates like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and even Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000. They lost with candidates like McGovern, and Michael Dukakis, whose campaigns attracted enthusiasm from progressives in the primaries, but whose views were too far left for many middle-of-the-road voters in the general election. Old-time North Carolina Democrats still remember the price they...

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Coughs and sneezes about campus monuments and names

“When America catches a cold, Britain sneezes — eventually.” Writing in The New York Times, Matthew d’Ancona, a graduate of Britain’s Oxford University and columnist for British papers, The Guardian and The Daily Evening Standard, reported, “The argument about the proper limits of free speech and ‘political correctness’ that has raged for years on American campuses has arrived at British universities with a vengeance.” According to D’Ancona, there is a fierce debate at Oxford about a campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from the campus of Oriel College, a part of the university. Rhodes made a fortune in diamond mining in southern Africa and left much of it to Oriel and to fund the scholarship program that bears his name. The objection to his statue is based on his white supremacist views. In 1877, he wrote, “I contend that we are the first race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.” Last week Oriel College announced it would keep the statue, but the controversy continues. Meanwhile last week in Chapel Hill, America’s cold continued to bring about loud coughs as a panel of distinguished faculty members discussed proposals to remove the “Silent Sam” Confederate memorial and the names of slave-holding or segregationist men from campus buildings. Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Law Professor Al...

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