Our state is being hijacked. What will be your response?
Hey North Carolina, I get you. You’re feeling jaded and gerrymandered, like your votes don’t count and your voices don’t matter. You have every right to feel that way, since your state leaders have fought hard to take away your voting rights and limit your civil liberties. The U.S. Supreme Court has even had to step in to protect your rights, declaring the Voter ID bill unconstitutional and requiring the Republican controlled legislature to redraw racially gerrymandered districts. Some redistricting appeals continue to work their way through the courts today. It’s exhausting, living in a state where the will of the people is so consistently circumvented by partisan gamesmanship. You were hoping these shenanigans would have subsided by now, am I right? That the tide would turn and a balanced democracy would prevail?
I have bad news and good news. Bad news first. Despite the fact that you’re on the right side of history, your Republican controlled legislature is using its last few weeks before newly elected Democratic governor Roy Cooper takes office to call a special session (not standard practice) launched Dec. 13 and continuing through at least December 15 (today!), if not longer. NC House and Senate leaders are working quickly to pass more laws controlling your votes and drastically limiting the power of your new governor (among other unprecedented power grabs). So much for a balanced democracy. So much for transparency and public participation in the process.
I have good news too, but it will require you to break free from your comfort zone. Our democracy isn’t a lost cause. It is, in fact, threatened by abuse of power, but you have some powerful tools of your own which can right the ship – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and a right to assemble. “Use it or lose it” comes to mind as We the People watch our rights and freedoms being squandered in the name of partisan gain. But hurry - time is of the essence.
STEP ONE: FREEDOM OF SPEECH
It’s time to speak up – today - like you haven’t before. Contact your representatives as well as House and Senate leaders. Call them and send them e-mails. Tweet to them – think of it as leaving a message in a more public and transparent way. Make your opinions abundantly clear using all platforms at your disposal. Together, our numbers are great and the impact will be felt.
STEP TWO: FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
Make sure trusted news outlets hear from you too. Copy them on your emails. Tag them in tweets. Share their stories and become paid subscribers to help this essential part of our democracy maintain its intended role, preventing government from interfering with freedom of speech.
RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE
The right of the people to peaceably assemble is perhaps your most powerful asset. It’s time to show up and be counted. For elected officials, it’s much easier to ignore e-mails than it is to see your office flooded with fed up constituents. The NC Legislature is a public building with free and open access by the people – that’s you. Enter and wander without worry. Show up as the Dec. 15th meetings begin, around 9:00 a.m., or whenever you can get there throughout the day (the agenda is purposefully unpredictable). Whether you’re there or not, check #ncga and #ncpol on Twitter for real-time updates about this unprecedented time in North Carolina’s history, one that seems poised to repeat itself at the national level. All the more reason to hurry and flex your First Amendment muscles – offering the rest of the country a heads up on the need for re-energized civic engagement.
Our democracy is essential. Our free country is worth the extra effort. And you’re not alone – there are more of us than there are of them. I’ll see you there.