Reflections on the 2014 Midterm Elections

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope.” -Zechariah 9:12

“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
-Hebrews 10:39

The NAACP Forward Together Moral Movement is a state-based, deeply moral and constitutional, anti-racist, anti-poverty, fusion movement.

We are for the following agenda:

  1. Pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability by fighting for employment, living wages, the alleviation of disparate unemployment, a green economy, labor rights, affordable housing, targeted empowerment zones, strong safety net services for the poor, fair policies for immigrants, infrastructure development and fair tax reform.
  2. Educational equality by ensuring every child receives a high quality, well-funded, constitutional, diverse public education, as well as access to community colleges and universities and by securing equitable funding for minority colleges and universities.
  3. Healthcare for all by ensuring access to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security and by providing environmental protection.
  4. Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system and providing equal protection under the law for black, brown and poor white people.
  5. The protection and expansion of voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.

This is not a one-election movement.

We are not bound by any political party, and we can work with anyone who is serious about moving our state forward and not backwards.

The diverse coalition that makes up the Forward Together MoralMondayMovement came out in record numberson Tuesdayto express one sentiment in particular : We will never go back and we’ll never sound retreat. The turnout — a record for a midterm election — was made up of African Americans, whites, Latinos, people of all different classes, faiths, sexualities and ages. And we believe these are people who not only voted but who will stay vigilant and grow their ranks in the fight for a fair and just state.

We are deeply encouraged by this large movement of diverse friends who joined in a protest vote against the suppression tactics aimed primarily at people of color. Many stood in lines for hours, or were directed from precinct to precinct, but refused to be denied their right to vote. We thank all of those who are working day and night to build the new fusion movement of voters. We do not know how many people were discouraged from voting by the elimination ofSundayvoting, same-day-registration, and out-of-precinct voting, but we will analyze the results in the days to come.

Voter Suppression Facts

We know already, according to a Brennan Center report, that in the North Carolina Senate race, State House Speaker Thom Tillis beat Senator Kay Hagan by a margin of 1.7 percent, or about 48,000 votes.

At the same time, North Carolina’s voters were, for the first time, voting under one of the harshest new election laws in the country — a law that Tillis helped to craft. Among other changes, the law slashed seven early voting days, eliminated same-day registration, and prohibited voting outside a voter’s home precinct — all forms of voting especially popular among African Americans. While it is too early to assess the impact of the law this year, the Election Protection hotline and other voter protection volunteers reported what appeared to be widespread problems both with voter registration and with voters being told they were in the wrong precinct yesterday.

Some numbers from recent elections suggest that the magnitude of the problem may not be far from the margin of victory: In the last midterms in 2010, 200,000 voters cast ballots during the early voting days that have now been cut, according to a recent court decision.

In 2012, 700,000 North Carolinians voted during those days, including more than a quarter of all African Americans who voted that year. In 2012, 100,000 voters, almost a one-third of whom were African-American, voted using same-day registration, which was not available this year. And 7,500 voters cast their ballots outside of their home precincts that year.

We Are Emboldened

In spite of this, Tuesday night saw a major moral victory. This massive turnout, in the face of every voter suppression trick they could throw at us, is a tribute to the hundreds of thousands of people who ordinarily would pass up the off-election year vote. We add this to a growing list of moral victories out of the state of North Carolina and in struggles all across this nation. In message after message, our allies have said that they are emboldened to continue our moral fight.

It should be noted that this participation — despite intimidation, voter suppression efforts, and lewd amounts of money from extremist groups — shows what is possible when the people are united, inseparable in our struggle for putting people first. When we put people over greed and corporate interest, and when activism is guided by a common agenda, not any one person or any one Party, the people can defeat the callous cynicism of divide-and-conquer strategies. Regardless of the powers stacked against us.

Let me remind our friends and those who would try to push us backward: the Moral Movement does not live and die by elections. It is unfortunate that we, as a state, have promoted an employee who has repeatedly failed his constituents by undermining public education, health care, labor rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrants’ rights, voting rights, and the environment. But our movement does not hinge — and never has hinged — on one election, one candidate, or one Party.

We will continue the struggle in the courts, in the streets, in the legislature, and in building new friendships and alliances. We will continue to teach and build new coalitions of the excluded and oppressed. There is much needless suffering that can be addressed, if we all work together.

Our Work Always Sees the Long View

We always knew that, regardless of the result in this US Senate race, Pat McCrory would still be the Governor of North Carolina and would still have the power, along with the North Carolina legislature, to provide access to health care and quality education. They still have the power to lift working people if they were to govern for the good of the whole. We must continue to fight for this principle.

