Georgia On My Mind

Georgia has been on my mind a lot lately.  

It feels a little strange to think so much about a state that I've only been to two or three times. Sure, some of my favorite records were made by artists from The Empire State of the South: Vic Chesnutt's 'West of Rome,' Otis Redding's 'The Soul Album,' 'In an Aeroplane Over the Sea' by Neutral Milk Hotel, and, duh, Outkast's 'Speaker Boxxx/The Love Below,' to name a few. 

But my recent thoughts about Georgia have not been about music. Rather, like a good portion of our country, I've been thinking about the January runoff for the two seats that will determine which party controls the Senate. Although voting in this runoff is limited to the fine folks who reside in Georgia, it will impact the country in a big, big way. Which actually makes it America's runoff. 

Georgia voting law requires a candidate to procure over 50% of the vote in order to be elected. That did not happen for either of Georgia's two Senate seats. Hence, we now have a runoff between Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, versus Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The Senate currently stands at 50 seats for Republicans and 48 for Democrats. If both Ossoff and Warnock win, each party then holds the same number and, in the case of a tie, the decisive vote is cast by our Vice President, Kamala Harris. This, in essence, gives Democrats control of the chamber and paves the way to Joe Biden to get a whole hell lot of done when he takes office.

Both Republican candidates are straight out of central casting. They are white, business owners, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and are staunch Trump supporters. Perdue, who was elected in 2014, doesn't believe in climate change.  Loeffler, who was appointed just last year, has openly disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement. Both have publicly backed Trump's baseless claims of election interference and went as far to call for the resignation of Georgia's Secretary of State. Lovely.

On the other end of the spectrum, John Ossoff is a 33-year-old filmmaker and journalist who is not a stranger to tight political races.  In 2017 he narrowly lost in a congressional special election. He supports women's rights and health care, financial assistance for families and individuals over large corporations, and would like to see the U.S. as a world leader in clean energy and sustainability. Raphael Warnock is black, a pastor, and a Georgia native (he grew up in public housing in Savannah). This is his first campaign but he recently led a statewide initiative to expand Medicaid as well as chaired the New Georgia Project. Criminal justice reform, expanding the affordable care act, and protecting voter's rights are central to his agenda. He is also pro-choice and a supporter of gay marriage.

Historically, there is a drastic decline between voter turnout an initial election and a runoff. According to Fair Vote, in 2016  and  2018 nationwide runoffs, the average  decreases in turnout were greater than 45%. Given what's at stake, the expectation is that we will not see nearly as steep of dip. But we all can help keep the energy up, encourage people to return to the polls, and bring out some new voters. Below are a few ideas on how to do so.

Use your platform:

Spread information about the candidates and the election via your social media accounts. Amplify Ossoff and Warnock's messages. A simple or retweet helps. Share resources for voters such as deadlines (below) and polling place locations. As evidenced by the turnout on November 3, social media makes an impact. You can begin by sharing these dates:

December 7 – Voter Registration Deadline. Voters can check their status here and register to vote here.

December 14 – Early voting begins. Locations can be found here.

January 5 – Election Day. Polls close at 7 pm EST.

Get out the vote: 

If you have friends or loved ones in Georgia, call or email early and often.  You can phone bank for Ossoff or Warnock, text or phone bank with Fair Fight, or write letters via Vote Forward.

If you don't have time but have money:

A mountain of cash will be spent on this race. Republicans, who were largely outraised nationally during the general election, have reached DefCon Four level of fundraising. Last week they dispatched George W Bush mastermind Karl Rove to lead the Georgia Battleground Fund.

To counter, you can donate directly Jon Ossoff or Raphael Warnock. Another great option is donating to Fair Fight. Founded by Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight was responsible for registering 800,000 new voters in Georgia. Given that Biden won the state by less than 13,000 votes, it doesn't take a math major to recognize the impact

Fair Fight is the highest profile, but there are number of other Georgia based grassroots organizations doing important work on the ground:

In addition to needing money, NGP has created an Amazon wish list for supplies for their efforts.

America certainly doesn't feel like 50 united states much of the time these days.  What's happening in Georgia, however, demonstrates just how intertwined we remain. We are all, including myself, extremely burned out when it comes to politics. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Six more weeks of work and, fingers crossed, we can begin rolling back the damage caused by the Trump administration. Democratic control of the Senate would make a world of difference to, well, the world.

art: Shepard Fairey