As the dust still settles from our recent efforts to elect Jon Ossoff, perhaps we should reflect on the journey past, present and future. Even though the outcome left us dry-mouthed and often teary-eyed, we made immense progress. Local Democrat meetings that had previously drawn crowds of 15-30 saw a burst of interest that led to standing-room- only gatherings. This revealed the passion for our message and the messenger in a way that probably shocked Republicans who felt the district was a safe bet. So on that note, we can feel good about how the gap was significantly closed. But the gap still remains.
And so, what is next? Despite our frustration with the current local and national political situation, we need to realize that we can only control our own actions. While it is correct to voice our opposition, we should also ask, “What can we do to ‘flip the outcome’”?
Since voting is how we make changes in leadership, let’s start there. A person would have to have been lost in the woods for months to be unaware of Russia’s tampering with our national election. Whether or not they were successful is debatable but they certainly tried to hustle voters into the camp of their chosen candidate, Donald Trump. Robert Mueller and others are tasked with learning the truth behind that episode. But how is what the Russians did any different from the Republican Party’s efforts to suppress votes and gerrymander districts? All three of these tactics are designed to slant an election. And this is not mere conjecture. Republicans have publicly acknowledged that they use voter ID laws to keep certain populations from having equal access to the voting booth.
And the practice of arranging voting districts to virtually guarantee re-election for their candidate is quite prominent.
Here in Georgia, voter ID laws are a solution looking for a problem. There are minimal, if any, voter ID violations. Who is affected by these laws? For the most part, racial and ethnic minorities, low-income people, those with disabilities and the elderly—groups that are likely Democratic supporters. Rest assured, since these laws produce the desired result for Republicans, nothing will change until Democrats retake the majority in our state house.
What can you do? Of course, you can write your congressman, the AJC and support groups like the ACLU. But the best thing we can do for now is to use the system to our benefit. Do not wait until the months and weeks before an election to get your ID, do it now. Ask everyone in your church if they have an ID. Does every member of your extended family have a voter ID? If not, help them get one.
To change these law, we have to win elections. At the ballot box. That is where we can undo voter suppression, gerrymandering and the consequences of both.
In the upcoming posts, we will talk more about what we can do to “flip the outcome.” For now, question those who support ID laws and gerrymandering. Find out who in your world needs an ID. Ask your congressman why he or she supports gerrymandering. Ask them why they need to “fix” the outcome to win. If you need help, ask us. Your positive action implies that you are not giving up on the journey, that the ideals and people Democrats stand for are worth the hard work it will take to change our communities, state and nation for the better. Let’s get to it.