Over the course of a summer, North Carolina went from shining example of the New South to laughingstock of the nation.
Spearheaded by the election of Governor Pat McCrory, Republicans consolidated control of the state government in 2012. They wasted little time consummating their neoconservative wet dreams by decreasing welfare benefits, demolishing conservation acts, denouncing Medicaid, degrading women’s reproductive rights, devaluing our education budget and — perhaps most damnable — denying voters’ rights to a tremendous number of North Carolinians, mainly minorities, the elderly and students.
Simultaneously, they cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, granted raises to cabinet members and rewarded exorbitant salaries to campaign staffers in the style of classic cronyism.
Over the course of the summer, I fumed to myself, “Does no one witness the injustice committed in our state?”
Thankfully, I was not alone.
Beginning in Raleigh this spring, Moral Monday demonstrations sprouted across the state from Wilmington to Asheville, and coverage of the movement has appeared in the pages of national and international publications such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Economist.
The movement resembles a counter–Tea Party, both in its opposition to Republican legislators and its motley crew of egalitarian activists.
“It’s a very eclectic group of people,” said Davia Young, first-year and Moral Monday protester. “It’s not just liberals or just certain types of people. It’s a huge mix because there are so many issues that have been brought up.”
Moral Mondays unite many people for various reasons, but all unite against the status quo in Raleigh.
“(Moral Monday protesters) won’t accept a government only for the white, only for the rich, only for the straight, only for the male, only for the Christian,” said Professor of Law Gene Nichol, Moral Monday protester and director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill, in an email to The Guilfordian. “But right now, that’s the government we have.”
Sadly — perhaps unsurprisingly — “the government we have” remains unmoved by the demonstrations.
“(Republican policymakers) didn’t care that so many of their constituents were upset at them,” said Tim Leisman ‘13, another Moral Monday protester. “They didn’t change their extremist agenda at all to reflect the opinion of the state.”
Governor McCrory exemplified GOP obstinacy when, instead of opening dialogue with activists, he hand-delivered a plate of cookies to women outside the governor’s mansion protesting the closure of abortion clinics — a condescending gesture reeking of the sentiment, “Let them eat cake.”
In revolutionary style, over 900 protesters have been arrested for refusal to disperse from the General Assembly. However, attendees consider detainment a badge of pride.
“One of the Moral Mondays was on my 18th birthday,” said Young. “The only present I asked for was permission from my parents to be arrested.”
Though overnight jailing principally symbolizes the commitment of Moral Monday protesters, the hopeful secondary effect seems obvious: spur North Carolinians’ attention in order to oust the GOP from the government in the next election.
The prospect seems feasible. Democratic candidates received 51 percent of votes in the last election and, according to a Sept. 12 release from Public Policy Polling, 54 percent of North Carolina voters strongly disapprove of complete Republican control of the state.
However, stealthy redistricting installed by the Republican-led 2010 Senate — gerrymandering former Democratic Governor Bev Perdue was unable to veto — secured the ace in the hole for Republicans in this past election. Along with voter suppression, district lines may prove what NC Policy Watch called “(the Republican) insurance policy.”
Whether or not the Moral Monday protests can overcome the strife imposed by reactionaries in the General Assembly has yet to be seen. The effect of the movement can only be realized next year, when voters take to the polls to decide whether or not they wish to be represented — or repressed.