Top Democrat in Georgia raised many boats
As I watched the midterm returns come in from Florida, for a moment I thought it was déjà vu from 2016. As Democrats’ hopes faded in Florida for Hillary Clinton, so did they fade for Democrats across the country. The red caravan brought to power the 45th president of the U.S, a president who is now contending that Republicans who lost midterm elections did so because they did not embrace him tightly enough.
Well, fortunately, despite the outcome of Florida races for governor and senator, Democrats still did what they had to do—take back the House of Representatives in Congress. This will ensure there will be checks and balances in place for the first time since the president took office.
To be sure, this is not the total victory Democrats wanted, but taking the House by at least 28 seats, nearly reaching parity in the nation’s statehouses, and adding to the diversity of Congress with the addition of Muslims, gays, and over 100 women are no small feats. Democrats should move quickly to take command of the narrative and not let the Republicans, who held onto the Senate by a thin margin, define the meaning of the midterms.
Given the ultraconservative bent of Georgia, Florida, and Texas, to come within a point or so of winning those statewide elections is a victory in and of itself. Democrats saddened by the losses should take a moment to reflect on how far they have actually come since 2016. They should also take solace in knowing that Abrams, being at the top of the ticket in Georgia, helped other Democrats cruise to victory.
Democrats owe her a debt of gratitude.
No cult of personalities
There was much, perhaps too much, emphasis placed on the candidacies of Abrams, Andrew Gillum, and Beto O’Rourke. Not that these attractive candidates were lacking in substance, quite the contrary. But the media focused on how attractive and progressive they were, instead of how their elections would change politics and economies in their respective states. Now that two of the three have conceded, the media are now off to the next hot topic of the moment, perhaps the firing of Jeff Sessions and the implication of that for the Mueller investigation.
In Georgia, unfortunately, voters find themselves in a difficult position where the race for governor is still too close for national media to call. Because of claims and suits regarding voter suppression, it will be difficult for Abrams’ supporters, nearly 50 percent of the total electorate, to ever accept the ultimate outcome of the election (That, by the way, will be refereed and in the end decided by Brian Kemp, her opponent).[Note: He finally stepped down November 8 after much pressure. The real reason he did is so he could raise funds in the event of a runoff.]
The question now is—when Kemp’s office frustrated the efforts of 50,000 voters who wanted to cast ballots, mostly whom were minority; when voters, particularly in minority communities were met with long lines at precincts; when voters, relatedly, encountered shortages of voting machines at some precincts, mostly in African American neighborhoods; and with prior purging of eligible lists of voters within the last few years—has Kemp’s voter suppression strategy had its desired effects?
Without these shenanigans, reasonable people might conclude that Abrams should have been elected the first female African American governor in this country on November 6, 2018.
Red no more
The former minority state House leader deserves credit for Georgia turning blue one, and possibly two, previously red congressional districts. I am referring to congressional districts 6 and 7. In District 6, where Jon Ossoff softened up Karen Handel a year ago; gun control advocate Lucy McBath bested former Secretary of State and Trump nod-squad loyalist Karen Handel. In District 7, which includes a portion of Gwinnett County, college professor Carolyn Bourdeaux is within 890 votes of incumbent Rob Woodall.
In 2016 Hillary Clinton won Gwinnett County by just 4 percentage points over the 45th President; during this midterm Abrams won by 12 percentage points over Kemp. Hillary won Cobb County by 2 percentage points and Abrams won this election by 10 percentage points over Kemp. That is an eight-point gain in both counties since the presidential election in 2016.
It is clear from these results that Abrams expanded both participation in the midterm elections, but also expanded the margin of victory in key suburban counties that allowed for down ballot Democrats to win state and county offices.
No example is clearer than what happened in DeKalb County, where all Republicans, including two GOP incumbents, lost to Democratic challengers. In the county overall, Abrams took 83 percent of the vote, the second highest in the state. Given the changing demographics, no doubt, Georgia is transitioning back to being a blue state. But this Georgia will be more progressive and diverse, unlike the Dixiecrats and conservative Georgia Democrats of the past.
Divided we stand and fall
What happened, election-wise, in America can be viewed from the perspective of different lens. The Democrats, who competed in gerrymandered districts, were able to eke out enough seats to take over the House of Representatives. Progress was made even in deep South states like Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
Perhaps, in some naïve way, midterm voters believed by dividing the upper and lower houses of Congress, this will force members of congress to work together for the good of the public. The vote also says Americans like, let’s say the economy (even though most don’t feel its effects), but they do not like the many cultural and tribal wars perpetuated by the president.
With another mass shooting this morning, one would only hope that the leaders of this nation would focus on unifying the country, keeping us safe from real enemies (not fake caravans heading to the suburbs and rural villages), and providing each family and individual an opportunity to experience real economic security. Time is running out.
Will the midterm elections have any impact on the lives of citizens with the greatest needs? Will the nation spiral upward toward perfecting American democracy or will it spiral down to the gutter of racial, ethnic, and “nationalist” divisions? Standby, we will see. 2020 is merely two years away.
As for Stacey Abrams, regardless of the outcome of the final vote for governor—she has already won!