One bright spot for progressives in the 2016 elections was the victory of Democrat Roy Cooper over incumbent North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. But before Cooper could take office, the Republican-controlled legislature called a special session (supposedly to consider relief for Hurricane Matthew victims) and used it to ram through laws limiting the new governor’s authority.

This past week, hundreds of protesters chanting “power grab” filled the state Capitol building in Raleigh to protest Republican-created measures to slash the number of state employees appointed by the governor, to require Senate approval for all of the governor’s Cabinet picks, and strip the governor of the power to appoint University of North Carolina trustees. Other bills would weaken the governor’s control over the state Board of Election, and strip some power away from the Democratic governor and give it to the lieutenant governor, who happens to be a Republican. None of these bills were being considered until after Republican Governor Pat McCrory conceded defeat, by the way.

In North Carolina, the Moral Mondays movement has been fighting back, bringing together working-class whites, black people disempowered by voting restrictions, LGBT people subject to discriminatory new laws, public school advocates, and everyone else who has a stake in maintaining a vibrant public sector.

In a recent interview on Democracy Now, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, Moral Mondays leader and president of the North Carolina NAACP, put all these attempts by the Republicans in a new light:

 "I believe all of the pushback we’re seeing—the voter suppression, the redistricting—is because the extremists see the possibility of a third Reconstruction ... They know that we have beat them in voter suppression. We beat them over redistricting. And they see this tide rising.

They see, if you look at the pictures yesterday, black and white and Latino people standing together in the Deep South. And they know that if we have policy movement along with this kind of moral movement, it will not only energize North Carolina, but it could energize the rest of the South and cause people to stand up and see that we are no longer in the minority, if we engage in real fusion politics. This is ... the politics of Herod. Herod, if you remember in the Christian story, was so scared of his power, so scared it was going to be taken, that he engaged in the most mean-spirited and vicious kind of attempts to hold onto power. We have a Herod Legislature, rather than a Legislature that is acting like the democracy that we live in."

Here is video from Rev. Barber's Facebook page speaking at the North Carolina state capitol about the right to speak out for democracy.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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