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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes – Abrams Historic Win in Georgia

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nomineee Stacy Abrams not only beat her Democratic opponent, Stacy Evans, by a 3-1 margin; she also received more votes than the two Republican candidates, Brian Kemp and Casey Cagle, combined. Kemp and Cagle are now in a run-off that is already dividing Republicans. In his New York Times column, “In Georgia, Democrats Go With a Voter-Turnout Strategy,” David Leonhardt writes, “Last night, Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination in that Georgia governor’s race. She isn’t only the first black woman to be a major party nominee for governor anywhere in the country — a welcome milestone. Abrams has also made clear that she plans to win by motivating liberals more than winning over conservatives…“The approach of trying to create a coalition that is centered around converting Republicans has failed Democrats in the state of Georgia for the last 15 years,” she said recently…The Abrams approach will not be easy. The turnout of voters under 30, as well as Asian-Americans and Latinos, tends to be extremely low in midterms — each below 30 percent. By comparison, African-American voter turnout is substantially higher, almost as high as white turnout in midterms, despite years of voter suppression against African-Americans in many places.”

Vox’s P.R. Lockhart illuminates the critical role of Black political groups in Abrams’s landslide primary victory, noting that “this historic win didn’t happen by accident. It was the result of months of effort by an increasingly influential network of political groups and outreach initiatives, many of them helmed by black women, that are eager to build political power and influence in black communities.” Key groups that worked tirelessly for Abrams include, Glow Vote, Higher Heights, Democracy in Color, BlackPac, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the Center for Popular Democracy Action, “the New Georgia Project Action Fund, a division of the New Georgia Project, a group Abrams founded to register voters of color and boost their turnout in elections. Lockhart quotes Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, who explained that Abrams has  “run a campaign that is a model for candidates all across the country on how to engage and excite Black voters.”

Here’s an interview with Abrams, conducted by Frank Ski at Atlanta’s V-103:

The Abrams landslide primary win may have helped another Black woman candidate in Georgia — Lucy McBath. As Jamilah King reports in her article, “Last Night Was Huge for Black Women in Georgia—and Not Just Because of Stacey Abrams: Lucy McBath will advance to a July run-off, putting her gun-safety message to the test in GA6.” at Mother Jones: “…Another victory of sorts was playing out in nearby DeKalb County, where first-time candidate Lucy McBath earned the most votes in the Democratic primary for  Georgia’s sixth congressional district. Though it wasn’t the same kind of celebration as Abrams’—McBath didn’t top 50 percent of the vote, so she will now advance to a July run-off against businessman Kevin Abel—many in the chattering classes considered even getting to this point a real long shot. McBath is a black woman running on gun safety in Georgia, and, what’s more, she only entered the race for GA6 in April. If elected, McBath would be the only black woman in Georgia’s congressional delegation.” McBath could benefit from the intersection of two rising movements — Black women’s political empowerment and gun control.

“It’s been a long drought in statewide elections for Georgia Democrats, but the state’s shifting demographics along with President Trump’s unpopularity in Georgia — according to a Gallup poll, Mr. Trump had an approval rating of only 41 percent and a disapproval rating of 53 percent during 2017 — give Democrats some reason for optimism.” writes Alan Abramowitz in his New York Times op-ed,  “Can Stacey Abrams Change the Way Democrats Win in the South?” Abramowitz adds, “One recent poll from Survey USA had Mr. Cagle leading Ms. Abrams by only five points in a general election matchup. And in Tuesday’s primary, Democratic turnout came close to matching Republican turnout — Democratic primary voters made up 48 percent of those who turned out…In the Survey USA poll, almost all Democratic identifiers supported Ms. Abrams and almost all Republican identifiers supported Mr. Cagle, with independents splitting evenly. If those voting patterns hold true in November, the outcome of the race will hinge on which party does a better job of energizing and turning out its base voters. Since 2002, Republicans have had the advantage in that regard. In nominating Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats are betting that anger at President Trump and a candidate with strong appeal to the state’s growing nonwhite electorate will drive enough Democratic voters to the polls to reverse that trend and make history.”

In their Washington Post article, “Stacey Abrams, Democrats’ newest Southern hope, looks to Virginia, Alabama for path to victory in Georgia,” Michael Scherer and Vanessa Wiliams note that ““It’s possible for a Democrat to win statewide office in Georgia, but it would have to be under unusual circumstances,” said Trey Hood, a professor and pollster at the University of Georgia, who has polled the race for local news organizations. “There would have to be probably depressed Republican turnout as well, and Abrams will have to win a certain share of the white vote.”…Hood points to a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the challenge facing Abrams. Based on the 2014 midterm turnout rate, if Abrams won 95 percent of the black vote, she would need to capture about 36 percent of the white vote to win a two-person race. In a January statewide poll by Hood, only 24 percent of white Georgia voters identified as Democrats.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore’s post, “Stacey Abrams and the New Democratic Coalition in the South” puts Abram’s impressive victory in perspective: “In a Democratic electorate that is now over 60 percent African-American, it’s not surprising that Abrams won. But her better than three-to-one margin over Evans showed she had built her own biracial coalition without a white skin–or conspicuous centrism…One of the moving parts in this development was explained by Sean McElwee in a New York Times op-ed this week: white Democrats are becoming not only more progressive, but more responsive to the kinds of racial justice concerns their fellow-Democrats from minority backgrounds care about. Within the Democratic Party, racial divisions are simply less compelling than they once were, even as minority politicians are taking a more active and visible role.”

Ruy Teixeira makes the case that “Abrams must perform relatively well among white voters to win Georgia. There is a very simple reason for this. While the minority vote is large in Georgia, the white vote is much larger. It’s highly unlikely to be under 60 percent of the vote and will probably be a bit higher…Even in 2012, when Georgia black turnout was actually higher than white turnout (and way higher than white noncollege turnout), whites were still 62 percent of voters and blacks were just 32 percent…Clinton in 2016 actually did better than Obama in Georgia, losing the state by just 5 points, compared to Obama’s 8 point deficit. This improvement is entirely attributable to Clinton’s improved performance among whites, both college and noncollege. Granted, her absolute support levels were still low among these groups, but her relative improvement was enough to make the state significantly closer.”

In a state which seems to have more than its share of  GOP voter suppression incidents, the Abrams campaign should take note of Josh Meyer’s post, “Midterms are in Putin’s crosshairs, ex-spy chief says” at Politico: “Not content with installing Donald Trump in the White House in 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now revising his sophisticated meddling operation in order to outflank U.S. security agencies and tip the scales in the upcoming congressional midterm races, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told POLITICO on Wednesday…Clapper made that assertion as part of a wide-ranging interview timed with the release of his memoirs about his 50-plus years in the U.S. intelligence community, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” which he wrote with Trey Brown…Clapper, 77, says he thinks the Kremlin, led personally by Putin, is already engaged in an ongoing and active influence effort that is even more elaborate than the one he believes was used during the 2016 campaign to swing the election.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes – Abrams Historic Win in Georgia

  1. Victor on

    A minority candidate who is able to relate their experience of being poor, working class or middle class to whites in the same category should be able to do as well or better as a white middle or upper class candidate.

    But there is a risk that if minority candidates don’t make a conscious effort to reach out they will be seen as being part of the identity politics ideology.

    The press articles are examples (specially the Vox headlines) of the media implicitly portraying a candidate as being a candidate of and for minorities, instead of just being a candidate from minorities.

    Those supposedly well meaning articles are the kind of coverage that makes sure that minority candidates lose and the Democratic party remains firmly in the hands of the upper middle class whites that actually control it.


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