Politics

Analysis: How Activists’ Remarkable Work Flipped Georgia

Black voters and organizers once again played a core role in shaping Joe Biden’s presidency.

U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock (R) bumps elbows with Stacey Abrams (L) during a campaign rally with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at Pullman Yard on December 15, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. | Getty Images
U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock (R) bumps elbows with Stacey Abrams (L) during a campaign rally with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at Pullman Yard on December 15, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. | Getty Images

The results in Georgia’s Senate runoffs and general election didn't happen in a matter of two months or four years. A state that sent the first Democratic president to the White House since 1992 and chose its first Black senator over a Republican incumbent has also been a known center of voter suppression in the United States — complicit in a blatant robbery of Americans’ most basic right. 

As supporters laud the victories of President-elect Joe Biden and of Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock over Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Jon Ossoff over David Perdue, and opposers wonder how the upsets happened, anyone must recognize that progressive voter mobilization efforts succeeded. 

Turnout for the high-stakes Senate runoffs broke a record — with millions casting their ballots. And voters recognized the need to show up, despite the state’s demonstrated history of making it difficult for them, particularly if they are Black, to cast their ballots. Now that both Democrats won, the chamber will be 50-50 between both parties. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — the first Black person, South Asian person, and woman to hold the job — will have the influential responsibility of casting a tie-breaking vote.

Recognizing the state's potential to swing left, activists stepped in — some of them, including founder of advocacy group Fair Fight Stacey Abrams, more than a decade ago. And as a nation gripped by a pandemic that has killed more than 350,000 stood at a crossroads between two wholly different legislative bodies, their calls got even louder. 

Like with the presidential election, majority-Black counties in the urban center of Atlanta played a key role in Democrats' victory on Wednesday. The wins also mark a referendum on the Republican party’s gutless alignment with President Donald Trump, who spent the months after his loss to Biden attempting to overturn the will of the people. As the New York Times reported in a piece on the historical significance of Warnock’s win in a former Confederate state, Biden began appealing to Black voters immediately after his own victory: “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours,” he told them.

On Wednesday, as people marveled at the Southern state turning blue once again, they focused on the organizers, including Abrams and other Black feminists, as well as the determination of Black voters to cast a ballot in a race that will fundamentally shape the first two years of the Biden presidency.