What’s Next? WREN Partners Reflect on Post-Election Path Forward
by WREN Partners and Staff on Nov 28, 2020
In our November newsletter, we gave a reflection on what the election means for our work at WREN. TLDR: We’ve got to work harder than ever at the state level. If you’re interested in reading an excerpt from that newsletter keep scrolling. (We also recommend subscribing to our newsletter and joining the network here.) We also asked several partners across the state what this election means for their work, here are their responses:
DJ Polite , PhD Candidate in History at the University of South Carolina, Sierra Club Organizer (He/Him/His)
After four years under the Administration of Donald Trump, I can breathe again. It took a while, but I can dream again. For a moment, it feels as if I have been given momentary reprieve from constant, persistent pain. That is what the election of Joe Biden has meant to me, as both a person and an activist. I am unabashedly progressive. Joe Biden is not. But for everything that I hold dear to me, the 2016-2020 occupant of the White House has been more than an obstacle. That administration has been an active aggressor; tearing down regulations and protections for the environment, eschewing basic concepts of racial justice, stripping down government protections for the poor and working amongst us.
The elections of 2020 were not a complete triumph for the causes of justice and equity across the board. There were some losses in South Carolina, and the nation, of some true champions of overlooked communities. But at the federal level, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris represent a return to a sense of political stability, an under appreciated aspect of movement work. Stability and status-quo however, are not synonymous. Progress cannot be achieved by returning to the status quo. But organizing for the betterment of the most disadvantaged of populations, needs a sense of stability, a belief that the floor on which we stand will continue to stand. You cannot ask those who are taking life a day at a time to take a leap, if the floor to which they leap is likely to fall out from beneath them.
But through this election, and this pandemic, we have learned to look for the helpers, and to keep them close. Organizers have found new connections. Connections made. Visions overlapped. We can be better for it. After four years, I can breathe again. And as South Carolinians know: As I breathe, I hope. I have hope in the newness we can build together.
Dori Tempio, Director of Community Outreach and Consumer Rights at AbleSC (She/Hers/Hers)
On this 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the election allows us to break down the barriers to access for people with disabilities living and succeeding in their chosen communities. It means good jobs in competitive, integrated employment; affordable, accessible, and integrated housing and healthcare; accessible and affordable transportation; inclusive voting processes; and any needed community-based long-term services and supports. The election means opportunity to engage with community entities to advocate for community inclusion for individuals of multiple marginalizations, to make sure that no one is left behind. The election demonstrates that our work can build bridges and connections so everyone can be treated with dignity and have a chance to move forward with achieving their goals. Overall, this election paves the way for the community to work together for inclusion of people in policy development and in supporting the civil rights of people of multiple intersections, including disability. The election gives our voices power!”
Laura Cahue, Ph.D., Co-Director Fuerza Jirasol (She/Her/Ella/Tu)
While we await for ongoing legal challenges to presidential election results to resolve, to Latinx voters in SC one thing is clear: our journey to meaningful inclusion and policy change begins here, in our state. Our path is clear and it requires us to organize and forge strong and powerful alliances with accomplices who will stand with us even when doing so is uncomfortable. We will continue organizing to eliminate the practice of gerrymandering districts, strengthen protections of voting rights of Latinx communities and work toward ending collaborations, including 287g agreements, between ICE and local LE.
Nina Cano, Immigration Attorney, Cano Law LLC
Changes in Immigration law and policy over the past four years have been nothing short of heartless, chaotic, and traumatic for our clients and those working with immigrant populations. After four years of witnessing first hand these changes have had on immigrant families in the Lowcountry, we have hope on the horizon. In Charleston County, we especially celebrate the election of a sheriff who has vowed to prioritize public safety and the need to protect these vulnerable immigrant populations from crime. While the election results do not guarantee immigration reform, I am thrilled for the millions of immigrants who finally have some respite and can feel comfort in continuing their journey to their American Dream.
Vicki Ringer, Director of Public Affairs-SC, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, She/Her/Hers
This election season was incredibly different from previous cycles, and we faced challenges we never could have imagined even just one year ago. On the state level, there are important victories to celebrate and also renewed recognition of the work that lies ahead of us.
Importantly, voters flipped three seats from anti-abortion incumbents to pro-reproductive health advocates and re-elected all of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic’s endorsed incumbent champions. Even when faced with significant barriers to casting a ballot and turning out the vote, people showed up to protect reproductive health and freedom up and down the ballot.
While the Democratic caucuses in both chambers lost members overall, we actually netted two more pro-reproductive health legislators in the House of Representatives than we had. The loss of three Democratic senators, however, means that our fight to hold the line on abortion bans and other restrictions on reproductive health care got tougher. In fact, House leadership has already signaled that “abortion and guns” will be their top legislative issues in the upcoming session. These are misguided priorities in normal times but to make restricting access to health care a primary issue during a global pandemic is disgraceful and just the latest example of state leaders ignoring the toll of the pandemic.
Now more than ever, South Carolinians want to see their elected officials working to improve economic opportunity, expand access to affordable health care, and ensure our children are getting a good education. The outcomes of the election made it harder for all of us to achieve this vision for ourselves, our families, and our communities. But we are ready to get to work.
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (PPSAT) will never stop fighting for the patients who depend on the essential health care we provide each day and for the communities we serve. Even in the face of political attacks, we are expanding services like gender-affirming hormone therapy to transgender people and rolling out primary care services in many locations.
This legislative session, we will link arms with our legislative champions, coalition partners, and thousands of supporters across the state to fight back against any attack on safe, legal abortion and to take critical steps that make our state more just and equitable for all. To learn more about our advocacy work, please visit plannedparenthoodaction.org/planned-parenthood-votes-south-atlantic.
From the WREN Newsletter:
(11 November 2020) The 2020 General Election has come and gone. Some of you might be asking, “Now what?” What does this election mean for women and gender-expansive people in South Carolina?
Take courage: the results of this election at every level affirm the need for bold and consistent advocacy. Through this election (and in the aftermath), actors at every level sowed misinformation and distrust in the institutions meant to heal our nation. Truth, it seemed, was in short supply. WREN is here in South Carolina fighting for a single truth– every South Carolinian deserves a state that protects their health, economic well-being, and rights.
Voter turnout, on the whole, was unprecedented. Millions of people in South Carolina and around the country made their voices heard. Women, particularly Black women, were the driving force behind organizing for progressive change. We owe any progress to the organizers who tirelessly worked to educate and mobilize people in all 46 counties.
We must honor their work by turning voters into advocates. Our elections are wrapped up (for the most part) in South Carolina, but the work doesn’t stop.
It is now more important than ever to be actively involved in what happens in our state legislature. We have the responsibility and the opportunity to help our elected officials make decisions that improve the dignity and agency of all South Carolinians. The 124th session of the South Carolina General Assembly will begin on January 12, 2021. If this session is like the last, we can expect attacks on bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom, voting rights, and healthcare. WREN will be there to fight with you, and for you, and to advance proactive legislation to make our state better. Stay tuned for more information, coming soon, on our 2021-2022 legislative agenda.
We invite you to join us to boldly protect and advance the rights of all South Carolinians.