On Saturday, February 11th, tens of thousands of people joined the Moral March on Raleigh to demonstrate our commitment to resist extremism in America at both the state and federal level. In this season of broad-based and unprecedented protest against an administration with historically low approval ratings, it has become harder to dismiss North Carolina’s Moral March as whining from “the left.” And those who do so miss both the crisis we face as a nation and the hope that moral fusion movements offer. In 2017, resistance isn’t about left or right, but about right versus wrong.
The state-based coalition of moral leaders and issue-based advocacy groups who organized this year’s Moral March first came together in 2006, when Democrats were in power in North Carolina. Our fusion coalition—many faiths and belief systems, and all the hues of the human rainbow– built power by successfully advocating for an expansion of voting rights and educating poor and working people about issues that directly impact them. In 2010, we experienced a backlash against our growing political power. Extremists hijacked our state’s Republican Party and took control of all three branches of government by using the same combination of corporate funding and fear-based populism that fueled the Trump campaign.
What is happening in Washington, DC, now is what happened in Raleigh four years ago. But we have learned in North Carolina how a morally-grounded fusion coalition can resist this kind of extremism in the 21st-century by inviting Democrats, Independents and true conservatives to unite around a moral agenda and fight back in the streets, in the courts, and at the ballot box.
Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of North Carolina’s Republican party, dismissed last weekend’s Moral March as “far left,” insisting that “the people” spoke last November, when North Carolina’s electoral votes went to Donald Trump, a former New York City Democrat who swept the South in a wave of 21st-century nativist populism. Mr. Woodhouse failed to mention that his party lost control of both the executive and judicial branches of North Carolina’s government in the same election, and that a federal court has ordered special elections in 2017 to reconstitute the racially gerrymandered legislative branch. Even if “the people” went for a Trump they didn’t know, they weren’t naive enough to back the extremism of the NC GOP, whom they did know.
On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” North Carolina’s former Republican governor, Pat McCrory, who lost his reelection bid in November, admitted that he was pushed by GOP extremists to defend legislation that the majority of North Carolinians did not support. But rather than challenge Woodhouse, McCrory offered his dubious wisdom to Democrats, lest they be pulled from the center by their left wing.
Both Woodhouse and McCrory refuse to acknowledge that resistance to extremism, which hurts poor people and threatens democracy itself, is not a tug from the left wing but a cry from America’s moral center. My grandfather, like almost every black person in the South for a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, was a Republican. I know the values of true conservatives. But when Strom Thurmond led the segregationist Dixiecrats into the Republican Party in 1968, black folks in the South learned what an extremist take-over looks like. The Tea Party activists who hijacked the GOP and fueled Trump’s birther-ism lies do not represent the party of Lincoln. Instead they have nationalized the politics of George Wallace.
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