In the wake of North Carolina elections last week that maintained conservatives’ firm grip on state power, Rev. William Barber urged progressives in Asheville not to lose faith in the strength of the Moral Monday movement.
“We will fight until hell freezes over, and then we’ll fight on the ice,” declared Barber, Moral Monday leader and head of the state NAACP. “Elections come and they go, but the movement stays.”
He delivered a rousing Nov. 13 speech to about 100 supporters at the First Congregational Unitarian United Church of Christ in downtown Asheville and then took questions from local media.
Barber blamed Republican electoral wins on a long list of factors, from gerrymandered voting districts to corporate campaign donations. He also argued that Republican Thom Tillis’ 1.64 percent margin of victory in the U.S. Senate race was aided by a law Tillis shepherded through the N.C. House that restricted voting.
Barber also criticized Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan for running a timid campaign. Tillis’ message was “I’m not Obama,” said Barber, “and the Democrat said, ‘well, I’m not Obama either’ — that’s not a way to run a campaign.”
He added: “Democrats need to start doing what they know is right. Republicans need to stop doing what they know is wrong.”
Much of Barber’s address focused on pushing Gov. Pat McCrory and Tillis to pass Medicaid expansion, which both elected leaders said they would consider in the weeks leading up to the election. Barber called on them to hold a special session of the General Assembly before Thanksgiving to do so.
The Moral Monday leader also said the measure would make health insurance available to 500,000 people in the state, including more than 40,000 people in Buncombe County. He said the General Assembly’s previous decision to deny expansion will cause North Carolina to lose billions in federal funding and is already hurting hospitals and the economy. The argument that the measure will cost the state money in the long-term is “fraudulent,” he asserted.
Barber announced that more Moral Monday rallies are being planned in Raleigh, including a major one on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. He also told local supporters that he’ll come back to Asheville for more Mountain Moral Monday rallies whenever he’s invited. Alluding to the fact that Buncombe County was one of the only counties in the state to unseat Republican N.C. House incumbents in this year, Barber praised local enthusiasm for progressive causes.
“People did not populate the mountains without having tenacity. You’ve got to have some guts,” he said. “I want to thank you for inspiring me and the nation and this state.”
However, he emphasized that it will take a long-term approach to attain the changes progressives want. “Don’t think that just because just the election is over your advocacy is over,” he said. “Movement time and election time is not always the same time.”