Can Democrats Hold Georgia? The party did everything right to win the state in 2020--and the Republicans did everything wrong.

AuthorScher, Bill
PositionON POLITICAL BOOKS - Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power

Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power

by Greg Bluestein

Viking, 352 pp.

In the preface of his new book, Flipped, the political reporter Greg Bluestein of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that in 2020 Georgia helped Democrats win back the White House and the Senate "with a formula that could serve as a template for the party in once bright-red territories elsewhere."

That formula seemed counterintuitive to many Democrats accustomed to chasing swing voters. "Georgia Democrats mostly abandoned attempts to pose as moderate 'Republican-lite' figures and jettisoned all-out efforts to convert conservative voters with poll-tested talking points," Bluestein writes. "Instead, leaders energized the party's core constituencies--including many who rarely cast ballots--with policies that just a few years prior would have seemed unthinkable."

Back in 2014, Georgia's Senate Democratic nominee, Michelle Nunn, wouldn't answer directly if she would have voted for the Affordable Care Act, and lamented that the legislative process wasn't bipartisan. She lost to Republican David Perdue by eight points. Six years later, Democrat Jon Ossoff ran on expanding the ACA by offering the option of a government-run health insurance plan, and he beat Perdue by one point. And Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Democratic nominee in the concurrent special Senate election, had a similar health care platform and won by two points.

Democrat Jason Carter--who ran for governor in 2014 and, like Nunn, came up short--told Bluestein, "In 2014, there was no justifiable path to victory by relying just on the base. It had to be a 'both, and' strategy. We had to energize Black voters and win over persuasion voters." Democratic strategists hoped to win 30 percent of the white vote, with Black voters turning out in large enough numbers to comprise 30 percent of the electorate. Nunn and Carter failed on both counts. Black voters made up under 29 percent of the electorate, and each candidate won just 23 percent of the white vote.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton did worse on those metrics: the Black vote share dipped below 28 percent, and she got only 21 percent of the white vote. But she flipped two suburban Atlanta counties--Cobb and Gwinnett--that had been Republican strongholds. Bluestein writes of a Cobb County transplant and local organizer, Jen Cox, who had to convince her liberal friends to "come out of hiding, so to speak, and hold events for Hillary Clinton." One sign-waving event drew more than 200 people, "some in disguise lest they be outed." But Cox sensed that it meant the tide was turning in the suburbs.

In the aftermath, according to Bluestein, "old-guard Democrats insisted" that to get sufficient white support, "Democrats needed to run even harder to the middle." But it was with the squarely progressive Ossoff and Warnock that Democrats essentially hit the 30-30 mark, with exit poll data showing each getting 29 percent of the white vote and the Black share of the electorate reaching 30 percent.

But does all credit go to...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT