The Moral Monday protests this summer were both inspiring and strategically smart. They were inspiring because they showed people not only care but are willing to stand up and sacrifice for what they believe in. They were sound strategy because they focused the media, both here and nationally, on the draconian policies moving through the legislature and brought together thousands of potential activists.
There were people appalled by the attack on women’s health issues. There were educators, students and parents shocked by cuts to education at all levels. There were labor activists angered by regressive tax policies and the elimination of worker protections. There were environmentalists concerned about the rush to frack and rollback of environmental protections. And there were African-Americans and voting rights advocates who saw the voter suppression law as a return to Jim Crow tactics to disenfranchise vulnerable populations.
Moral Mondays brought together the progressive coalition and recruited new members, politicizing people who once sat on the sidelines. It helped turn the independents who are paying attention against the Republican leadership. And it even reached some of the moderate Republicans who believe government has a positive role in our society. But to win in heavily gerrymandered districts in 2014, that’s not enough.
Moral Mondays did not shift the political philosophy of the state. They were a reaction to policies and different people came for different reasons. North Carolina is still a moderate state with a relatively evenly divided electorate. The protests didn’t change that.
My hope for Moral Mondays was that it would turn into an organizing opportunity. I haven’t seen that so far. Who has the list of Moral Monday protesters, which districts are targeted and what is the plan of action?
In off-year elections, only about 45% of registered voters in North Carolina show up to the polls. In targeted districts, that number needs to be higher if Democrats hope to win. Motivating unmotivated voters is one of the most expensive (per contact), time-consuming and labor intensive parts of campaigns. Planning, training and outreach needs to start now.
To win next year, progressives need an army of people trained to knock on doors and pull out the more apathetic voters. They’ll need to change the make up of the electorate in districts that currently lean heavily Republican. Mass demonstrations won’t do that. Strong programs with accountability will.
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