A lot of people are scratching their heads and wondering, how did Georgia wind up Blue in the electoral college maps while Texas, North Carolina and even Florida remained red?
There are undoubtedly many factors to take into account, but at least in Georgia, I believe the difference came from two extraordinary women political leaders who inspired the sort of grass-roots, from below organizing work that leads to permanent change.
One is Stacey Abrams, who everyone has heard of, the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 who established the New Georgia Project (in its various incarnations).
The other is Adelina Nicholls, who almost no one has heard of, and is the founder and executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).
Yes, Stacey Abrams is, in a sense, more significant, for her ties are to the much larger Black community. But as we say in GLAHR, "Aquí estamos y nos nos vamos," we're here and we're not leaving, and this year, we Latinos have made ourselves felt.
I have not an ounce of doubt: we pushed Biden over the top. Yes, we stood on the shoulders of a giant, the Black community, and proudly so, and so we flipped the state from red to blue.
It is not a question of who deserves more credit, but of what together we can accomplish.
The activist movement associated with GLAHR (GLAHR itself is a 501c(3) non-profit and was not directly involved in many phases of this) targeted suburban Atlanta's two main (until now) Republican-dominated counties for a sustained campaign beginning with voter registration and culminating with dozens of election defender teams at polling places on November 3.
For the Latino movement, the central objective of the overall campaign was NOT electing Biden but knocking out the 287G "polimigra" programs which are authorized by the elected sheriffs of the two counties.
Key in that was defeating the Republican candidates for Sheriff, one an incumbent, the other the chief deputy of the retiring office holder.
In that, GLAHR made an alliance with activists from SONG (Southerners on New Ground), and people activated by the BLM upsurge this summer.
Because of Covid-19 and my age (I'm 69), my participation has been limited to the streaming show GLAHR folks do every day, otherwise. I've been mostly observing from the sidelines while this has been going on But these activists conducted a year long campaign and in the decisive phase this fall, knocked on 120,000 doors in Cobb and Gwinnett. If you want to see the biggest vote total shifts in Georgia, go look at those two counties and compare them to 2016.
But of tremendous importance to the Latino community, both counties elected candidates for sheriffs that are pledged to stop 287G, the program that creates a direct pipeline to deportation from a county jail where people can be booked for nothing more than a traffic ticket.
Although various Latino groups are claiming they did all sorts of things in Georgia, so many thousands of phone calls and tens of thousands of texts, that I know of, no one else was on the ground in Georgia knocking on doors and talking to people apart from Stacey Abrams' and Adelina's movements. And if you're questioning the reality of what I'm saying about the Latino activist side of this, on this facebook page you can examine the receipts.
And as for South Georgia, the only group that I know of who also did door-knocking GOTV there were the activists from GLAHR's local "Comités Populares."
Various reports have highlighted the role played by the campaign against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County (Phoenix & metro area) in leading to this year that state going blue.
But people are not aware that the same idea has been followed in Georgia. Which is, of course, no coincidence. Because many leaders of both the Georgia movement and the Arizona movement are part of Mijente, which grew out of the "not one more" campaign aimed at deporter-in-chief Barack Obama in the last years of his administration.
Some people say that we in Georgia followed AOC's call for "deep canvassing," going out and actually talking to people, and not just buying ads on TV and sending mailings. Others noted that we've been following what Brazilian Paulo Freire taught more than a half century ago in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
I hope some day soon some progressive national media will come down to Georgia and present to the country a more complete picture of this extraordinary victory.
Bernie Sanders: Why Is Georgia So Important?
In battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia young voters very strongly supported Biden and other Democrats. In Georgia, for example, 90% of young black voters and 62% of young white voters chose Biden over Trump. And that made all the difference not only in winning that state for Biden, but forcing two Republican senators into runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. One of the candidates in that runoff election is Reverend Raphael Warnock, whom we strongly supported.
Turning Arizona Blue: On the Ground in Maricopa CountyThe heroes of this election season are the millions of citizen volunteers who texted, phoned and post carded, but perhaps the biggest contribution nationally was the work of the beleaguered HERE which lost 80% of its members due to COVID impacts.
Georgia on My Mind:
Next stop is Georgia. Let’s make sure that Biden is not tempted to “Reach Across the Aisle” to make deals with Mitch McConnell. January 5th in Georgia we will have the chance to flip two Senate seats and create a 50-50 Senate with Kamala Harris casting the deciding ballot! All eyes are on Georgia, and all hands need to be on deck to flip both those seats. Georgia activists may not want Yankee carpetbaggers, but they will want texting, phoning, post carding and money. And hopefully this time labor unions will all unite to bang the doors. If volunteers for the doors are needed, my bags are already packed!
Peter Olney is retired Organizing Director of the ILWU. He has been a labor organizer for 40 years in Massachusetts and California. He has worked for multiple unions before landing at the ILWU in 1997. For three years he was the Associate Director of the Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California.