“Just voting for the president is like voting for a mascot, its the local politicians that are impacting our everyday lives,” observed one Down Homie last year in Person County, North Carolina as we talked about upcoming elections. That comparison has really stuck with us.
In the democratic landscape, local politics often take a backseat to national affairs, with the spotlight focused on federal elections and the policies of national leaders. However, from the funding of schools to the building of affordable housing, the influence and impact of local government is often much stronger in our day to day lives.
To strengthen our local democracies, Down Home is working to make sure that working-class people across race and their politics are part of elections up and down the ballot. This goes beyond just voting, and extends to organizing and even having poor and working class people run for office. After all, who knows their communities better than those of us who live, and sometimes struggle, here?
This past weekend, Down Home joined up with the Carolina Federation and the Working Families Party to have a two day training session for working class folks from all across the state who are interested in running for office or working on multiracial working-class campaigns next year.
Why we believe working people should hold office in our towns and counties:
Representation for the Rest of Us
Poor and working-class individuals have the lived experiences of navigating systems and economies that aren’t made for them– and once elected can bring those experiences to the table when decisions are made. By stepping into local office, they bring a firsthand understanding of the struggles faced by the majority of their communities. This authentic representation allows for policies and initiatives that directly address the needs and concerns of the poor and working class, ensuring their voices are not only heard but genuinely represented.
Working Together and Bridging Divides
Historically in North Carolina and the South, tremendous effort has been put in by the powerful few to keep working people’s power divided by race and class. Working class candidates campaigns can and should be built to bring multiracial and diverse groups together around common interests and needs.
A diverse local government, inclusive of multiracial working-class perspectives, has the potential to bridge persistent socioeconomic and racial divides within our communities and close inequality gaps through policy. By actively participating in the decision-making process, working-class individuals can advocate for equitable distribution of resources, affordable housing, accessible healthcare, and quality education.
Far too often, we assume that electoral politics are for the wealthy and powerful. Most of us didn’t grow up seeing people like our parents– working people who do shift work or hussle multiple jobs– be decision makers in our communities. Running for local office demonstrates that working-class individuals across race can and should be agents of change within their communities. By engaging with fellow community members, they can build grassroots movements, strengthen networks, and inspire others to actively participate in local governance. Through their leadership and campaigning, they can mobilize community resources, encourage civic engagement, speak across racial divides, and foster a sense of unity and empowerment among the poor and working class.
Historically, power has often been concentrated in the hands of the wealthy few– down here in North Carolina, we call that the good ol’ boy system. Since the begining of our state, politicians have been traditionally white, male, and rich.
By running for local office, working-class individuals challenge these age old power dynamics, disrupt the status quo, and assert our right to representation. Their presence in local government shifts the narrative, ensuring that decisions reflect the diverse needs and aspirations of the entire community, rather than a select few.
Prioritizing Working People’s Policy
Who knows better what we need that us?
Frequently, our small town and rural elected officials are property owners and business owners and as a result prioritize policies that privilege local business, development, and the like while ignoring regular people’s needs. Working-class candidates bring a critical perspective to policy discussions, often focusing on issues that directly impact our day to day lives. Whether it’s advocating for fair wages, workers’ rights, or sustainable development, their presence in local government elevates these crucial topics– often for the first time. Through legislation, they can drive meaningful change, addressing systemic issues that perpetuate inequality and improving the lives of their constituents.