From the little bit of Bible knowledge I’ve retained from my one week enrolled at Carver Bible College – one week is how long it took to realize that the voice calling unto me was not coming from where I initially thought it was – I remember reading how the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho, blowing horns, until the walls came tumbling down.
The protesters marching around the state Capitol the past couple of years, hoping to bring down what they consider an indifferent, even hostile, legislature, apparently neglected to bring their trumpets – and to vote in large enough numbers.
The same government, possibly more Republican and recalcitrant, stayed in place despite the visually impressive “Moral Monday” crusades meant to galvanize progressives, liberals – those are progressives who aren’t running for office – and just people who think government should show concern for the least of these among us.
Oops, sorry. That – the least of these – is some more of that Bible talk I learned when I was fixing to become a preacher.
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The Rev. William Barber is a preacher, and just about any conversation with him will include talk and genuine concern for the least of these. Barber is head of the state NAACP and leader of the Moral Monday marches across the state.
Unlike skeptics such as me, the indefatigable Barber sees the marches as having been successful everywhere but at the ballot box. In some places, he said, it was even successful there.
“We’re the only state where two tea party conservative candidates lost,” he said.
When I asked him about last November’s turnout, which failed to unseat officials unsympathetic to progressive causes or to return former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to Washington, he said, “After all of the voter suppression efforts they threw at us, we actually had the best turnout for a midterm election in the history of the state, and the margin of victory in the U.S. Senate race was the lowest in history, 1.6 percent.
“We knew, because of the race-based gerrymandering, conservatives had insulated themselves” against progressives’ electoral wrath, he said.
Citing Hagan, a Democratic candidate who was, to be kind, uninspiring, and who shunned anything that might tag her as progressive, Barber said, “I encourage progressives to run whether they are Democrats or Republicans. ... We’ve never before elected a senator who had 51 percent of people vote against him.”
Well, we did this time – Tillis received 48.8 percent of the vote; Hagan, 47.2 percent – a fact of which Republicans will cheerily remind him, along with the truism “Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and slow-dancing – unless your brother is the governor of a state that will ultimately decide the winner.”
In that case, being close could count.
Other than a few spies whom I suspect of running back and telling their bosses who was participating and some people who merely wanted to see themselves on TV being hauled away to jail for protesting – nothing gives you Facebook cred more quickly than that – most of the scores of people to whom I spoke at the marches seemed genuinely interested in representing the aged, the infirm, the unemployed and anyone else who they thought was being hoodooed by the legislators.
Did they at least succeed in being heard, since they didn’t succeed in reclaiming the legislature? I asked Barber.
“You don’t judge a movement,” he said, “by one election.”
Despite the election results, Barber said, “we reclaimed the Rotunda” of the state Capitol. “The governor is talking about expanding Medicaid, and they’re talking about raising teacher pay. They would not be talking about that were it not for the moral high ground” reclaimed by the protesters.