With its even partisan split, its history of racist policies, and its stark urban-rural divide, the state has proved to be a microcosm of national conflicts before.
The ad that signaled the coming catastrophe for democracy in North Carolina appeared just four days before the November 2012 election. As the ad opened, a woman’s voice wondered aloud whether voters “can trust Sam Ervin IV to be a fair judge.” Ervin, captured in black and white, looks shifty, moving his eyes back and forth before turning his head suddenly as if he is on the run. Ervin and his family, the ad announced, had donated to the campaign of the former Democratic governor, and later convicted felon, Mike Easley. The camera lingers on Ervin’s face as the ad explains that he went on to get a $100,000 state job; the portrait could be mistaken for a mug shot, were it not for his suit and tie.