When you think of red states and red districts, especially in the south, the “conventional wisdom” has been that competing there is a lost cause; that the GOP's stronghold there is impermeable. But a new resurgence is becoming apparent and liberals in the south want you to know about it.
I interviewed Aaron Wazlavek the newly appointed Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Labor Federation, George Fisher, North Carolina political media consultant, and Kossack Jeana Brown, founder of Team Rural about this trend.
Cross-posted to Bold Blue Magazine
This week, the Northwest Florida Federation of Labor Executive Board has hired its first ever executive director - Panama City native Aaron Wazlavek. That's the Florida panhandle affectionately known by Floridians as “Lower Alabama or LA”.
“There is a renaissance of Labor happening right now in the South,” says Wazlavek. “The Labor movement represents all workers – regardless of being in a Union or not – we are seeing serious traction in the community with non-partisan issues like a living wage, wage theft, worksite organizing, and immigration reform. What we are seeing now is a return to normalcy in the Panhandle after the wave of Tea Party insurgency.”
Wazlavek's on-the-ground observations are not unique. George Fisher, a North Carolina political media consultant said in an interview with Bold Blue Magazine that the Moral Monday movement has attracted the attention of some Republicans in the state and others who are not liberals; that it is eroding support for the types of policies Republicans in the state legislature have embraced since taking control in 2010. “I've spoken with conservatives who tell me they support the movement,” says Fisher, a regular attendee of the Moral Monday protests. “ What we're seeing is people asking themselves, 'Where does my political ideology end and my morality begin?' These are not Democratic or Republican issues anymore.”
Wazlavek says his first action as the new executive director will be making contact with local, state, and national unions to begin the dialogue of shoring up the organizing staff needed to turn the Panhandle into a pro-Labor area. “We have serious ground game to cover in terms of the upcoming electoral cycle, with six currently endorsed candidates,” says Wazlavek, “but already we have been reaching out to various Labor leaders across the South to see if they would like to participate using our new organizing model, the Interstate Regional Organizing Committee (IROC). The response has been a resounding “YES!” when asked if they would like to participate.”
The south doesn't seem to be backing down from a fight with the GOP and as a result, they're making local, state and federal races competitive, often catching somnolent Republicans off guard.
“Well, we're fired up down here in the south,” says Jeana Brown, the Founder of Team Rural, a progressive campaign firm serving Democrats running in rural districts. “The issues are what's allowing us to make a case for progressive policy. Wages, wage theft, healthcare...these are quality of life issues that appeal to everybody, especially in the south where wages are depressed because of years of Republican dominance. But we're breaking through now. Candidates are talking about these issues and the Republicans don't really have a way to defend their positions. As a result, there are a lot of people who don't call themselves liberals who are listening to what Democrats are saying.”
Brown says that she's seeing this trend happening in other states across the south such as in Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. Issues of work, wages and health care and even immigration are creating an opportunity for coalition building.
“What we’re trying to do is present a united front of non-partisan groups that agree on one core value: all labor is valuable,” says Wazlavek. “We've got both sides of the aisle now showing back up for their local union meetings. We're changing the stereotype locally that unions are for one party or the other. One day we'll probably see a pro-Labor conservative politician from the area.”
But for now, those pro-Labor politicians are all Democrats. Republicans in the south have been caught completely off guard. With strong, populist messages about jobs, wages, health care and immigration, liberals are breaking through the traditionally rigid partisan ideologies and making a host of political races competitive – many for the very first time.
Madison Paige (aka mdmslle) is publisher of Bold Blue Magazine and co-founder of Bold Blue Media Alliance, Inc., a grassroots-supported Democratic campaign training and services firm dedicated to strengthening state and local Democratic candidates and progressive cause campaigns. Bold Blue Magazine is more than a magazine, it’s a movement. Your subscription to Bold Blue Magazine makes expert training and services available to state and local democratic candidates and progressive causes at ridiculously affordable prices. If state and local matter you, JOIN THE MOVEMENT.