Penetrating the Heart of the South
By Brandon Choi
Georgia, a state that has not gone blue in 28 years and is considered a southern stronghold state, currently has two Democratic senators and voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. How did a state that has historically been right-leaning somehow undergo a radical partisan shift and penetrate the conservative barrier in the South? The answer lies in the overwhelming number of people who voted in the 2020 presidential election and the large Democrat campaigns run in order to increase voter turnout.
Throughout most of the early and mid twentieth century, Georgia voted for the conservative Democrat party. This coincides with the political party realignment in the 1960s where the liberal-minded Republican party endorsed Barry Goldwater, an opponent of civil rights, while the traditionally southern-appealing Democratic Party placed an emphasis on civil rights during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. This influenced many African-Americans to vote blue while conservatives now vote for the Republican party, leading to an adamantine bloc of red voters in Georgia, especially in rural regions. In fact, Georgia still has many conservative representatives such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conservative who openly supported far-right conspiracy theories. This intensified the need for Democrats in Georgia to have a large voter turnout in urban cities and regions with large African American populations in order to break the conservative voter blockade.
Political campaigns encouraging many people to vote in Georgia was a catalyst in Georgia becoming a blue state. After Democratic politician Stacey Abrams was narrowly defeated in the governor race, she altered her campaigning strategy to focus on encouraging supporters of the Democratic party in Georgia to become more politically active. Organizations such as the New Georgia Project embarked on a multimedia campaign urging people to vote for the Democratic Party. Democrats sought to mobilize specifically people of color to vote in order to obtain new votes and burst the conservative wave that previous Republican candidates had ridden. This was especially crucial in the senate runoff race for the two Democratic senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof as 225,000 new voters turned out during the senate election than during the presidential election, a majority of which were people of color. “If it wasn't for the relatively high mobilization of African Americans and other nonwhite voters in Georgia, Ossoff would have lost. Warnock might have lost … Republicans would control the Senate,” Bernard Fraga, a political scientist at Emory University, said in an interview with NPR.
Georgia’s transition into a left-leaning state could signify a trend in other Republican states as well. As more young people start to participate in elections and others are encouraged to vote, historically Republican states may experience significant political realignment. In general, more people, especially those in urban regions, are starting to vote Democrat, reducing the discrepancies between Republicans and Democrats in traditionally red-dominated states. One trend is clearly gaining prominence with these political realignments: the once considered unbreakable conservative and Republican bloc of states in the South is starting to splinter. This trend can be seen in Texas during the 2020 presidential election, where the differences in Republican and Democratic votes were smaller than years in the past with only a 5 percent discrepancy. Collectively, these trends could be signifying a new broader trend of traditionally republican states turning blue in future presidential elections. The impending 2022 midterm elections may reinforce the notion of Georgia as a swing state as the Republicans look to win back their seats in the senate.