Let’s Be the Party of Working People-- A Guest Post From North Carolina Senate Candidate Erica Smith
Yesterday while I was on stage during my campaign launch I felt an energy I have not felt in a long time.
It was the energy and courage that comes with the certainty of knowing that the fight you are embarking on is a righteous one.
It had been a long week and it has been a long year in politics for someone like me, someone who refuses to take corporate PAC or fossil fuel money and who refuses to be a rubber stamp for party leadership, is often a draining grind.
Yesterday I felt energized because I could feel the energy of the millions of North Carolinians and the millions of Americans who are ready for change.
As I launched this campaign I felt their presence. When I spoke, it was not just with my voice, it was with all of our voices.
This isn’t abstract for me. This isn’t politics for me.
The fight for a North Carolina that works for everyone is deeply personal to me. It’s personal to me because I live on a road that has never once been paved. It is personal to me because I saw my parents sacrifice everything just to give their kids a chance at stability and at achieving the American dream that was never truly made available to them. It is personal to me because I am an educator who brings home a teachers salary. It is personal to me because the district I represented was plagued by two deeply interconnected problems, generational poverty and a government that refuses to serve working people.
If we are going to be the party of working people then we need more candidates who come from hard work, not wealth. Policy is personal for me.
I know what it means to struggle and I know what it would mean for the people who are struggling now to have a government that is willing to work with them and support them rather than let them languish.
This is not a campaign about me, it is a moral movement about answering the hate and division and economic inequality that is tearing this country apart... with radical love.
This movement of ours is about answering the calls for help that have gone unheard with love. It is about seeing those who have gone unseen and seeing them with love. It is about fighting for those who no one has fought for and fighting for them with love.
Love looks like a minimum wage that is not a starvation wage.
Love looks like a guaranteed basic income.
Love looks like unions that ensure the work is not ever prioritized over the worker.
I chose to run for US Senate because I felt like the voices of working people were not being heard and were not being represented so it was fitting that we launched the day after a group of conservative Democrats joined the entire Republican caucus in blocking the raise that working Americans deserved.
We need more Senators who are bringing with them the voices of working people.
This is a policy problem and it’s a political one.
It’s a policy problem and a political problem because it leads to a failure to deliver for the people who elect you, for the people who you serve.
Time after time we nominate and elect candidates who have no clear economic message. Who offer platitudes in place of policy. Platitudes don’t rebuild the middle class and combat income inequality, policies do. Running without an economic message is always a mistake but it’s particularly a mistake right now with our economy in shambles.
If there’s ever been a time for Democrats to nominate a slate of candidates across the country who’ll fight for working people it is now!
If we’re serious about building a 21st century middle class, then we need to be serious about supporting unions. Here in North Carolina only 2% of our workforce is unionized. This is a crisis that no one is talking about but that everyone feels. When I’m elected, I’ll make sure we change that. I will strengthen and lift up unions until they are thriving again and workers have the rights and protections that they need.
I’ve worked for as long as I remember, sometimes more than one job at the same time. The dignity of work is present and meaningful but we need that dignity to be reflected in the size of the paychecks we receive. From minimum wage to overtime pay, as a US Senator my priority will be raising the wages of the working people who need and deserve a living wage.
How many US Senators do we have right now for whom that’s a priority?
The spirit of working people in my state and across the country is extraordinary but our economy’s treatment of them is nothing short of the exact opposite. We call them essential but pay them starvation wages. This past year they have risked their lives to serve us, they have been forced to keep working because their livelihoods depend on it and yet still there is less bi-partisan support for giving them a raise than there was for giving tax cuts to corporations and the 1%.
What we know now, is that with the current construction of our economy, billionaires have become too big too fail and working people have been blocked from any pathway to success. We’ve begun to define a strong economy as one where the stock market is performing well, not one where workers get paid respectable wages. During this recession we have seen food banks with cars lined up farther than the eye can see and at the same time we have seen billionaires double and triple and quadruple their wealth.
This is a moral movement to awaken the conscience of our country and ensure that we stop leaving those behind who do not have the means to buy influence. People are starving in this country. Literally. People are going hungry. People are getting evicted, kicked out of their homes and yet you can get a tax break for buying a yacht.
Who does our government really work for? Who does our economy really work for?
These are questions that alienate voters and push people away. These are questions at the heart of our future as a country.
We know that right now our economy and our government work for the wealthy and the well-connected. It is beholden on us to change that.
We need to stand up and fight for the communities like the ones I come from and have represented.
Communities where there is still not wifi. Communities where there is no economic investment, where there is generational poverty and systemic inequity.
My campaign is people-powered because I want it to be clear that I stand with and for the working people of North Carolina.
If Democrats in Congress go big, abolish the filibuster and deliver on the agenda the American people voted for, and if candidates across the country unite behind the principle of proposing policy solutions that are large enough to address the real problems that real people are facing, then we can win in 2022 and expand our majority.
If not, if our efforts are derailed by a handful of corporate Democrats and DC interference that elevates cookie cutter candidates, then we’re in trouble.
We can be the party of working people. We can be the party that cancels student loan debt and liberates a generation. We can be the party that saves the planet and transforms our economy with the Green New Deal. The solutions exist. They are clear and available to us, we just have to fight for them.
I am running for US Senate because I am ready to lead in those fights. I am running because I believe that it’s time working people to have their voices heard. I am running for US Senate because we can be the party of and for working people, but only if we make it so.
We can either watch this country collapse on the weary bodies and souls of working people of all colors and creeds or we can create a new America that eases that burden and brings the American dream within reach for all.
Our moral movement cannot and will not fail.