I met Josh Brannon two years ago at a Moral Monday event. He was running for Congress in NC District 5, opposing Tea Party darling Virginia Foxx.
This year, he’s running again.
Before Bernie Sanders ever announced he would seek the Democratic nomination for president, Brannon was running on an almost identical platform. It’s the same platform he’s running on this year.
Here in my district, the 11th, we have Mark Meadows, a far-right extremist who was one of the architects of the 2014 government shutdown. In 2014, we put up an incredibly weak candidate, a man who is homophobic and Islamophobic and who had pretty poor people skills.
This year, we have Rick Bryson, a native of Bryson City (yes, the town is named for his family), who has a plan to draw good jobs to the region and who will support progressive policies across the board.
So, here’s the deal. We can work for people like Josh Brannon and Rick Bryson, people who will lead us to a better, fairer, more progressive future, or we can sit and whine because Bernie didn’t take it all.
You can’t change the direction of the nation in a single vote, much as we who supported Bernie wished it to be so.
The extremists on the right started small. I remember hearing in the fundamentalist church I attended as a child in the 1960s that “we” needed to start with school boards and town councils and work our way up; that this was the only way to take over the country.
And that’s what they did. As a reporter, I learned the buzz words they used to identify one of their own in an election.
“Family values,” “traditional values,” “creation science,” and more. When I heard these words, I knew to ask questions about policy, and most of the time, the true colors of a religious zealot came out.
Asking a Right to Life Party member about nuclear policy, I got the answer that we kill more people with abortion than with nukes. I asked about economic policy and got more of the same. No matter what I asked, the answer was about abortion. In a race that was nonpartisan, that was important for people to know.
School board members decide what will be in our schools’ curricula whether they will learn the science of evolution or the religion or “creation science;” whether they learn the truth about human reproduction or the proven failures of “just say no” abstinence education.
We all know now what happens to education, health care, voting rights, workers’ rights and more when we elect right-wing zealots to state legislatures. Just look at places like North Carolina, Kansas and Texas.
When we don’t vote and the zealots do, we get what they want, not what most Americans want.
Still, most of us sit home on Election Day, especially in off-year and primary elections. I don’t know what people who don’t bother to vote are thinking when they decide not to go to the polls.
And I understand that we who supported Bernie Sanders are really, really disappointed that he didn’t win.
But we have to remember that a president can’t get a whole lot done without support from Congress, and if we allow the radicals and zealots to control Congress, we won’t see any progress toward a more just society.
So, my fellow Bernie fans, we must work toward a Congress that will allow progress and not regression. We have to get out there and roll up our sleeves for people like Josh Brannon and Rick Bryson.
So, just because your choices for president aren’t your first choice, it still is wrong to sit out an election — any election, from school board to city council to state legislature to Congress to president.
Get out and vote this year, even if you can’t bring yourself to vote for president. There are plenty of people down-ticket who will make this a better nation, but they can’t do it without our votes.