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Finding the Principles of the Forward Together Movement

Earlier today, blogger Docdawg reflected on his participation in the second year of weekly “Moral Mondays” protests held in Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina:

“In the face of Moral Mondays’ incessant reminders of NC voters’ discontent and revulsion, state Republicans (not too long ago a fearsomely united bloc) are beginning to unravel at the seams.

“I credit Moral Mondays in large measure for this. More viscerally than any opinion poll could, Moral Mondays demonstrations graphically illustrate to state politicos that large numbers of NC voters are mad as hell and we want our state back. Oh, sure, individual state legislators from safely deep-red districts (and NC has a lot of those) couldn’t care less…they know we demonstrators come to Raleigh every Monday mostly from heavily Democratic districts that they needn’t concern themselves with. But politicians such as Gov. McCrory and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis, who have to run their campaigns statewide, are clearly scared sh*tless. Only 31% of NC voters are registered Republicans, so statewide candidates know they need to appeal to large numbers of middle-of-the-road (and even some liberal) voters if they hope to get and stay elected. Consequently, they feel the need to (at least seem to) move toward the center. The resulting internal tension in the state GOP — tea-baggers vs. ‘RINOs’ — is beginning to tear the Republican juggernaut apart, which is fantastic. Divide and conquer.”

“It’s easy to think that an endless stream of little old ladies gettin’ hog-tied and frog-marched onto sheriffs’ busses is nothing but pointless feel-good political theater. But I would argue that, if it is properly organized and tirelessly sustained (as here in NC, thanks to Rev. William Barber’s inspirational leadership and the NAACP’s organizational genius) it is an awesome political force that cannot fail to draw blood.”

The Moral Mondays protests are part of a Forward Together movement in North Carolina bringing together a diverse set of people — black, brown and white, wealthy, middle-class and poor, religious and non-religious, unionized and non-unionized — to articulate shared concerns. This is no Occupy movement, either, that first decides to show up and then spends its time in the public eye deciding what it’s upset about. From the beginning, the Forward Together movement and the Moral Mondays protests have articulated a clear strategy and a clear purpose, as articulated in William Barber’s recent speech to the Netroots Nation convention. Strategy:

“Steps that we believe we need to have embraced in every state:

“1. Build an indigenously led grassroots organizing across the state;

“2. Use moral language to frame and critique public policy through our deepest moral and constitutional values regardless of who’s in power, Democrat or Republican;

“3. Demonstrate a commitment to civil disobedience that follows the steps of the movement that is designed to change the public conversation and consciousness;

“4. Build a stage from which to lift the voices not of politicians but of everyday people impacted by immoral extremist policy;

“5. Build a coalition of moral and religious leaders of all faiths;

“6. Intentionally diversify the movement with the goal of winning unlikely allies;

“7. Build a transformative long term coalition relationship rooted in a clear agenda that doesn’t measure success just by electoral outcomes, and destroys the myths of extremism;

“8. Make a serious commitment to academic and empirical analysis of policy, for the worst thing you can do as an activist is to be loud and wrong;

“9. Use social media coordination in all forms—video, text, twitter, facebook;

“10. Engage in voter registration and voter education and voter participation;

“11. Pursue a strong legal strategy so that you have lawyers that take what the movement bubbles up into the courtrooms and fight based on our constitution;

“12. Resist the one moment mentality and say we not here to have a moment we are trying to build a movement.”

The movement agenda:

“Let me tell you the agenda that has pulled us together in NC.

“1. Securing prolabor antipoverty policies that ensure economic sustainability;

“2. Educational equality by ensuring every child receives a high quality well-funded constitutionally diverse public education and access to colleges and community colleges;

“3. Health care for all, by insuring access to the affordable care act, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and providing environmental protection for all communities;

“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. Protecting and expanding voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrants’ rights, and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.”

To follow the activities of the Forward Together movement and to catch advance notice of upcoming protests, check the website of the NAACP of North Carolina. It’s there I find out the site of the next Moral Mondays demonstration on July 28: next-door Durham. The downtown site of protest lies halfway between the predominantly white Duke University and the predominantly black North Carolina Central University.

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