This year may be our state's last, best chance to rid the U.S. Senate of the corrosive influence of Jesse Helms. As young North Carolinians, we are working hard to register and mobilize 100,000 of our fellow young N.C. voters who realize Helms represents the past. But we need your help to make the difference this fall and retire Jesse Helms once and for all!
Dear Active Citizen,
For more than two decades, the power of the far right has increased steadily in America. Groundwork for 1994's frightening takeover of Congress by radical Republicans was laid by years of behind-the-scenes organizing.
Cheerleading and nurturing the conservative movement every step of the way has been the right's elder statesman - North Carolina's own Senator, Jesse Helms, R-N.C. His high office and mastery of Senate rules have long allowed him to be a brutally effective roadblock against progressive legislation that would benefit average North Carolinians. At the same time, his position has given him a national bully pulpit to fan the flames of far-right causes such as anti-gay bigotry, repeal of laws protecting our environment, censorship, and the abolition of women's right to choose.
The North Carolina Participatory Democracy Project is a grassroots, youth-led organization set up to re-connect citizens with the democratic process. One of our primary focuses this year is working across North Carolina to register 100,000 young voters in time for the 1996 fall elections - a figure that would have changed the results of the 1990 Gantt-Helms race. During the past six years, registration drives organized by N.C. PDP have already added nearly 20,000 young N.C. voters to the rolls.
In four closely fought elections, Helms' margins of victory have always been razor thin. The times have changed, but Helms has not. Over the years, his status as a creature from the South's ugly past has become more apparent to North Carolinians embarrassed by our Senator's callous comments, tired of his unceasing negativity, and sick of the unflattering attention he almost daily brings to our state.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the minds of our state's young voters, who voted against Helms by a wide margin in 1990. At N.C. State University, students cast 81% of their votes for challenger Harvey Gantt. At UNC-Chapel Hill, Gantt received 84% of all student votes.
Volunteers with our N.C. Youth Empowerment Project are working now to register voters across the state and organizing on college campuses to set up large-scale registration drives for the fall. We are reaching out to young voters in non-traditional ways, making voter registration accessible to them at concerts, festivals, record stores, and other convenient sites.
N.C. PDP also provides funding and logistical help to Musicians Organized for Voter Education (MOVE), a coalition of N.C. performers and musicians founded in 1990. MOVE members oppose the threat to free speech Helms represents and are committed to encouraging their audiences to register and vote in this fall's elections.
In November, Helms will again face his dynamic 1990 challenger, former Charlotte, N.C. mayor Harvey Gantt. Their re-match promises to be among the most watched political races in the country. This time around, progressives in North Carolina are prepared to more than match the resources and efforts that have given Helms his slim margins of victory in the past. But we must pull together and stand united in this fight, and we need your help. By making a contribution to N.C. PDP and our work through the N.C. Youth Empowerment Project and MOVE, your aid will be especially effective.
We are focusing our voter registration and education efforts on a group overlooked by other organized drives now underway in North Carolina - young voters. In the process, we are laying the groundwork for a more progressive future for our state. It is essential that young people develop habits of voting and becoming informed about election issues. In the long term, we see this as crucial to reversing the decline of citizen political participation so evident today.
Few special efforts have been made by election boards in N.C. to reach out to young voters and provide them with convenient access to voter registration. When the opportunity to participate has been extended to young voters through our work in recent elections, they have voted in large numbers.
Please join us in this fight by making a contribution of $25, $50, or more if you can. Over the past six years, registration drives organized by N.C. PDP have added nearly 20,000 young N.C. voters to the rolls - all on a nearly non-existent budget. Imagine what we can accomplish this year with your support.
Recent news from the national political battlefields has shown that no part of the progressive agenda is safe when far-right ideologues are elected to public office. In North Carolina, we have endured the presence of one such demagogue long enough. From race-baiting in 1950 to deny Frank Porter Graham a Senate seat, to demonizing AIDS victims in the 1990s, Helms' influence on our state's proud political tradition has been profoundly long-lasting and negative.
With your help, this year we can finally send Jesse Helms and his lack of vision for our state to history's dustbin - where they belong.
Erik Ose Director, N.C. Participatory Democracy Project