Georgia’s high-profile, high-stakes elections caught the attention of another national media outlet late last week.
The New York Times reported on the Peach State’s November contests, saying that while Georgia has become more demographically diverse, its politics remain rooted in racism.
“The new Georgia [is] a state whose transformed economy has spawned a population boom and demographic shifts that are slowly altering its politics,” the article states. “With African-Americans coming in large numbers from other states, and emerging immigrant communities … Georgia is less white and less rural than it was a decade ago.
“Yet for all the changes … Georgia’s politics … are today playing out largely on the familiar terrain of black and white.”
The article actually does a pretty good job of profiling the challenges faced by both Georgia Republicans (maintaining their electoral grip) and Democrats (registering enough minority voters to loosen that grip). And it includes a good deal of history of the state’s politics.
What it misses, however, is arguably the state’s most important political chapter – how rural white and urban black Democrats coalesced for more than a century, dominating the state.
Practical-minded leaders like Tom Murphy, George Busbee, Jimmy Carter Carl Sanders and Zell Miller — and a progressive Atlanta business community realizing that green is the only color that matters — reduced the GOP to political insignificance for more than 100 years.
In the 1990s, though, the GOP began engaging in a massive, grass-roots recruitment. And when the Democrats’ liberal base took control of the party in the late 90s, a perfect storm ensued, most publicly manifested in the battle over the state flag and then resulting in Sonny Perdue’s stunning gubernatorial triumph. It took two more electoral cycles for Georgia Democrats to finally stop living in the past and re-build for the future.
But if what U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson says in the article is true – that “Georgia is a conservative state … it was a conservative state when … Democrats were in control” – it may not matter how many minority voters that Stacey Abrams and Rev. Raphael Warnock can register.