Liberals Determined To Take Down Joe Wilson
By Heather Marie Blazek, Columbia, SC
“It’s like an unfunny joke, that somehow became serious.” Kevin Land remarks as he remembers Clinton’s loss to Trump. Land, a call center employee, expressed concern that the current administration appears focused on erasing the legacy of President Obama. “It’s the constant lies, it’s the constant chaos, it’s the constant lowering of the bar to the point where it becomes normal,” he further states.
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Mahkia Greene Cover Image, Photography by Heather Marie Blazek
Progressives like Land, are frustrated and ready to head to the polls, in an organized attempt to take back the Republican-led Congress and return it to the hands of Democrats. Known as the “Blue Wave,” South Carolina voters hope to replicate the efforts seen in Alabama, a sister “Red State” where Doug Jones made a historical win against Roy Moore.
“If everyone who believed in progressive causes, had shown up at the polls, he wouldn’t be president,” Gary Votour recalls. Votour, a local activist has spent weeks hosting rallies at the State House since the election. “We’ve had a lot of protests, we’ve had a lot of people wave signs, but we haven’t seen a lot of things change,” he further states.
One seat up for grabs is Joe Wilson of District 2 who has been in office since 2001. He is known for his 2009 heckling of President Obama, and his vocal support of the Trump administration. Progressive voters want to replace Wilson, citing that he is not representative of his constituents, that he appears absent and that he doesn’t listen to them. Defeating Wilson would certainly be a historic win for southern progressives, but can they can do it?
The Southern Progressive Voices
“You talk to anyone above the age of 60, and when they were my age they were able to buy a house. I struggle to even pay for my car and my apartment,” Mahkia Greene states. Greene, a college graduate was lucky enough to find a job in her field immediately after graduation. She loves her job and is happy but addresses the stigma of “millennial purchasing power,” by stating “the job market today, you’re not making enough money to do what you need to do. Not only do I have my cell phone bill, my car payment, rent, and utilities, but I also have my student loans. I full heartedly believe that the minimum wage should be raised because salaries and wages, in general have not kept up with inflation, or the new standards of living.”
The Progressive Voices of South Carolina.
Photography by Heather Marie Blazek.
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South Carolina’s minimum wage remains at $7.25, while the average rent for a one bedroom apartment ranges between $650 to $800 according to ApartmentFinder.com. Most entry-level professional jobs start off between $10 to $12 an hour in Columbia.
Arya Novinbakht, who self-identifies as Iranian-American, expressed concern that racism would be acceptable under the current administration. “It’s always been there, but they’ve been emboldened now,” he states. He fears that we will start seeing “Iran-a-phobia” and acts of violence against Iranians with the recent departure of the United States from the JCPOA.
Racism is not a new topic for southern progressives. The state’s history of slave labor, and “heritage or hate” involving monuments, it’s reasonable for residents like Novinbakht to feel a level of concern. He has hope, however that with the new “outwardly” expression in a Trump society, we can understand how people feel, and work towards disproving false narratives, and negative impressions.
“My children, are the next generation of America,” Josh Green states. “What I see is a lack of empathy with the current administration. We’ve forgotten how to put ourselves in the shoes of others.” Green, who took his 7 and 11-year old children to the March for Our Lives rally is determined to be a positive role model for his children politically. He believes that children understand the ethics and morality of their adult counterparts and wants to raise them to reflect compassion. “No one is less, whether male or female and shouldn’t be treated as such,” he states.
Green has concerns regarding gun violence especially after Parkland and Santa Fe. He expressed that he could not deal with the idea of losing one of his children, especially in a situation where “it could have been prevented.” Green does not agree with arming teachers. “They are not the army, they are not marines,” he states.
Addressing the Needs of Progressive Voters
Two strong candidates have surfaced in the District 2 area. Annabelle Robertson a lawyer, and Indivisible South Carolina founder, along with Sean Carrigan a retired Army veteran and real estate agent. Both have similar platforms and have amassed a variety of endorsements from activist groups and fellow politicians.
Robertson’s campaign focuses on her story as a mother who survived domestic violence. South Carolina has shown minimal improvement in addressing the needs of battered women across the state. Currently, South Carolina ranks fifth in the country for deaths by domestic violence. The state’s Republican-led legislature has also made repeated efforts to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood during the 2018 session.
Carrigan has a 28-year service record with the Army. He served in Desert Storm and has received over 30 awards during his tenure. In addition to the concerns of civilians, his campaign pledges to help the needs of active and veteran service members. International diplomacy always impacts the local area as South Carolina is home to both Fort Jackson and Shaw Air Force Base.
Whether intentional or accidental the Robertson and Carrigan campaigns have attempted to address the needs of Wilson’s constituents. Taking advantage of social media, both campaigns continued the trend of electronic networking to engage voters. District 2 residents could attend luncheons, church sermons, or an afternoon at a barbershop with Facebook Live. From talking to Annabelle on Twitter, or sending Sean a Facebook message, both candidates fostered a virtual “open door policy,” reinforcing that they “hear” their constituents.
Addressing accountability and transparency, both candidates have released statements to local media. Robertson clarified questions surrounding her switch from Republican to Democratic status, while Carrigan released further details regarding the discharge of a firearm at a former residence. In an atmosphere where “fake news” is a daily term, reaching out to media is in direct contrast to the nation’s current administration. They have shown willingness to allow media contacts to thoroughly investigate, report the facts and allow viewers to make their own decisions.
The candidates have been “present” for residents of District 2. Standing among the crowds they have watched constituents rally together during moments of turmoil and grief. They have also celebrated with them during times of joy. It’s been more than just a “photo-op” for Robertson and Carrigan. It’s about not being absent to needs of their people. For progressives, this has fostered a passionate environment where the voters feel a direct interpersonal connection with their candidate, regardless if they’ve personally met them.
“Blue Waving” Joe Wilson Goodbye
Both candidates face-off in the June 12th, 2018 primary, and the winner heads off into November’s mid-term election. Robertson and Carrigan are now left to trust in voter turn-out. South Carolina does allow absentee voting for primary elections.
“I think it’s important that people come out and vote, in November and in the primary, for progressive Democratic candidates because it’s the only hope we have in making this change,” Gary Votour states. Voters must remain energized and determined if they wish to unseat Joe Wilson.
A statement received by the Carrigan campaign states:
“Joe Wilson has lost his way and has abandoned the majority of constituents in favor of the top 2-3 percent of wealthy ones. This Blue Wave is extremely important so that we can protect the progress and civil liberties that we so many folks fought for. Many folks died in the name of progress. Some sacrificed by being arrested and/or beaten. We now have an administration that is hell-bent on turning back the hands of time and erasing all that has been achieved. Joe Wilson supports turning those hands back. We must take back Congress so that we have an effective way of impeding this nefarious plan.” – Sean Carrigan
Good luck progressives, and godspeed.
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