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Can a Democrat win in Johnston County?

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I felt most fortunate to be able to participate and play in team sports during my high school years. Our coach had placed a large sign over the basketball court time clock and scoreboard that read, “It matters not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

I’ve pondered that quote over the years just as I did while playing for my high school teams. I’ve often wondered how our coach would have responded if we were to have gone 0 wins and 30 losses in our basketball season.

We played our best. We used the same plays according to the rules of play. We practiced hard and were physically in excellent shape. But we lost.

Somehow, I get the sense that, at some point, winning does matter. Maybe doing everything the same way over and over needed to change. Could it be that thinking outside the box, using creative thinking and, in so doing, create new paradigms and new strategies might lead to a few victories?

If the headline of this column sounds familiar, it should.

Several years ago, then editor of the Smithfield Herald, Scott Bolejack wrote a column with the same headline. His focus was on the political campaign between the Democratic candidate, Rich Nixon, and his Republican opponent, Donna White.

Mr. Bolejack, in summing up the outcome of a hard-fought political campaign in Johnston County, wrote, “I think Mr. Nixon lost because he’s a Democrat in a county where it now appears a Democrat cannot win a partisan race. On Nov. 8, no Democrat on the ballot in Johnston County beat a Republican.”

From where this writer views the scene, little has changed.

Democrats continue to play the game as they have for the past 20 years, political election cycle after political election cycle. Going “0 for 30” has changed nothing in the Democratic Party’s approach in seeking to win. And as we all know, in political elections, winning or losing has long-lasting, life-affecting results. It is not a game!

When I moved to Johnston County in 1993, I registered as an independent. Several years ago, recognizing that the Democratic Party could use a vote or two, I re-registered as a Democrat. As a “progressive,” my values were very much in line with those of the Democratic Party.

I must admit that I have failed my party in many ways. I am man enough to own those failures. But I have tried to make a difference. Now the power of the pen and the printed word seems to be my best avenue to affect some measure of change.

As a new Democrat, I attended my first Democratic precinct meeting. After being present for only about 15 minutes, I thought I mistakenly was in attendance at a Republican precinct meeting. When I sought to defend our president, Obama, what I got in return was, “He’s getting what he deserves!” It went downhill from there.

There is a rock and there is a hard place. This so-called Democratic precinct is right between them and is a prime example of the state of affairs of the Democratic Party of Johnston County.

Gerrymandering and the well-worn issue of the historic Dixiecrats remain thorns in the side of the Johnston County Democratic Party. So long as this party continues to use the same playbook and remains to the left of center in its political stances, it will not succeed in capturing the seats of power in Johnston County so that it can then move forward to more progressive policies for our Johnstonians.

I’ll close with another quote from Mr. Bolejack’s column: “But that’s not the case in Johnston County, and I have no reason to believe it will be anytime soon.”

Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.