GEORGIA’S ON OUR MINDS
BY C.C. Campbell-Rock
“My focus is on Georgia. But the reality is, Georgia matters to everyone, if you change the leadership of Georgia, you change the South. If you change the South, you change the country.”
Stacey Abrams—Former Georgia State Rep. & Founder, Fair Fight 2018
Georgia is on everyone’s mind. Georgia’s voters will pick the winners of the state’s two Senate seats in the January 5, 2021 runoff elections. If Democrats win the two seats the party can control the Senate. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris would cast the deciding vote.
Georgians must choose between Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock and Incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler is a wealthy financier appointed by Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Johnny Isakson. The other race pairs Democrat Jon Ossoff and incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue. .
Indeed, “The fate of the country is at stake,” as U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham told a reporter, when asked why he called Georgia’s Secretary of State. Graham represents South Carolina, so he had no right to interfere in Georgia’s electoral process.
However, Republicans are so afraid of losing their grip on the U.S. Senate and their ability to obstruct democratic bills, that they are breaking ethics laws to retain power.
Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger is a Republican who admits to voting for Trump. Raffensberger blasted Graham for calling him and asking him “whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots”. Raffensperger interpreted the questions as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes. https://www.nbcnews.com/video/graham-denies-asking-georgia-secretary-of-state-to-toss-ballots-96065605814
New Forms of Suppression
Georgia’s Black community is used to voter suppression efforts. Now the Republicans are boldly interfering with the southern state’s electoral process. Republicans are going to the courts to ask judges to toss out absentee ballots from predominately black counties. They are suing not only in Georgia but also in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, they sued to throw out millions of mail in ballots and overturn a Pennsylvania election law that was passed with overwhelming Republican support.
Thus far, 33 lawsuits have been filed by the Trump Campaign. At least 31 have failed, been settled, or withdrawn, none in Trump’s favor. It’s been nearly four weeks since the election and Trump is still crying foul. He insists that the election was rigged and fraudulent. Further Trump claims Biden must prove that 80 million more ballots cast for Biden are legitimate.
Trump plans two stump trips in Georgia for the two Republican candidates.
A Real New South
Whatever the outcome of the January 5 run-off elections, what is clear is that a New South has emerged. Georgia is leading the transformation, and other states are following, including South Carolina. Black voters in both states turned up and turned out and put the country on notice that their voices will not be silenced, nor will their demands for equality and justice. Early voting in Georgia this year was record-setting. By the end of October, nearly 4 million people had cast a ballot, a 64 percent increase compared with the same point in 2016.
“The South, and the Deep South in particular, fielded more Black candidates in 2020 than it has since Reconstruction,” Adam Harris wrote in “The South Has Already Changed.” an article that appeared in The Atlantic.
“We proved that a new South is rising. Tonight, only slowed us down,” Jaime Harrison told aides and supporters, during his concession speech. Harrison lost his senate bid to incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham, who won by a mere 10 percent of the votes cast.
“But a new South with leaders who reflect the community and serve the interests of everyone will be here soon enough,” said Harrison, who worked as director of floor operations for Jim Clyburn, executive director of the House Democratic Caucus and chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
Taken for Granted
Many Black southerners have often wondered why the Democratic Party has overlooked voters in so-called ‘red states.’ While it’s true that Republicans have dominated state legislatures and politically gerrymandered counties (parishes in Louisiana), to retain power locally and nationally, changing demographics and bloc voting by ethnic groups can overcome the GOP’s grip on elective offices.
Obviously, the Democratic National Committee learned nothing from Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Democratic presidential nomination run. Although he lost to former Vice-President Walter Mondale, in 1984 Jackson won five statewide primaries. The majority of those victories were in Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and his home state of South Carolina. Four years later, when Jackson again made a bid for the White House, he won three times as many delegates in South Carolina as his nearest competitor and swept the Deep South. Black voters gave Jackson those victories in the Deep South.
The Abrams Impact
Stacey Abrams’ group, Fair Fight, proved that appealing to Black, Latino, Asian voters, and young voters, specifically, is a formula for electoral success. Additionally, Abrams’ group registered 800,000 new voters. Fair Fight did reach out to white voters in urban and rural settings, but the organization focused on registering voting age people who had never cast a ballot before. The group also encouraged absentee ballot voting to avoid long lines and to protect voters’ health during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Abrams’ electoral performances silently signaled that Georgia was slowly changing from red to blue.
“In 2014, Abrams, then a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, co-created a group called the New Georgia Project that focused on getting people of color in the state who haven’t previously participated in the electoral process to vote. In 2017 and 2018, Abrams ran for governor and diverted from the normal Southern Democrat strategy of centering a campaign on winning as many white swing voters as possible. Abrams did try to win white swing voters, but also invested heavily in boosting turnout among voters of all races in the Atlanta area and among Black people in particular in the state’s more rural areas,” reported FiveThrityEight.com.
In a segment called, “How Georgia Turned from Red to Purple,” National Public Radio interviewed Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University.
Steigerwalt said there are many reasons why Georgia is now in play – among them an increasingly diverse electorate, which includes a growing Black middle class and increasing numbers of Asian and Latino voters. “The ‘blue-ing’ of the suburbs is probably the biggest thing that’s happening,” she said. “These areas that have long been Republican strongholds are not anymore.”
“Steigerwalt also gives substantial credit to activist and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, whose Fair Fight organization worked to register and mobilize voters statewide after her narrow – and controversial – loss to Republican Brian Kemp in 2018. The group raised about $40 million from more than 200,000 donors nationwide to turn out Democratic voters in Georgia and other key states,” NPR reported.
Abrams’ group has created a blueprint for flipping states blues. Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams former gubernatorial campaign manager in 2018 announced the release of The Abrams Playbook: The Strategy and Path to Victory in 2020.
Currently, Abrams and Fair Fight and their partner organization are working diligently to flip the U.S. Senate blue by sending Reverend Warnock, who pastors Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and who presided over Civil Rights Leader John Lewis’ funeral, and Jon Ossoff, an Investigative Reporter and former national security staffer and aide to Representative Hank Johnson, to the United States Senate.
Georgia’s voters hold the keys to whether the U.S. Senate will continue to be gridlocked by its GOP members or if a progressive agenda for all the people will move forward, including the Democrats Heroes Act, the 2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Indeed, all eyes are on Georgia.
Here’s Stacey Abrams speaking about the upcoming challenge:: https://twitter.com/i/status/1324865042148421633