By: Zachary Bynum
Unexpected vibrancy that is how I would describe it. My North Carolina primary experience showed me what I have truly been looking for. Political engagement, diverse constituencies, local politics, and voting rights issues were all concepts that coalesced before me. Wake The Vote not only got to do our usual routine, but we also got to be actively apart of the process.
Poll watching was a new concept to me. By doing this, we were able to discuss, analyze, and try to intervene in voter suppression. In my own personal experience, there was only one instance in which we experienced the frustration some of North Carolina’s extremely repressive voter ID laws has caused. A woman walked out of the polling location extremely exasperated and as we approached her to try and help she denied and walked away. This, for me, was very disheartening because I feel that was my whole purpose of being there. A man walked out after her, began filling out an exit poll, and said to us “I don’t think she was registered,” but I recalled she had several papers in her hand going in and coming out; she wanted to same-day register most likely. Oh yeah, this was done away with the butchering of the Voting Rights Act. I realized my helplessness did not even match her feeling of disenfranchisement and injustice.
These occurrences are always the ones that stick with me the most during our times of “wake”-ing the vote because it exemplifies the work that must be done in restoring democracy. This said, it is also great to see democracy at work. We got the chance to speak with John Larson, a candidate for City Council who unfortunately did not win, and it was quite invigorating to hear the way he spoke of the Winston-Salem community. Often times we get caught up in the appeal and sensation of national politics that really seems to be taking away from the issues that actually affect our own communities. He spoke of college and housing affordability, public education, and building the community. These are not the kind of substantive conversations you can get with people who are trying to run national campaigns, so it is important that we cultivate more consciousness around the fact that a vote in midterm or local elections are just as important as those in a presidential campaign. Our democracy is dependent on this.
Democracy, what a theory. Recently, I read an article by Robert Reich called “How Capitalism is Killing Democracy” that made me realize the rhetoric around elections, voting, and everything democratic is all defined by who has “more” power. Radicals, Marxist, socialist and other related ideologies say that big business and capitalism completely undermines the idea of freedom and efficacy within in a democratic society while conservatives, realist, and their fellow ideologies say that true freedom manifest itself in a free market and capitalistic society. While both butt heads in different parties and on different issues, I think it is important to stop polarizing this issue and start trying to create a better discussion around what democracy really should look like in this age. Jeff Furman, a prominent voice within the beloved Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company made me see this. I think beforehand, I felt more aligned with the idea that there is no possible way to make democracy more accessible as long as capitalism is there to rear its ugly head, but I realize that there are those who are fighting in the private sector. Ben & Jerry’s pays all of its employees living wages, does countless research on social inequity, and has created a platform for social justice in a functional and tasty way. And get this, they still are a vastly successful company. One thing Wake The Vote is showing me is that it is never too late to try and start changing the culture around democracy. Overall, the The North Carolina Primary was one for the books.
ALSO: PLEASE READ THIS IMPORTANT ARTICLE ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN NC INVOLVING LGBTQ+ RIGHTS BY A FELLOW WAKE THE VOTER MADELINE COFFEY LGBTQ+ Rights: How WTV can Help