Additionally, we still have to win our battle to protect voting rights and against redistricting in the courts. So our moral mandate is as clear as it has ever been. This narrow victory by Speaker Tillis is not a validation of what he, the legislature, and the governor have done. It’s actually kind of a repudiation — especially when you have the power of state government, engage in voter suppression, and have deep money pockets, but can only eke out a narrow victory in a statewide election. In addition to this narrow victory, the electorate that elected Tillis has almost no ideological and racial diversity. Speaker Tillis should not see his victory as a mandate but as a message that he should govern as a senator for all the people and not be a tool of extremists. What may seem to be victories now may turn into real losses in 2016 and beyond.

While we hope that Senator-elect Tillis will keep his word and govern as a moderate, it seemed to us on electionnight, watching his victory speech, that he would carry over his legacy of denying unemployment benefits, cutting education spending, denying Medicaid Expansion and suppressing voting rights, among other attacks on the good of the people, into his new role as US Senator. We pray that this will not be the case and he could begin to signal a new direction by seriously considering Medicaid Expansion for 500,000 North Carolinians before he goes to Washington. This would prove that his statement last week was not a cynical ploy to win last-minute votes.

He could back off his call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act.And he could signal that he is going to support restoration of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to revive North Carolina’s coverage under Section 5 pre-clearance.

We have sent a letter to him and Gov. McCrory, asking for them to meet with a representative group from our ranks to secure a commitment to these issues. We know Mr. Tillis has met with the Tea Party. We hope he will meet with us and represent all of his constituents.

There is still much work to be done. We, the people, will not bow out of any fight that would take us backward. We will continue to move Forward Together!

A Word to Both Parties

If history was filled with successive and continual victories, complacency would abound. Rather than a merry-go-round, history is fraught with both success and defeat. Each bears its own instructive lessons. The outcome of the 2014 elections was less than desirable for some, though all hope is not lost. Since we are nonpartisan, we offer important takeaways for both Democrats and Republicans.

The message to Democrats is to continue building the base and expanding the electorate. In races large and small, from Senate seats, to the Governors’ mansions to statewide offices, many Democrats distanced themselves from the positive policies of President Obama. This gives the perception of running scared rather than running for something. For instance, if over 300,000 North Carolinians accepted Affordable Care Act opportunities, and we were the fourth highest state, why run from that? Instead, make your opponent answer why they don’t want people with preexisting conditions to have health insurance. Ask why they don’t want women to have health screenings and maternity coverage.

They distanced themselves by attempting to play the Washington two-step — but that leaves them dancing to the rhythms of partisanship, rather than the soul music of our deepest constitutional and moral values core democratic values. This can reinforce in the minds of voters that they incapable of addressing the issues confronting the nation.

Democrats must, when they have a story about value decisions, stand on it, tell it, and hold ultra-conservative politicians accountable for their attacks on women, workers, the sick, the poor and people of color. When you run for cover, iteffectively allows Republicans to run away from a disastrous record.

You can’t allow your values and message to be dictated by the whims of public opinion polls. If Americans love anything, it’s consistency and confidence of conviction. If Democrats second-guess their accomplishments and their own Commander-in-Chief, how much more will the American public do so? Who wants to be affiliated with a leader abandoned by his own team? For the Democratic Party, this is a moment for base-building and reflection.

Republicans, on the other hand, should view the victory not as a mandate to enact more extreme policies but as an opportunity to engage all voters — not just those who share the same beliefs — in historic and unprecedented ways.If they are going to truly govern and not face tremendous social challenges, they must move away from Tea Party extremism and govern for the good of the whole. Stop attacking voting rights and the vulnerable, and build our democracy. Embrace diversity and ensure voting rights.

The moral principles of President Teddy Roosevelt would be a good lesson. Embracinghealth care, public education, protection of the environment and fundamental labor rights, and raising the minimum wage, as he did at the opening of the 20th century, would be great for them in the 21st.

Fortunately, this is not the last election. While elections have consequences, it’s up to the people in states across the country to hold elected leaders accountable. That’s our role. We’ve shown it’s possible to do so in North Carolina. And we have no intentions of letting up. We’ll continue to organize, engage with voters, and hold elected officials accountable. We hope you will too.

We’re already scheduled our Mass Moral People’s Assembly forFeb 14th.

We’ve already planned our winter meeting.

We’ve already scheduled a planning and strategy session with our more than 160 member organizations.

We’re already planning to return to the legislature and to continue building throughout counties.

Join us.