This election season, we have carved a path forward for poor and working-class communities like ours.
Importantly, we have held steady and asserted that the basis of American democracy is that we pick our leaders – our leaders do not pick their voters. Here in North Carolina, we continue to wait for the final election results in many races but we still want to reflect on what we do know.
We know that we should celebrate our successes: We turned out in record numbers despite everything they tried to put in our way. In Jackson County, voter turnout reached nearly 18,000– a nearly 33% increase over 2016.
We know that our on-the-ground organizing played a key role in this incredible turnout at the polls. This year, Down Home created an enormous field program to engage rural voters. We engaged in 28,900 phone and text conversations with rural North Carolinians about voting, and another 11,363 conversations through our Relational Voter Turnout project, having friends talk to friends, neighbors talk to neighbors, and family talk to family.
We know this matters and has made a difference. We know this because no one else is talking to the folks we are reaching in our communities.
Not all our member-endorsed candidates won, however, we have always said that there is success in their running. Across rural North Carolina, Down Home supported Black, Brown, and working-class candidates who, just a few years ago, may never have considered putting their name on the ballot. It was an incredible success, for example, to have candidates here in Jackson County running on platforms that included affordable housing, raising wages, Medicaid expansion, as well as issues of equity.
We believe and will always believe that our small towns and country places are worth investing our time, resources, and love in. Why? Because we are from here. We were raised here and we are raising our children here. Small town and rural North Carolina has been under-organized as politicians and the big political parties focus on cities and suburbs. That’s why we created Down Home– the decades of ignoring rural working-class and poor folks are over.
Our work is barely over– It has just begun. Elections and voting have always been just tools in our toolbox as we build power. Just as important is holding those put into power accountable to poor and working-class communities that we live in and love here in North Carolina. And even more important is how we organize and care for each other, right here, at home.
This election is over, but the need to build power and organize deeply with poor and working-class folks has never been so clear. Come into our work. Down Home Jackson organizes year-round, every day, in our rural communities. Why? Because this is our home.
Will you join us for our next monthly Chapter Meeting on Saturday, November 21st at 1 PM? This is a great space for you to learn more about Down Home, how we work, and how you can be involved. Register here.