By Johanna De Graffenreid
While I am fortunate to call Vermont my home, I am also proud to have spent many years of my childhood and adult life in North Carolina.
North Carolina has recently been underwater from one of the worst hurricanes in history, and understandably people in Vermont are highlighting the fact that North Carolina’s legislature banned state funded studying of sea level rise & climate change in 2012. I respond by saying that the North Carolina I grew up in has been taken over by the corporately controlled national GOP. I’m not talking about my father, who was a proud Republican for nearly all of my life. Nor am I talking about some of our ethical neighbors who feel the GOP represents them.
I’m here to warn you — vote in this November’s coming election or Vermont could be on its way to becoming the next North Carolina. That may seem like a bold claim in a state where Democrats have controlled the House in all but five years since 1992 and the Senate in all but four years in the same time. In North Carolina, Democrats had held power for 100 years — until 2010.
In 2002, while attending high school, my friends and I organized walk-offs of students as protest against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. While completing my undergraduate degree in Greensboro, North Carolina, I was proud to watch as the Woolworth’s store downtown, where the sit-ins began across the South for racial justice in the 1960s, was turned into a public museum. As such, I was completely unsurprised to learn that the Warren County landfill fight, led by black and low-income rural communities in eastern North Carolina, is what led to President Bill Clinton finally putting into law the definition of environmental justice in 1994.
In 2010 it all changed. After years of putting corporate money into local elections and across the state, as well as a complacent Democratic Party focused on funding local candidates only during presidential election years, Republicans won both the House and Senate of North Carolina. That same year, they redrew our voting districts to undermine liberal and progressive turnout and limit voting rights for people of color, the elderly, and the working poor. This intention to undermine our democracy has been confirmed to be driven by racism when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the GOP voting lines must be redrawn — an action which unfortunately will not be complete before November.
The national corporate controlled GOP first drafted a plan to take over state legislatures and governors offices in the early 1990s. This strategy has proven very successful, quietly winning state legislatures across the country, while some communities turn a blind eye. Today more than half of the states across the country are controlled entirely by this group of corporate national GOP sponsored leaders.
In response to this corporate conservative takeover, my fellow North Carolinians started the Moral Monday events in 2010, sparking the revival of the Poor People’s Campaign movement across the country. We took the North Carolina GOP legislature all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for our voting rights — and we won. My friends and I have protested attempts to give polluters the right to poison us — joining millions across the country to pass the the Clean Power Plan.
I’m here to warn you, the national corporate controlled Republican Party is paying attention to our elections here in Vermont — are you?
In August VTDigger reported that the DC PAC responsible for raising funds for Republican governors across the state has over $1 million to spend re-electing Gov. Scott, and GOP candidates down the ticket will benefit.
Will you join me and Rights & Democracy to defend our collective and national democracy by voting for candidates this November who support working families, as well as protecting our environment? We don’t want Vermont to end up meeting the same fate as my home state.
Don’t just vote — make phone calls, organize rides to the polls, and volunteer to knock on your neighbors’ doors.
This fall, fight like your life and our democracy depends on it — because as I can tell you from experience — it does.