With the final day of voting in the North Carolina primary election, the broad left in the state finds itself approaching a critical moment. It all, of course, will be based on the outcome of the fight against the discriminatory proposed amendment to the state constitution–known as Amendment 1–which seeks to make marriage between one man and one woman the only legally recognized relationship in North Carolina.
It is clear–and the results of a Elon University poll–that the majority of people in North Carolina oppose the Amendment, and if were to tally votes by approaching each voting age person and asking them their opinion, there would be no chance of the amendment passing. Another significant minority is completely apathetic to the Amendment. So how do we find ourselves in a moment where the voting appears to be so close–so close that we could indeed lose?
It must first be stated that the vote is completely illegitimate in and of itself. One does not have the right to vote on the citizenship, rights, or dignity of any other person. The fight against this amendment is only a stopgap measure, an attempt to prevent legalized homophobia (not to mention all of the other vicious side effects of the amendment) from getting any worse.
This vote, however, was designed as a clear example of the “divide and conquer” tactic, and it is a tactic that quite perfectly suits the capitalists and their parties–Democrat and Republican. The Republican party being the freak show that it is as it runs further and further to the right, one has come to expect this level of vileness from them. In building a movement against this amendment, though, it is important to point out the utter complicity of the Democrats in the whole affair. Yes, it was the Republicans who introduced this amendment on the floor of the North Carolina state legislature, and it was they who prodded and encouraged homophobia from every possible corner to build support for the amendment, but it was the Democrats who could mount against it no stronger defense than “North Carolina doesn’t have a great record on civil rights. We don’t want to pass something we’ll regret in ten years.” And it was the Democrats who, determined that Obama must win re-election, not only did not fight the push to hold the illegitimate vote during the May primary when turnout was guaranteed to be lower than the general election and slated to favor the reactionaries, some even supported it–all under the ludicrous guise of ensuring the election didn’t become political. (I’m not sure what the point of a non-political election is supposed to be either, except for a diversion.) Meanwhile, Obama has tried to position himself as pro-LGBTQ (an astonishing and shameless attempt from the man who has openly stated that he does not support same-sex marriage) without actually supporting the struggles of LGBTQ people, and having to take a stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, even the watered down way it is presented in Amendment 1–is something it is clear he wants to avoid at all costs. North Carolina Democrats, on the other hand, are afraid of angering the mythical masses of borderline fascist independent voters.
While it is true that many voters do not wish to be affiliated with either of the mainstream parties (and seriously, who could blame them?), it is most certainly not true that these voters choose not to affiliate because their own politics are to the right of the Democrats or GOP. Fiscally, this group is politically mixed. They generally support programs like Head Start, Social Security, and Medicare while they say they support the vague notion of spending reduction and austerity. Socially, this group is far more progressive, favoring same-sex marriage, women’s rights, and immigration reform. They are not, as most of the politicians claim, members of the evangelical Christian right. This mythical right-wing borderline fascist voter has simply acted as a pretext to push through policies that pander further and further to the right (all while miraculously–well, not so miraculously–increasing profits). Of course, none of this would even be possible if the Democrats could not rely on the vote of the majority of the progressive left. In other words, the Democrats are able to pander to the far right because they rest assured that most progressives, liberals, and even a good hunk of the left can be counted on to vote for them out of fear of the GOP–a phenomenon well documented by Lance Selfa and Socialist Worker as the politics of lesser evilism.
This was the broad political context in which the vote was set for May 8. Now we are here. And tomorrow we will be somewhere else entirely. Tomorrow is what I am keenly interested in.
I am still optimistic that we can defeat this Amendment. (If it hasn’t been hammered home already, VOTE if you are registered in North Carolina. VOTE. How often do you hear me say that?) So let’s say we do. What then?
I have dreams of being the first state in the South to legalize same-sex marriage. Seem outlandish? Well, I mean damn. They did it in Iowa.
If we succeed tomorrow, we must be ready to seize the momentum, and to fight our way forward. A victory tomorrow would allow us to go on the offensive, because we’ve played our game pretty well during this fight. We’ve built grassroots coalitions with trained community based organizers. We’ve united North Carolinians across race, gender, sex, immigration status. We organized students and got them involved in the communities around the campuses they’d been previously been alienated from. Fighting amendment one, we’ve been in the defensive stance you use playing basketball–which means we’re ready to spring down the court and fast break to what we really want: equality.
For months now, May 8 has loomed in our minds, but tomorrow it will be gone, and we’ll have to take a moment to re-orient ourselves. To use an open water swimming metaphor, you’ve got to get to the buoy before you can turn, and you’ve got to turn to keep your eyes on the finish.
Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t do it. We forced city councils to pass resolutions against the amendment they wouldn’t otherwise have considered. We organized cross-movement May Day marches. We made leaders take a stand. Yes, we did that. It wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t organize. And if we win on May 8, it isn’t a miracle. It’s simply what democracy looks like: democracy in the streets.
And that’s how the next fight will go too. We can’t wait for Obama, or the NC Democrats. They have failed us time and again. Given us piecemeal reforms but refuse to confront the real issue, told us to “wait our turn.” The votes cast today are an expression of our organizing: the meetings, marches, trainings, and yes, block parties. So the next time the Democrats say they’ll get to marriage equality, and trans- protections, and ENDA passing, we should tell them where to go. This movement has shown North Carolina activists exactly how much we DON’T need the Democrats who tell us to “try and see both sides” and “respect” the very people who like to assign second class citizenship to tens of thousands of people in North Carolina.
Let’s make something perfectly clear. This isn’t about “playing nice” and “respecting our opponents.” This is a clear cut question. Wrong or right. Bigotry or equality. Hate or love. For or against. To stand in favor of the Amendment is to choose the losing side of history. Your religion, personal feelings, or personal discomfort does not make your homophobia okay. It makes you a bigot, and that’s the end of the story.
Tomorrow isn’t the end. It’s Day 1 of Stage 2.
We’re done waiting. We want equality. We want dignity. We want it now.