Ellie’s party

by | Aug 23, 2013 | Democrats | 1 comment

I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Ellie Kinnaird once, in 2009, while volunteering for Health Care for America NOW! She whizzed into the legislative press room, stood at the podium, and delivered a crisp, tightly argued speech not just for the future Affordable Care Act but for a single payer system. The episode exemplified all the attributes she has been praised for–energy, intellect, and commitment to a better world.

It was clear that she deserved her reputation as “the conscience of the Senate.” This was the point when some Democrats were already edging away from health care reform, seeing the bill as a threat to their approval ratings. A true liberal, Kinnaird did the exact opposite, reserving her criticisms for incrementalists who failed to strive for perfection. No, this argument wasn’t about to alienate Carrboro. But you could hear in her voice that she made the case from conviction.

The contrast that existed between Kinnaird and the often-opportunistic machine shows how the Democratic party is in one way stronger today than it was then. Like she always has, Democrats today take a defiant stand for something that looks out of reach, something called social justice. It’s not fun to be a North Carolina Democrat in 2013. Those of us who remain are here because we refuse to jettison our principles.

In that sense, this is not Easley’s party, or Basnight’s, or Perdue’s; its soul resides with Ellie Kinnaird. Like she always has been, we aspire to be “advocate[s] for those with little hope.” From a partisan perspective, some Democrats see themselves in that position. With her tireless energy, former senator Kinnaird shows that they are wrong.


1 Comment

  1. Chris Telesca

    Ellie Kinnaird was always on the cutting edge. When she and Verla Insko pushed for verified voting after the 2000 and 2002 General Elections, their bill got changed into a study and they got pushed away. Then the 2004 General Election meltdown occurred, and the legislative leadership realized that they needed to make some changes. Ellie and Verla pushed for a great committee to really study the issue in late 2004/early 2005, and the result was one of the nation’s best election integrity bills.

    But Ellie Kinnaird, Verla Insko and other progressive leaders always had a hard time getting the leadership to realize that they needed to go beyond what was safe (what their consultants and big donors wanted them to do) and become real advocates for the majority of North Carolinians. Ellie Kinnaird realizes that she – and all the other folks elected to the legislature, Council of State, etc – are public servants. They serve the public. It’s not about getting elected to office so you can funnel taxpayer money to some business run by your biggest donor. Ellie and a few others know that. Democrats won’t get back into the majority in this state until many more of them – and the consultants they hire – realize that as well!

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