Meet the Socialist Marine & Anti-Police Brutality Protester Who Won Democratic Seats in November


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Can the emergence of non-traditional candidates
help revive a faltering Democratic Party that is facing its lowest approval rating in nearly
a quarter of a century? That’s the question many are asking after
these past elections, November 7th, when Democrats did win key races that marked the first major
wins under Trump that could bolster their party in 2018 midterms, when control of Congress
will be up for grabs. Democrats managed to take the governor’s
seat in Virginia and New Jersey. Also flipped two state legislature seats in
Georgia and a whopping 15 seats in Virginia. In total, 19 candidates backed by Our Revolution—Bernie
Sanders’ group—and 15 members of Democratic Socialists of America won seats. Meanwhile, Maine voted for Medicaid expansion
by referendum. In some of the victories, support came from
grassroots sources outside the Democratic Party. For more, we’re joined by two of the candidates
who won, but who hail from nontraditional political backgrounds, and they challenge
traditional definitions of electability. In Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Lee
Carter, a Socialist veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who unseated the majority whip of the
Virginia House. He just came up from Manassas to speak with
us. And joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina,
Braxton Winston is with us. He is a former middle school football coach
who took to the streets in 2015 along with hundreds of people to protest the police killing
of Keith Lamont Scott. During one of these protests, Winston faced
a line of police in riot gear with his left arm raised and fist clenched. An Associated Press photographer captured
the image, and it went viral. Braxton’s win on election night secured
the second-highest number of votes for an at-large Charlotte City Council seat. Braxton Winston and Lee Carter, we welcome
you both to Democracy Now! Lee, let’s begin with you. You are now a delegate-elect for Virginia’s
50th house district, and you unseated the majority whip in the Virginia legislature. You are a Marine. You are a self-declared Democratic Socialist. You did not have the full support of the Democratic
Party behind you, did you? How did you do it? LEE CARTER: We knew from day one that going
up against a member of the Republican party leadership in the South was going to be an
uphill battle. We knew there was no way we were going to
be able to spend more money than him, so we tried intentionally to avoid a fundraising
arms race that the more mainstream Democratic Party seems to love. They think the only way to win is to raise
more money than the Republicans. But we decided that we were going to intentionally
avoid that, and just craft a message that people responded to, and go out there and
build a coalition of groups that were invested in this race, from the Democratic Socialists
of America and Our Revolution, to groups that are more traditionally aligned with the Democratic
Party’s voter base, like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the Sierra Club. And by doing that, we were able to knock on
tens of thousands of doors and deliver a message fighting to empower working people, both economically
and politically, straight to people’s doorsteps. We were able to get thousands of people who
don’t traditionally vote, who have become cynical with the political process, to go
out there and stand in line on a 40-degree rainy, miserable day in Northern Virginia,
and cast their vote. AMY GOODMAN: And what were the key issues
that you represented? And talk about the majority whip. I mean, this wasn’t two new candidates—you
versus another. This was a man who had been elected time and
time again, and was the whip of the Virginia majority in the House of Delegates. LEE CARTER: Yeah, that’s correct. Virginia Republicans had a 66 to 34 majority
in the House of Delegates. It takes 67 votes to override a governor’s
veto. So they were very, very close to basically
having unilateral control, despite not having the governor’s mansion. And he was an 11-year incumbent. He had been there for quite a long time. He was really sort of a creature of Richmond. This was a guy who sat on the subcommittee
for consumer lending and took money from payday lenders. This was a guy who took money from the health
insurance industry and consistently voted against Medicaid expansion. So when we were talking to people at their
doors, we were able to make this link between money and politics and bad votes, bad outcomes
in people’s lives, and we were able to make it on a very, very consistent basis. And that really drove the point home, that
there is a problem in American politics, and that problem really is big money, and it manifests
itself in countless different ways in people’s day-to-day lives. AMY GOODMAN: And what made you decide to run,
Lee? You are a Marine. What does it mean to you to be a Democratic
Socialist? And how did you decide to run up against the
Democratic establishment? And what happened with the Democratic party
and you, even when you were running in the primary? LEE CARTER: I decided to run for office after
I got hurt at work in the summer of 2015. My treatment by my former employer and by
the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission was so horrible that I thought, “I need
to step forward and I need to fix this, so that what happened to me doesn’t happen
to anyone else.” Because of that background and the fact that
I launched my campaign right in the middle of the 2016 presidential primary, I saw a
perfect example of how someone can run a grassroots-based campaign, focused entirely on issues, as long
as they have the personal integrity to step forward and say, “I’m not going to be
a part of this big money in politics problem.” That was of course the presidential run of
Senator Sanders. So I decided to run exactly that kind of campaign. To say, “These are the issues I am fighting
for. I’m not going to take any money from for-profit
corporations or from industry interest groups.” And because of that, my relationship with
the Democratic party was complicated. There are different levels of the Democratic
Party in Virginia, and I had different relationships with each. I had great relationships with the local party
committee. I had a great relationship with the regional
office staff of the coordinated campaign for the gubernatorial race. But with the state party itself, it was a
bit more strained, because I was directly attacking some of the corporations that do
contribute to the Democratic Party of Virginia. A perfect example of this would be Dominion
Virginia Power, which is now known as Dominion Energy, which is a large contributor to both
political parties here in Virginia. But the fact that we were walking the walk
and not taking any money from for-profit corporations really let people know that when I talk about
getting big money out of politics, it is not just something that I am saying to get votes. It is really something that I care about. AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Braxton Winston
in, who was elected to the City Council in Charlotte, North Carolina. The famous image of you that went viral, Braxton,
was standing in front of a police line at a protest against police brutality and police
killing, and you’ve got your fist in the air. Talk about that moment and what made you decide
to run for elected office. And then, of course, you won. BRAXTON WINSTON: Well, yes it was a hectic
moment, that was just one moment from a long night. It was out there on Old Concord Road, during
the night that Keith Lamont Scott was killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. There was a lot of tear gas in the air. That is why I had my shirt off. I was using it as a mask. But I wanted to continue to protest, and I
had my fist in the air. Those chemicals have a really tough reaction
on you when you get amplified. So it was sort of to keep myself composed,
to sort of continue to make my statements. But after that night, we continued out on
the streets for many nights. There were thousands of people that came from
throughout the community. And I really had to assess what my position
was here in the city. I knew it was some type of leadership position,
some type of change agent. And we really kind of went forth on developing
sort of a citizen journalism type aspect where we kept on showing up to events and meetings
and actions and disseminating those facts to people in the Charlotte community. But there was a social activism side of things. I had created a platform, and other people
gave me the privilege and opportunity to amplify their voices. But I’m a student of anthropology. That is what my degree is in from Davidson
College. So I look at things through a cultural lens—how
we do what we do—and while it’s important to organize block to block, organization to
organization, person to person, we’re a culture of laws and policy. So I saw the best way to affect widespread
change, to attack the inequities in the systems that we saw, is through the halls of government,
and to affect those laws and policy. And as I was going to different tables and
rooms having the conversation, trying to push new leaders and new ideas forward, it became
clear I could be that change agent. So it was a bit of “If not me, then who?”
and “If not now, then when?” AMY GOODMAN: And Braxton, finally, we only
have 20 seconds, but there were other people who also were elected to the Charlotte City
Council, who you considered allies. BRAXTON WINSTON: Well, we have five new faces
to the Charlotte City Council. We still are 9-to-2 Democratic majority, but
it is definitely a new voice. We’re here to bring leadership in government. We’re not here running for a party office. We’re here to get the city of Charlotte
right, and we are all taking that very seriously, along with our first black female mayor, Vi
Lyles. AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both
so much for being with us. Braxton Winston, newly elected to the city
council of Charlotte, North Carolina. And Lee Carter, a socialist democrat, a Marine,
who was elected delegate for Virginia’s 50th house district, unseating the majority
whip. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.




