Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Moral Mondays, The Third Reconstruction & Act 192

North Carolina social activist Rev. Dr. William Barber
If politics is your thing, last night was your kind of night with big Tuesday primaries taking place in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina; not so much for Marco Rubio.

A lot more than just delegates were at stake.

Are you the type who appreciates an excellent no-nonsense overview of the political landscape (and challenges) in both Missouri and North Carolina from a progressive point of view?

Then I'd highly recommend you take some time to listen to the two insightful interviews Brian Lehrer did back-to-back Tuesday morning with St. Louis Public Radio political reporter Jo Mannies and William Barber (pictured above), president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.

In the interview on The Brian Lehrer Show, Barber offered insight into how the divisive rhetoric (which President Obama called "vulgar" earlier today) that has become the hallmark of Donald Trump's campaign rallies, are rooted in the same brand of racist populism trumpeted by George Wallace and other popular southern segregationists in the 20th century.

He argues that the toxic rhetoric which incites Trump supporters to physically assault protesters, is the same dangerous kind of inflammatory language that motivated four KKK terrorists to detonate 15 sticks of dynamite under the front steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama killing four little girls on Sunday September 15, 1963.

NC Republican Senator Thom Tillis
Since 2013, Barber has been at the heart of North Carolina's Moral Mondays protest movement opposing the unprecedented takeover of the state by right-wing Republican extremists led by Governor Pat McCrory and current NC Republican Senator Thom Tillis (pictured left).

Before narrowly defeating Democrat Kay Hagan to win a hotly-contested Senate seat, Tillis was a key ally of Governor McCrory while he served as the Speaker of North Carolina state legislature at a time when 54 of the 170 members were members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (including Tillis himself) at a time when Republican voter suppression in the Tar Heel state was making national headlines.

Tillis is a textbook Koch brothers flunky. With the help of his Koch-funded ALEC puppeteers in North Carolina, he led the state legislatures efforts to (among other things) roll back voting rights, attack unions, make access to abortion more difficult and eliminate unemployment benefits.

His former crony Governor McCrory is up for re-election this year and you can be sure he'll be facing organized protests from Moral Mondays members around the state.

It's the efforts of people like Tillis and McCrory who've (in part) inspired Rev. Barber to emerge as a powerful voice in the grassroots movement for social justice in North Carolina.

2014 Moral Mondays protest in Raleigh, NC
Which he chronicles in his recently-released book "The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics and the Rise of  New Justice Movement". 

In it, Barber argues that the wave of right-wing extremism typified by voter suppression and astonishing government power grabs through gerrymandering by conservative state legislators, has sparked a growing counter-wave of progressive social activism in America which he calls "The Third Reconstruction".

And his message, like the movement itself, is growing nationwide.

Since the Moral Mondays movement was launched in 2013, it has since spread to other states including New York, Georgia, Ohio, New Mexico, South Carolina and Illinois.

Donald Trump's victory in the North Carolina and Florida primaries last night is a sobering reminder of what's at stake in the 2016 presidential elections - and for our nation as a whole.

In the same way the election of Republican-majority legislatures in North Carolina and Kansas have proved disastrous to the social fabric of those states, an article posted on yesterday by Olivia Li offers a disturbing snapshot of what's at stake for national and state elections with regards to issues like gun control.

Act 192 sponsor Republican Mark Keller
As she reported, the Pennsylvania state legislature passed Act 192 back in 2014 which allows individual gun owners and any large organization like the NRA that they belong to, to jointly sue any township or small municipality that tries to pass gun control legislation to control gun violence.

Not long after it was passed, the NRA sued Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and other municipalities in Pennsylvania over restrictions that kept people from carrying concealed weapons in cars or on their person without a license, requiring people to report stolen weapons or bans on sales of certain kinds of ammunition.

Doesn't matter that the NRA doesn't live in the town in question.

Act 192 allows them to tap into the NRA's massive war chest to actually prevent local elected leaders from passing gun control legislation to keep their local communities safe.

If small municipalities that challenge the NRA lose their court fight, a bizarre provision in the law requires them to cover massive attorney's fees, court costs and expert witness costs that the NRA incurs in it's effort to sue these towns and cities for writing their own gun safety laws.

Make sense? Of course it doesn't, not in a civilized society anyway.

Act 192 only makes sense in the ideological mindset.

As reported, to avoid potentially-crippling costs of being sued by the NRA, more than 20 Pennsylvania towns and cities began repealing their own gun safety ordinances; including a small suburb outside Pittsburgh known as Wilikinsburg.

Four of the victims of the mass shooting in Wilkinsburg
Last Wednesday March 9th, just hours after the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court began to hear arguments on the merits of Act 192, two unknown gunmen wielding a .40 caliber handgun and an assault rifle, opened fire at a backyard family cookout at a home in Wilkinsburg, shooting and killing five people, including a pregnant woman, and wounding 3 more.

According to the New York Times, police say the shooting was planned; all of the victims were shot in the head; they were all related. The gunmen fled from the scene and escaped.

Only in the mindset of state Republican lawmakers beholden to an entity like the NRA does Act 192 make sense.

It's interesting, Republicans constantly gripe about the horrors of Democrats using 'Big Government' to intrude in the lives of individuals and interfere with people's right to govern themselves.

Yet Pennsylvania Republican legislators pass a law designed to block local elected leaders from making decisions about laws for firearms safety in their own communities?

Obviously Republicans are fine with 'Big Government' when it comes to guns, abortion and fracking.

"Situational Republican outrage?"

Just imagine the kinds of laws a Republican-controlled House and Senate would pass with the cooperation of a Republican president.

Act 192 is just one example of what was at stake in Tuesday's primaries; a law that may have contributed to five innocent people (six if you count the unborn child of the pregnant victim) being shot at a backyard cookout.

Is it a stretch to say that people's lives are at stake with the upcoming fall elections this year? I don't think it is.

Nor is it a stretch to say the time for a Third Reconstruction is now.

No comments: