W.Va. Can’t Wait building “people’s government”

West Virginia Can’t Wait movement leaders have sustained their efforts since the primaries in June, continuing to work to elect representatives to become part of a “people’s government” in the state.

Stephen Smith, cochair for WV Can’t Wait and former Democratic candidate for W.V. Governor, and Britney Barlett, movement captain, are working to elect the remaining 101 candidates, who pledge to not take corporate cash, and are still on the ballot in November.

“Our job is to get as many of those people across the finish line on November 3rd as we can,” Smith said. “We’re mobilizing people to volunteer, to do fundraisers, to hold press conferences and get people elected who are on our side.”

Since the primary election in June, WVCW movement organizers and team captains, like Barlett, have spoken to the people of West Virginia and created a “new deal” written directly by the people. 

“A lot of the volunteers I had in my run were younger than me, several of them were former students of mine because I was a teacher,” Barlett said. “And that inspired them. The fact that somebody was asking them what we could do to help them to stay, rather than tell them, ‘you’re being selfish, or greedy,’ or whatever horrible terms we use to speak about young people whenever we don’t want to hear their opinions.”

Smith said there is a portion of the new platform focused on keeping kids in West Virginia. According to their website, the average daily population loss for West Virginia is 33. The plan includes ideas that came from people wo have left West Virginia, and students from all over the state who want to see change so they can stay in West Virginia after they get their degree. The “Take Me Home Plan” focuses on making West Virginia a place where students can find relief from student debt, which will make West Virginia the first state to pass Higher Education for All. This plan also includes a “Protect Our Children” plan to make childcare universally affordable, an “Education Plan” written by educators and parents, a “Small Business Revolution” which capitalizes more than 3,000 new businesses annually, and more that are listed on WVCW’s website under the “New Deal” platform. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, volunteers within the movement have been sticking to, what Smith called, grassroots politics. “One of the things the pandemic does is makes [voting] even more important than ever before,” Smith said. He also says politics isn’t about showing up at a random person’s door trying to convince to do something, like vote. “…real politics, grassroots politics, real social change has always come from friends and neighbors talking to each other and encouraging one another,” Smith said. “In a moment where we can’t knock on someone’s door, interrupt them in the middle of a pandemic, it’s all the more important to be in touch with our friends, neighbors, and people close to us. For folks who want to do that WVCW will literally train you on how to do these conversations to build whatever you need to build locally.”

For Marshall students wanting to get involved, Barlett is asking students to text or call her cellphone at (304)-997-4628 or email at [email protected]

Sequoia Ware can be contacted at [email protected]