By all accounts, tomorrow’s protest at the legislature is going to eclipse the previous three. Caravans are gearing up to drive to Raleigh from areas across the state. Facebook pages are encouraging participation and one has over 700 people saying they plan to attend.
But the protest will have little sway with Republicans in the legislature. They’re certainly not going to slow down the GOP push to enact regressive tax laws, shred the social safety net and privatize as much of government as possible. They’ve got a super-majority and a compliant governor who more resembles a lame-duck than a leader. Besides, the Republicans are as sure that they are right as the protesters are sure that they are not.
So, what are the protests accomplishing? They are filling a void by providing the voice of opposition that Democrats, so far, have failed to offer. They are waking up a sleeping and traditionally apathetic population. And, finally, they are energizing a demoralized base who took a whooping in the last election and have watched the GOP systematically dismantle the progressive policies that made North Carolina a destination for businesses, families and vacationers.
While informed people across the country are asking what’s happening to North Carolina, too many of our own people are going about their lives and routinely ignoring the destruction taking place in the legislature. The protests shine a light on the policies that harm our public schools, deny health care to our most needy and undermine the mission of our public universities. While average North Carolinians may never love the protests or the protesters, they will like the Republican policies even less–as long as they know about them.
Until the protests began, Democrats and progressive activists were reeling with little sense of direction. The protests have given them focus and shared sense of outrage. The trick will be keeping them fired up through the 2014 cycle, but the Republicans’ indifference is motivating them, not discouraging them.
The Tea Party protest movement that began in the summer of 2009 led to the 2010 Republican wave election, the largest in 60 years. The Occupy Wall Street movement changed the national conversation from debt to income inequality. I don’t know what the Moral Monday movement will bring to the future of North Carolina politics but I have a pretty good idea of where we would be now without it.
See you in Raleigh on Monday.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >