By: Robert Thomas
Georgia Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams (top center) stands with several other Democratic candidates for office on the ballot for the 2018 midterm elections at a rally in Conyers, Georgia on Oct. 26, 2018. Stacey Abrams spoke to potential voters at the Kingdom Builders Church in Conyers about what sets her apart from her opponent in the race.
“We have everything to lose, and everything to gain,” said Melissa Frost, a life-long democrat who recently became very politically active. Frost continued, “If we lose everything, and I’m not being hyperbolic, I feel that for most people we will have lost, and authoritarianism and kleptocracy will have won.”
Frost is a Cobb county volunteer for the Georgia Democratic party and the Stacey Abrams campaign who helps in canvassing, phone banking, and in training new volunteers to do the same. Frost is 47-years old and feels that this midterm election is more important than any she can remember in her lifetime. She is also not alone in this feeling, as a recent poll has shown that a broad majority of Americans, 62 percent, feel the same. Because of how important she feels this election is, and due to having more time on her hands lately, Frost has become more politically involved this year than she ever has.
“I am working very hard to turn it blue, and I think purple is a very distinct possibility,” Frost said. “I’ve talked to a lot of volunteers who have never gotten involved with politics at all beyond voting and they are determined to do whatever they can. ”
This personal anecdote of increased political participation is also seemingly not unfounded, as the Georgia Secretary of State’s office announced on Oct. 10 that Georgia had shattered it’s previous all-time voter registration record this year, with over 6,915,000 active and inactive voters on the rolls for the midterm election. Early voting in the election has also seen a dramatic increase of over triple that of 2014 in the first week of the election. Within the first eight days alone, 532,717 people cast their votes, versus the 164,298 votes cast in the first eight days of the 2014 midterms.
However, while this increased level of voter turnout may be encouraging for Democrats, there has been a long history of Democrats predicting that the state would flip to blue in previous election cycles, including in 2008, 2012, 2014, and most recently in 2016 – all of which fell short. In reference to why she feels that this year is different, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said,
Demography is never destiny. It tells you what’s possible, it doesn’t tell you what will happen. And what we’ve worked out for the last two years is actually engaging those voters who have been left out of the conversation. We’ve been to every county in the state, and we’ve been to every community in the state. We are doing more and investing more than anyone ever has before, because we are going to actually leverage and turn those voters into actual voters this year. That’s why we’re going to win, because we’re activating voters who have never been talked to in the state of Georgia.
Abrams has long worked to vastly increase voter registrations in the state, especially among millennials, nonwhites and unmarried woman. In 2013, as the Democrats’ minority leader in the Georgia House, she founded the New Georgia Project to get 800,000 people of color registered to vote within a decade. While the New Georgia Project is a nonpartisan organization, it mainly targets groups that consistently vote Democrat.
However, despite Abram’s confidence in her win, there is no shortage of election experts that will disagree with her. “I think she’s wrong. It’s totally demography,” said Kerwin Swint, Ph.D, a political science expert and the interim Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kennesaw State University. “Georgia will likely be a purple or blue state soon, not because Georgians are becoming progressives or they are deciding that Democrats are right. It’s that the percentage of white voters is dropping. It’s purely racial.”
Swint referred to an article that he wrote for Georgia Trend Magazine in September of last year in which he argues that Georgia is likely to turn purple in 2024. While Swint believes it is a bit too early for the state to turn blue, he qualifies this prediction by saying that it is unlikely unless the “blue wave” materializes. Swint also says that this year could be different because of President Donald Trump energizing Democrats to come out to vote, but says the flip side of this is that he is also energizing Republicans to come out to vote as well. Trump famously tweeted out his endorsement for Sec. Brian Kemp, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, during the primaries.
However, Swint is skeptical of Abrams’ claims that she is driving more voters to the polls that do not usually vote, due to how common the claim is among politicians, but says that the election results will be the true determining factor to if she is right. “Jason Carter went to every part of the state and he talked to Democratic voters too that ‘hadn’t been talked to’.” Swint continued, “But they didn’t show up for him. They might show up for her.”
While Jason Carter, the Georgia Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, supported a very moderate platform in attempting to win over voters in the state, Abrams has taken a path that is not typical for Democrats in Georgia by supporting a far more left leaning, or “progressive,” agenda in her campaign. Abrams, however, claims that her progressive values are Georgia values, and that voters will respond to her authenticity.
“I believe by being an authentic candidate who stands in my values and declares those values and connects them to policies that improve the lives of Georgians, that’s what people are going to hear and that’s why we’re going to win,” Abrams said.
Swint says that what is different about Abrams is that she will be able to rally the Democratic base in a way that Carter couldn’t because of this. Although Swint says a more leftist platform is a double-edged sword, he believes voters will respect her for standing strong in her convictions.
Additionally, Swint stated that the current record numbers in voter registration and early voting are an encouraging sign for Democrats. “It absolutely is a good sign and that may be an indication that that ‘blue wave’ is going to show up for her,” Swint says.