One could easily argue that Georgia has been the most interesting state to watch during the 2020 general election. Unlike most other states, Georgia will continue to be in the national spotlight after the presidential race due to its senate runoffs that will take place in January.
In any presidential election, there is much excited talk about the possibility of any given state “flipping” from its expected outcome. And indeed, we all watched with bated breath in anticipation of Georgia “flipping” blue last week due to record-breaking Democratic voter turnout. But it is crucial to recognize that Georgia didn’t simply “flip” from red to blue: Georgia’s left-leaning votes have been violently suppressed for decades. This year, those voices are being heard, thanks to the work of incredible activists and organizations who have been fighting voter suppression. Much well-deserved credit has gone to Stacey Abrams and her organization Fair Fight. And she’s not alone—there are many others who have also been doing the work of engaging with voters and uplifting oppressed voices in Georgia: LaTosha Brown with Black Voters Matter, Rebecca DeHart with Fair Count, Britney Whaley and Fallon McClure with Working Families Party, Nse Ufot with New Georgia Project, Tamika Middleton with Metro Atlanta Mutual Aid Fund, Helen Butler with Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Project South, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, GALEO, Georgia NAACP, and many more.
The point of my list is not to be exhaustive, but to highlight the fact that the Democratic party’s winning of Georgia in the 2020 presidential race is a direct result of tireless organizing on the part of progressive activists in Georgia. Indeed, all week we eagerly refreshed our browsers to see how many more progressive-leaning mail-in ballots had been counted, like those in the Atlanta metro area that ultimately “flipped Georgia blue.” Make no mistake: Black voters in Georgia made this happen, and they overcame decades of racist voter suppression to do it (consider checking out All In: The Fight for Democracy, a documentary featuring Stacey Abrams to learn more about voter suppression in Georgia).
Joe Biden and the Democratic party have taken a centrist approach to this presidential election. They have done nothing to cater to the demands of progressive voters, instead relying on the fact that a second Trump term posed a large enough existential threat to cause progressive voters to vote him out of office. For many progressive voters across the country, a vote for Joe Biden felt meaningful only as a vote against Trump. Indeed, for many of these voters, the Democratic party has rarely used its power to improve their lives—or perhaps it has actively harmed them. These voters are not happy about electing a notable supporter of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 which exacerbated the issue of mass incarceration, nor are they enthusiastic about the Vice President from the Obama years under which ICE grew to become the well-funded, violent machine that it is today.
Joe Biden would not have won this presidential election without the support of progressives across the nation whose only motivation to vote for a Democratic candidate was getting rid of Trump. Having accomplished this task, progressive voters in Georgia are in a unique position as we look ahead at the January runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate. If the Democratic party wants to take control of the senate in the January runoffs, it ought to seriously reevaluate its relationship with Black voters in Georgia and frankly, give them a reason to believe that the Democratic party controlling the Senate would substantially improve their lives. Maybe this means addressing the egregious medical abuse and human right atrocities at ICE detention facilities. Maybe this means abolishing private prisons. Maybe this means undoing legislation that protects corrupt police officers instead of their victims and demilitarizing the police. Maybe this means removing barriers to housing, healthcare, and education in order to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black communities and help them out of the current state of crisis. There are so many ways the Democratic party could be better serving these voters.
Last week, Georgia voters demonstrated the awe-inspiring power of progressive activism. The lesson for the Democratic party? Don’t take it for granted.
Much inspiration for this blog post came from Bad Faith Podcast.