The future of the Senate and part of US politics depends on what happens this Tuesday in the State of Georgia. The conservative fiefdom that gave the bell in November by voting for the first time in 28 years for a Democratic president, Joe Biden, goes to the polls for the second round of the Senate race. In all, Republicans won 50 upper house seats in the elections; Democrats, 48. If the latter take over the two seats still vacant in Georgia, there will be a tie and the deciding vote will go by law to Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, giving Democrats control of the House for at least two years after six years of Republican majority.
Portraits of pastors who have served in the temple hang on one of the walls of the mythical Ebenezer Baptist Church in East Atlanta. They appear, among others, the leader Martin Luther King Jr., his father, and the current reverend, Raphael Warnock. Because of the pandemic, there are no religious services, which has allowed Warnock to dedicate himself completely to his campaign as a possible senator. Representing the Democrats, the pastor faces successful businesswoman and Republican senator Kelly Loeffler, elected in December 2019 by her party to replace a sick legislator. The second race is contested by Republican Senator David Perdue, 70, and Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old documentary filmmaker.
It depends on Warnock and Ossoff, who slightly lead the FiveThirtyEight polls, that the Biden government is not tied up and can carry out its political agenda, which the Republicans intend to stop in the Senate before a House of Representatives that remains in Democratic hands.
Ebenezer’s church is located in the heart of the black neighborhood in which Martin Luther King grew up, which preserves its facades intact as part of the historical complex about the Nobel Peace Prize winner killed in Memphis in 1968. But Atlanta is definitely another. In the last decade, the city has added more than 730,000 new residents, making it the fourth fastest growing metropolitan area in the country. Demographic change led by ethnic minorities and artists living in Atlanta and its suburbs, who together make up nearly half of Georgia’s electorate, was a key factor in Biden’s narrow victory over Donald Trump (by 11,779 votes).
The pulse between the ultra-conservative rural area and the progressive capital has been adjusted to the point of ending the republican hegemony and getting the two senatorial races tied. In addition, the result emerged in a year of special mobilization against racism, driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, making Georgia, the second state with the largest black population according to the 2019 census estimates (33.5%), the only Democratic oasis of the so-called southern “biblical belt”.
For David Sanchez, a Puerto Rican musician who emigrated from New York 13 years ago, the tectonic plates of Georgia politics began to move with the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, which attracted workers from elsewhere and neighborhoods began to “transform dramatically.” . He says that only the whites no longer arrived hippies to live in black neighborhoods of the city, but also high-level white professionals. Diversity grew when Hollywood productions saw Atlanta a space to grow away from the mecca of Los Angeles to become the new capital of the film industry.
Georgia is also the haven for thousands of African Americans who fled the most brutal segregation and poverty in other states. Margaret Davis, 76, of Alabama, grew up on a farm with no television or radio. He came to Atlanta at the age of 26, when the law that prohibits discrimination in the sale of homes on the basis of race had just been passed. Now you see how those cheap black neighborhoods have been gentrifying with the arrival of white professionals and taxes have skyrocketed. “I don’t care if they come, but it is unfortunate that the people who have lived there for so many years now can no longer afford them,” he laments. He lives in DeKalb County, where 33% of the population is white. “Atlanta is still a segregated city in real estate and schools, but that is changing,” believes the retired teacher. And that change, precisely, is what has Republicans so nervous.
Far from the center of the capital, where everything is banners of the Democratic candidates promising economic aid for the pandemic, increases in the minimum wage and health as a universal right, the residential areas arrive. As the case plones appear, you see the signs for Trump, but not for Republican senators. The US president’s crusade against the November election results has the two candidates for the Upper House between a rock and a hard place. And more since it emerged, on Sunday, a phone call in which the president pressured the Secretary of State of Georgia, Republican Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes to reverse Biden’s victory. Republican Senate hopefuls have sidestepped the issue.
It is a frigid Sunday morning in Sugar Hill, north of the Atlanta metropolitan area, about 200 people, the overwhelming majority white without masks, congregate at the Republican “Save America” event. They start with a prayer. “What happens on Tuesday is in God’s hands,” says the host. “Amen!” The assistants respond. Speeches are given by the party’s middleweights, including former councilor Kellyanne Conway and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. They warn over and over again that socialism or even communism will settle in the US if the Democrats win. And that they are going to dismantle the police, raise taxes and confiscate weapons. No mention of the virus that has killed more than 350,000 American lives.
Former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston doesn’t think Georgia has changed, but the Democratic Party. “We are not facing the same as five years ago, this is something else. It is a machinery of volunteers deployed throughout the state, “says Kingston, adding that while they are digging their bones in the front of a shopping mall, thousands of Democrats are calling the citizens of the state to make sure they go to vote. .
In the land of Martin Luther King, this election year reads as the hour of justice for the black community, the hardest hit by the pandemic. Georgia lost its Congressman John Lewis, the last symbol of the generation that led the fight for civil rights in the United States, in July, and Atlanta witnessed the largest racial protests since King’s death. “I admire the Black Lives Matter Movement,” argues seventy-year-old Margaret Davis, “because they fight for the same thing we did in the sixties. The same atrocities happened as now, only we did not have social networks to show them. We are tired of being murdered ”.
Stacey Abrams, the engine of change
When Georgia was dyed blue, the Democratic color, T-shirts began to be printed with the phrase: “Thank you, Stacy Abrams.” Politicians and artists uploaded videos to social networks applauding the 46-year-old lawyer who they attribute to have ended the republican supremacy in the southern state. The rising star of the Democratic Party has for more than a year led a battle against electoral laws that hurt minority participation. He is awarded the mobilization of 800,000 voters for the presidential elections, almost 50% young African-Americans between 30 and 45 years old.
In early voting or by mail for this second round of the Senate, more than three million citizens (of the 7.7 million registered) have already exercised their right, a record number. Of these, 76,000 registered after the November elections, most of them young. Mati Cave, 21, traveled from California to Atlanta to help with the Abrams program. “She was the one who got Georgia to flip. It has managed to mobilize people from all corners of the state. It is a refreshing, inspiring voice, ”he says at an art event to encourage participation.
From the republican side they attack it without limits. At the Sugar Hill rally, the first thing former Congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik said when she took the microphone was that she could say whatever she wanted because she is female and black: “Right, media?” He charged hard against Abrams, who lost the Georgia governor’s race in 2018 to a questioned voting system. “It’s like that crazy ex-girlfriend who wants to stay in the relationship,” Klacik blurted out. The audience laughed.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.