A COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY
The North Carolina NAACP President, Rev. William Barber, tore it up and then
threw down in a powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention on July 28 th . He
called on those assembled to be a “moral defibulator of our time”, to shock our nation
with the power of love and morality. Rev. Barber did not use the word “endorse”, but
urged delegates to “embrace” Clinton, and his rousing rhetoric was challenging and
Rev. Barber is a committed and tenacious activist. He founded the “Forward
Together Moral Movement”, and has organized “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina.
For the past three years, Moral Monday activists have gathered in Raleigh, North
Carolina, and used protest and civil disobedience to shine light on the many ways North
Carolina has attempted to erode voting rights, and move the state backwards on economic
“When I hear Hillary’s voice and positions,” Barber said, “I hear and I know she
is working to embrace our deepest moral values, and we should embrace her,” he said.
“She nor any person can do it alone. The watchword of this democracy is ‘we.’”
What are we, the people going to do in the aftermath of the political conventions?
Some have said they will stay home, but watching the difference between the gathering
of Democrats and that of Republicans should remind us that staying home should not be
an option. Stay home, and leave our choice of leadership to others? Stay home and co-
sign the hateful comments Mr. Trump made during his convention? Rev. Barber has
called the democratic watchword “we”, and Hillary Clinton talked about Democratic
inclusiveness, which contrasts with that we observed with Republicans. What are “we”
going to do?
President Barack Obama set Secretary Clinton up nicely with his Wednesday
evening speech, singing her praises and passing the baton. She caught the baton handily,
offering a speech that exceeded my every expectation. The speech was full of grit and
grace, humor and humility, respect and reaching out to the Bernie folks. Not
only could I hear the glass ceiling shattering, but also I hoped that the world
could see this woman as Commander-in- Chief.
Rev. Barber reminds us, though, that we are all part of the “we the
people”. He reminds us that we are only committed to democracy when we
are actively involved in it. It’s not just about a convention, or a vote. It is
about an imperative to transform a system that is flawed. Rev. Barber talked
about the Fight for Fifteen, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the
missing morality in our nation now. Even as he urged us to embrace Hillary,
he also urged us to embrace justice.
President Obama reminds us that democracy can be frustrating and
messy. Rev. Barber reminded us that it can also be moral and loving if we
make the collective decision to rally around key principles, to engage in the
process of compromise, and if we understand that democracy is practiced
with more frequency than every four years.
Voting is not the most we can do; it is the least we can do. Real
democracy exists when people like Rev. William Barber gather people
weekly to fight for voting rights, when he speaks up with regularity on the
need for political and economic transformation. We exhibit our commitment
to democracy when we hold our leaders accountable, when we pressure
them to do the right thing, when we remind them of their campaign
Those Bernie Sanders supporters who choose to remain engaged in
the political process have the responsibility to continue to push their
progressive agenda at the national, state, and local level. Indeed, they honor
their movement and their struggle by continuing the feel a burning desire for
social and economic justice. To take their marbles and go home because
their candidate did not win suggests that they are committed to personality,
Our system is far from perfect, but it’s the system we have. We can
change it if we are committed to democracy. Or, we can accept
imperfections if we eschew activism.
Thank you Hillary Clinton for reminding us of your service. Thank
you, Rev. Barber for reminding us that Secretary Clinton won’t be able to
achieve much unless we work with her. If you can listen to William Barber
and fail to get fired up, you have truly embraced apathy. Barber is a role
model because of his fierce commitment to democracy.
Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest book “Are
We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy” is available via