More than 1.4 million North Carolinians turned out to vote in the 2022 primaries– our state’s biggest primary turnout in 20 years.
At Down Home, we chalk that up as a success. What we see in the small towns and rural places where we organize is that more and more people are engaging with electoral politics up and down the ballot because they see— and feel– how much these elected positions impact their daily lives.
Everyone– not just North Carolinians– seemed to be interested in our recent primaries. Any television channel you turned on – CNN, Fox News, NPR– was following the results as they rolled in. Why? Because we are a purple state, yes, but also because our state is seen as a test-case for Trump’s influence.
Who is running the NC GOP?
So did Trump’s influence reign supreme here or not? It’s true that the Trump-endorsed candidates won in each race except one — Madison Cawthorn’s inelegant defeat up in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. But it’s unclear if it was Trump’s influence that helped Ted Budd and Bo Hines win their primaries or if the big winner was the huge, outside money being pumped into these candidates coffers. Washington DC based Club for Growth pumped millions of dollars into these two primaries making North Carolinians wonder who these candidates would really work for? It’s unclear if Hines even lives where he is trying to get elected.
If these candidates win in November, North Carolina will not only slide to the far right, but we also won’t be able to claim that we have an independent, unbought senator.
Having these candidates like this at the top of the ticket in North Carolina also means that this election will be fueled by far-right talking points and culture war fodder that serve nobody, especially not everyday, working class North Carolinians. It’s going to feel like an onslaught and that we are on the constant defense– but we need to remember that we are not on the defense and can do more than just respond when poked. We have a clear vision of what our state needs and what our people need… our work is to make that more clear than ever.
Real issues and the good fight.
In the Democratic US Senate Primary, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Beasley easily beat 10 other candidates setting her up to be the contestant against Budd to represent our state. If elected, Beasley would be the first Black North Carolinian sent to the US Senate. That alone is huge, but Beasley’s election would be more than about representation of course. Since Democrats hold a tiny majority in the chamber (with Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to cast a tie-breaking vote), every single seat matters in this election. That’s why all those news stations were watching our primary elections like a hawk: North Carolina’s Senate seat matters when it comes to passing things that working-class North Carolinians need on the federal level, such as economic recovery programs, climate change legislation, voting rights protections, and protecting a woman’s right to choose.
We can focus on these issues and focus on policy and candidates that are dedicated to serving the electorate. That’s the good fight.
What people say they want, and need.
These are the types of legislation and policy that matter to rural and small town North Carolinians. We know this because right now our team is out all across the state asking them. Our folks are posted up at farmer’s markets, knocking on doors, and holding deep listening sessions all across rural North Carolina asking people what matters most to them. You can find preliminary report backs on some of these events on our blog here.
What folks are telling us is that it’s the bread and butter issues– things like how to afford groceries and how to get paid fairly at work and whether or not one can afford to go to the doctor– that matter most. The people we talk to don’t want the “culture war” politics being force fed to our communities by people like Budd and Hines– they want real things that will help their families be successful and safe.
What happened in local elections?
Those desires showed up at the local level across our state during the primary. We have known for a while now that one of the mobilization strategies of the far-right has been to attack our schools, teachers, and children. But this past May this manufactured outrage strategy wasn’t entirely successful in our state. In Durham County, a “stealth slate” of far-right candidates running for school board was overwhelmingly defeated and in Johnston County, the Proud Boy running for school board came in absolute last place. Extremist school board candidates were also edged out in Watauga County and several other rural areas. This is because huge majorities of Americans completely reject the far-right strategy and love and support their public schools, but also because local communities have been outspoken against extremists and busy organizing.
Our work on the local level of course isn’t done– extremists are still on the local ballot in many of our counties where there wasn’t a primary or where they eeked through onto the ballot. (If someone is on the ballot in your community that you are concerned about, let us know here).
Winning takes organizing.
With so much at stake– from our schools to voting rights– 2022 can feel dire, but don’t let that overwhelm you. The answer to all of this is that we, the people, are the majority– we just need to act like it. We need to talk to our neighbors, get involved with community groups, and turn out in record numbers to the polls. It’s not magic and it’s not rocket science– it’s organizing.
The numbers– those big numbers we cited at the start of this post– are on our side. We get to see it everyday: THERE ARE SO MANY OF US. We just need to work together and all play our part. Are you ready to get involved? Contact us and tell us where you live and we will connect you to folks in your town: [email protected]
Fear is always an easier sell than hope. It’s the cheater’s way of winning power and, in 2022, it’s what we are up against. Organizing is the way to win with dignity, truth, and compassion. Let’s do it that way.
Come on in, y’all. We’ve got work to do.