Moral Monday is working

From what I’ve read, the leaders of moral Monday are at not naive political naifs who think the Republican party is suddenly going to stop being mean and callous towards the less fortunate because people are getting arrested at the legislature.  Protest movements arise because “insider” strategies, e.g., lobbying the legislature, executive branch, etc, are completely foreclosed.  The hope of a protest is to raise political awareness of issues and then, hopefully, to change public opinion.

I think it’s too early to say if Moral Monday is really changing public opinion yet, but for the most part, I don’t think they have to.  I think a lot of what the NC General Assembly is trying to do is in defiance of public opinion but the public just isn’t paying much attention.  Moral Monday is changing that.  Last night I was interviewed by a reporter about new gun laws.  Not at all related to the protests, but she (not me), brought the issue right back to Moral Monday.

Certainly, “phase 1” of bringing greater public attention to the issues at stake has been successful.  It even made today’s NYT.  The downside, though, is also in the Times story:

As the protests have grown, so has the list of causes. At the center is a package of changes to voting rules and a tax reform plan working its way through the legislature that would reduce individual and corporate income taxes and expand the sales tax.

Protesters have also rallied against the expansion of school vouchers, cuts to unemployment benefits, the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, efforts to allow hydraulic fracturing and the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid benefits as part of President Obama’s health care plan.

But the protests are quickly turning into a platform for all kinds of causes. A woman holding a sign that read “Just Say No to GMOs” — genetically modified organisms — wandered through the crowd on Monday.

The more this becomes about liberal “causes” and loses focus, the less chance it has to ultimately be effective.  For my money, the key is to focus on the meanness of the Republican agenda and the attack on public education.

The Republicans have built themselves a huge advantage through gerrymandered districts, but the more people pay attention to the issues raised at these protests the more the possibility is raised of Democrats gaining serious ground in the next election.  And though the Republicans deny that they are paying any attention to the protesters I do think they may very well soften some of the worst aspects of Republican proposals (i.e., I just read today that the Senate tax bill is looking at no longer raising the sales tax on food).  Of course we can’t say that’s in direct response to Moral Monday, but Moral Monday sure ain’t hurting on matters like this.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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