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Why Alabama Is the Future of the Progressive Movement

As we approach the November elections, voters should look past the pundits and recognize that Alabama is not a lost cause, but a state of people who have historically led the charge for a better nation through multiracial, grassroots organizing, often against all odds

In the 2016 election, nearly three million Alabamians didn’t vote. That’s millions of people who could’ve helped put our state on a much different track -- and who can still be empowered to vote for candidates who will pass people-first policies. (Photo: Kyle/Flickr/cc)

In the 2016 election, nearly three million Alabamians didn’t vote. That’s millions of people who could’ve helped put our state on a much different track -- and who can still be empowered to vote for candidates who will pass people-first policies. (Photo: Kyle/Flickr/cc)

With just days left before the midterms, most of us are wondering about the possibilities of a new political wave washing over our communities.  

Although most of us want the same things—like safety for our children and adequate healthcare that allows our families and communities to thrive—it’s no secret that some officials will, if elected, carelessly ignore those of us trying to make life better for ourselves and our families, in favor of their wealthy donors. 

The reality is that some politicians and voters might consider Alabama a ‘lost cause’ for a people-first, progressive agenda, but I don’t.

In fact, the most marginalized among us—including Black people, immigrants, women, millennials and young queer folks—are the ones working on the ground to organize in the farthest corners of rural Alabama to protect the future of our families regardless of race, religion, economic status, or sexual orientation.

Together, we are working to ensure that Alabama can achieve a more progressive agenda that hears the voice of every Alabamian and moves our state towards a brighter future that allows everyone to prosper and have a good life. And everyone means everyone—no exceptions.

At a time when many families are worrying about access to healthcare or slipping further into poverty, Alabamians who have been traditionally ignored by campaigns and both political parties are talking to neighbors, friends and families to ensure that none of us are left behind. We’re the people truly committed to protecting the well-being of our neighbors and pushing Alabama forward.

There are many factors keeping Alabama politics unresponsive to voters, including gerrymandering, photo ID requirements, polling place closures, voter roll purges, and more. But consider this: only 39 percent of voting-eligible Alabamians cast a ballot for Trump in 2016—and he only won a majority of votes in 24 out of 67 counties. In other words, the claim that Alabama is inherently conservative, and should therefore be ignored by organizers or candidates pushing bold platforms is a weak assumption at best.

In the 2016 election, nearly three million Alabamians didn’t vote. That’s millions of people who could’ve helped put our state on a much different track—and who can still be empowered to vote for candidates who will pass people-first policies. We just have to reach them first.

As a Black political organizer and veteran, I’ve seen the effects of voter suppression firsthand. It pains me to see the right to vote, which many civil rights leaders and veterans fought and even died for, go to waste thanks to voter suppression. For me, it’s also clear that the difficulty of accessing the ballot box perpetuates systematic oppression. From a lack of healthcare access, to mass incarceration, to homelessness, to the difficulty of finding a decent job, the inability of so many Alabamians to get to the polls translates to the inability to elect people who will truly look out for us.

As someone who’s been oppressed due to my skin color and veteran status, I do my best to serve my country in the name of social justice through organizations such as Hometown Action—a local grassroots group through which I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors to ask what the biggest problems are for my fellow Alabamians.

What I’ve found is that top voter concerns in Alabama revolve around everyday struggles like keeping the lights on and affording medicine. Hearing about these daily worries in conversations with our neighbors is why grassroots organizers have been focusing on talking to people in rural areas about critical issues like protecting Alabamians against electricity rate increases that are set behind closed doors.

We also talk about increasing access to healthcare, because the healthcare system is a serious problem here. In the past few years, eleven hospitals have closed with a dozen more expected to soon follow, leaving some counties without a hospital and without lifesaving services.

As a war veteran, I receive healthcare through Veterans Affairs (VA). While I consider myself lucky to have health coverage, I’ve witnessed inadequate health assistance through the VA, especially in regards to mental health services. Though we’ve laid down our lives to serve America, we return home only to realize America isn’t willing to serve us.

The VA also suffers from long wait times and understaffing. Our veterans—and everyone else—deserve so much better than mediocre healthcare.

Luckily, we can change things for the better by electing the right people.

As we approach the November elections, voters should look past the pundits and recognize that Alabama is not a lost cause, but a state of people who have historically led the charge for a better nation through multiracial, grassroots organizing, often against all odds. We have the chance to harness Alabama’s passion for our families and friends and turn it into victories for all of us.

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Travis Jackson

Travis Jackson is a veteran and member leader with Hometown Action

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