Comments
  1. There ya go liberal snowflakes. You pushed to silence free speech against people you disagreed with. Now sites from the left are also being hidden by Google tube.
    Well done.

  2. Establishment Democrats are on the way out. They don't realize it yet and they're fighting tooth and nail to stay relevant. Problem is that people are done with 2 conservative parties and it's long overdue to have the workers represented again.

  3. There are enough people who remember learning that government jobs are supposed to be public service. Furthermore, the younger generations have grown up under constant war and corporate rule. These two groups of people, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum, are getting ready to change things for the better.

  4. Yeah i understand he served for whatever reason, it's part of his credentials, but please stop strutting out "marine" every time. you can't support a socialist and glorify the most brutal symbol of imperialist oppression of the 21st century in the same breath. Almost seems like a subconscious attempt at seeking patriotic chauvinistic approval.

  5. Weird that Bernie rolled over and sold out like the pig he is. Too bad the millennials can’t form complete sentences, work and be taken seriously.

  6. I live in Charlotte, voted for Braxton. Also, interesting to find out but not surprising, the Democrats abandoned Lee Carter but he still won anyway.

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  8. Maybe the democrats can vote on whether they want for profit money in their party and that come be something to unite the party.

  9. in this time of unrest in America I had begun to feel defeated and for the first time ashamed to be American..these two men have renewed my faith in my country I feel there is a possibility for change one person at a time

  10. America will NEVER be a socialist country. Winston is a Marxist jerkoff who is anti-police and anti-America. Screw him and the libtard horse he rode in on.

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