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December 4, 2015

EDITORIAL: The Antidote to Cynical Politics

By Katrina vanden Heuvel

The Republican presidential race has devolved into a disgraceful display of bigotry and bullying. Media organizations are eager to stoke debate over the Syrian refugee crisis, filling airtime and column inches with baseless xenophobia, but they dedicate little coverage to the plight of hardworking Americans who are struggling to support their families. And billionaire political donors are attempting to buy our elections while the extremist lawmakers who benefit from their lavish contributions wage a shameful war on voting rights.

It’s easy to understand why so many people are frustrated with politics. And that frustration has consequences. As Alec MacGillis recently wrote in the New York Times, many Americans whose interests are being neglected have become “profoundly disconnected from the political process.” But while cynicism is warranted, there is a better alternative to abdication — one that is inclusive and inspiring and impossible for the political establishment to ignore. It can be found in North Carolina, in the Moral Monday movement led by the Rev. William J. Barber II.

In many ways, North Carolina is perhaps the best example of the worst trends in our politics. Led by right-wing moneyman Art Pope, an ally of the Koch brothers, Republicans spent millions of dollars to seize control of the state legislature in 2010. Two years later, Gov. Pat McCrory was elected and the party quickly began advancing an extreme conservative agenda that included cutting public education funding, abolishing unemployment benefits, rejecting Medicaid expansion and passing one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. But instead of lying down and giving up, North Carolinians have banded together and fought back. Over the past two years, Barber, the president of the state’s NAACP chapter, has mobilized a broad multiracial coalition of activists and citizens who are making their voices heard.

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