North Carolina Pushing Back

Charlotte  It’s sad joke when someone in North Carolina says with less than a smile, “Welcome to North Carolina, the new Alabama.” First, because Alabama is still doing all it can to continue to be the old Alabama, and secondly, because one of the top two fastest growing states is fighting a rearguard effort to try to move the state backward against the rising tide.

The good news is that groups like Action NC, the former North Carolina ACORN, on its own and in coalition with a good number of groups is fighting fiercely, and with some success, to push the state hard right political forces and legislators back towards the people. Our delegation meeting in Charlotte from ACORN’s Home Savers Campaign spent several hours in what ACORN Kenya always calls a “sharing” on a recent Sunday afternoon over pizza and sweet tea talking about these efforts, and we were encouraged.

And, delighted, when we heard the report of Action NC’s senior “warriors,” as they called themselves. Several of them told us of a trip they had made with people from other organizations to confront the leaders of the Federal Reserve in their annual meetings in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. More importantly they told us about how they were organizing other seniors in the fight to protect – and expand – their benefits on Social Security and to prevent the erosion of Medicare. The stories of deciding between paying for medicines or buying food were common in their work, but they also focused on the fight to make sure that the Affordable Care Act was protected and that there was not a Congressional raid on Social Security and Medicaid.

The “new” North Carolina, and especially their queen city of Charlotte, is also growing more diverse. The Action NC leaders had Carolina roots but had also living in New York, Philadelphia, and other cities before returning, so there were clear lines they wanted to draw, but the other difference had to do with the vibrant immigrant population, which has become a major part of Action NC’s work. The fight to save the differed action program for the Dreamers has been major for them, as well as continuing to push for immigration reform.

We were also encouraged to hear that they are now part of an ongoing voter registration program, not just waiting for the next election. We had all read about the North Carolina house of representatives having voted, admittedly before Charlottesville, Virginia, but that’s really no excuse, to grant immunity to a car deliberately being weaponized and driven into protesters. The governor, a democrat who won a squeaker election against the republican incumbent, partially over the bathroom issue and the business opposition and boycotts it triggered, has brought attention to the issue so hopefully that is one made direction that will run into a wall. The more people they and others register, the better chances we will have in the future in North Carolina.

We had an early bed check with meetings on tap, but we were delighted to see the fire in peoples’ eyes and the fight in their step in North Carolina, because this and other state by state battles are where the future will be won.