In Charlotte Region, Urban-Rural Differences, Other Voter Concerns

Mar 4, 2020

NPR has been focusing on areas in and around Charlotte as part of its Where Voters Are series. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been here twice in the past two weeks, and she joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf the morning after Super Tuesday to share what she's learned.

Lisa Worf: Now, you've been talking to lots of voters in Charlotte while your colleague Steve Inskeep has been focusing on rural areas just outside of Charlotte. What have you learned about the differences between rural, suburban and urban voters here?

Sarah McCammon: Well, I think Steve and I noticed some similarities and some differences. And the similarity would be maybe just sort of a sense of angst and a sense of, you know, feeling not understood, not appreciated, not respected by people who are different. And, you know, certainly the urban voters I talked to are well aware of the historic structural inequalities that particularly people of color in this country face.

And they're very concerned. They feel very much that a lot of white, suburban and rural voters don't recognize that don't fully understand the way the system works and they would really like to see someone elected to the presidency and also to lower offices who is in a position to recognize that and make structural change. I heard a lot about inequality and poverty and just some of the, you know, the bread and butter issues we hear about in every election — jobs, health care, education, that kind of thing.

Worf: How do those responses as far as some of this inequality tally with what we how Biden did in North Carolina, which is get 43% of the Democratic votes here?

McCammon: Well, Biden, you know, he didn't spend nearly as much money here as somebody like, obviously, Mike Bloomberg or even Bernie Sanders. But he does have a long history with relationships with African American voters who, of course, as you know, are a really important part of the Democratic base, and especially in Southern states like North Carolina are really key constituency. Of course, his ties to former President Barack Obama help him there.

And I spent a lot of time, especially last week, talking to voters of color, mostly African American voters. I didn't hear anybody coalescing necessarily behind Biden, but I heard a lot of positive words for him. And I think the thing I heard the most, which is what we've heard from Democratic voters across the country of all demographics, is really this desire to beat President Trump in November. And so I suspect that as we've seen, you know, Joe Biden win in South Carolina on Saturday and then really get a lot of the party establishment behind him, that that was a signal to a lot of voters who are very concerned about beating President Trump, that perhaps Biden is the guy who can do it.

Worf: And now that Biden has won, you know, big Super Tuesday and in North Carolina, too, you were talking to local Democratic Party leaders here. What do they have to say about things going forward?

Sarah McCammon: Yeah. I was at a Democratic watch party last night with a few local activists and Democratic voters. And I talked to Jane Whitley, the chair of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party. She said she wasn't really surprised by Biden's victory here. Whitley also said, I asked her sort of will the party coalesce behind whoever the nominee is? Because in the room last night, I was hearing some really mixed opinions.

One Bernie Sanders supporter told me she was disgusted by Biden's win. She doesn't think he stands for anything, while others said, you know, "We've got to get behind whoever the nominee is." One Biden supporter said, "Look, I think progressive is good" — I'm paraphrasing here — "but what's progressive is actually getting things done." And he thought that Biden could actually get things done. But Whitley said, you know, she she feels like after last night, we have a better sense of what's to come.

Jane Whitley (recording:) Well, I think we've got a little bit more clarity on which direction the election is going. And I think that the sooner that we get a candidate that we can all rally around, I think the better that's going to be.

McCammon: So the word from Whitley and so many other Democrats I talked to is that whoever wins the nomination, the party needs to get behind them. And so there is this question of whether if Biden is the nominee, will Bernie Sanders' supporters, those young, energetic progressives, turn out in force for Biden? Or if Sanders is the nominee, will he sort of scare away people in the middle? And that is a question that Democrats are going to keep wrestling with through the primary and potentially into November.