Is it Florida? Ohio? Maybe Wisconsin?
No. It’s Georgia.
I wrote almost three years ago how Republicans are taking the Jim Crow approach to power.
Before Jim Crow, most southerners were black. They held power during Reconstruction and should have held power after it. Instead, Southern whites destroyed their franchise and murdered blacks with impunity. This injustice system existed for almost 90 years, giving southern whites the same level of federal power, as their fathers and grandfathers held under slavery, when black people were counted as 3/5ths of a white person. Under Jim Crow, black people were still counted, but they didn’t count.
The Trump strategy is Jim Crow writ large.
The late George Carlin might say we’re all Trump’s niggers now.
The full panoply of Jim Crow tactics – voter suppression, gerrymandering, harassment of critics, violence and threats of violence – are now being deployed to maintain Trumpublican power across the country. Just as they were deployed against southern Republicans through the Jim Crow era.
Here’s why it can work.
As I’ve said, the Trump coalition consists mostly of Moolahs and Mullahs. The “Moolah” wing is mostly in exurbs, linked by highways to edge suburbs, where commuters still live a 1950s life.
Beyond, in thousands of small towns defined by a gas station, a Dollar General, and a string of evangelical churches, is the “Mullah” wing.
The Moolah wing has been sucking the Mullah wing dry for decades. Yet it’s the Mullah wing that’s the heart of Trumpublican power. This is the contradiction at the heart of Trump, as it was the contradiction at the heart of Jim Crow. Rather than share power and gain northern levels of wealth, rich southern whites accepted the prejudices of their white sharecroppers and went full-on racist. Forget finding a mockingbird. They set a watchman.
Rural areas are as over-represented in the Senate as the South was under Jim Crow, when blacks were counted for apportionment but prevented from voting. Small states filled with Trumpistanis hold the Senate. Rural sections of Montana, the Dakotas, Oklahoma and West Virginia are little different from rural Tennessee. The same with rural sections of New York, Massachusetts and California. The only difference is the size of the central cities in those states, their Techlandias.
A century ago, Democrats held Trumpistan, while Republicans dominated what was then Techlandia, where utilities and manufacturing were creating wealth. The only route to power for Democrats between 1860 and 1932 lay with Mugwumps, those few Republicans who felt disgraced by their party’s corruption. William Jennings Bryan, a true Democrat of the era, lost three times. Only Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, relative neophytes from the Republican heartlands, were able to win.
Conventional wisdom today is that Democrats must make the same deal, choosing billionaires like Mike Bloomberg or neophytes like Pete Buttigieg over firebrands like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
It’s the Sophie’s Choice of 2020. It’s depressing as fuck.
Despite Republican control over national politics, their reign of two generations became the Jim Crow era. Theodore Roosevelt had Booker T. Washington to dinner in 1901 but the blowback was so ferocious no Republican ever again challenged the Jim Crow status quo. This is Republicans’ Original Sin, a stain that grew and metastasized into Nixon and then into Trump, a cancer that now threatens the Republic as nothing has since the original Civil War.
The crisis of 2020, then, lies in confronting and overcoming political trends that have held this country in bondage for nearly 150 years.
“I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/house.htm In the wake of Lincoln and Grant’s Reconstruction, it became all the other. In 2020 either the opponents of Jim Crow will now arrest and reverse it, setting it on course for its ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push forward, making it the law in all states.
It helps to understand what we’re fighting, and what the real stakes are.
But why Georgia, why?
There’s a long-held assumption about my home state, that Democrats can’t win here. But Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta. Jimmy Carter is a Georgian. Their monuments are just miles from my home. Such is the duality of the Southern thing. There are now as many Fortune 500 companies based in Atlanta as anywhere, many attracted by the Civil Rights cause those monuments represent. If Democrats can’t win Georgia, they can’t win America.
They can win Georgia.
Since I moved here in the 1980s politics here has been defined by the doughnut and the hole. The doughnut consisted of Republican suburbs. The hole was the poverty-stricken city. Today the engines of the state’s growth are in its research institutions, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Emory, and Georgia State.
The hole is swallowing the doughnut. The district once represented by Newt Gingrich has a black woman representing it, Lucy McBath. Other districts may join it in 2020. The legislature, where Republicans were once near two-thirds majorities, is more competitive. Democrats in that legislature are little different from Democrats in New Jersey or California.
The big issue today, as it was in 1876, is the right to vote. Georgia Republicans have brought in electronic voting machines no one can or should trust. They have systematically sought to purge voters from the rolls if they claim they aren’t showing up. They have instituted Voter ID laws that act as a poll tax on black people. They have done this in the name of “voter integrity.” As with everything else Republicans do these days, it has an Orwellian tinge to it.
Republicans are doing the exact same things in Ohio, in Wisconsin, in Florida, in North Carolina, in Texas, even in Kansas, anywhere they hold majorities which feel threatened. If what they are doing in Georgia continues to work, it will become the rule nationwide.
That’s why the seminal political figure of 2020 isn’t running for office. It’s Stacey Abrams, a neighbor of mine in Kirkwood. Kirkwood, due east of downtown Atlanta, is at the epicenter of the state’s economic and political changes. When I moved here in the 1980s it was nearly all-black, and mostly poor. Today it’s nearly all-white, and mostly rich. What some criticize as gentrification is merely the growth of Techlandia.
After losing the Governor’s race to Jim Crow in 2018, when she was my state rep and minority leader of the Georgia House, Abrams chose not to jump into another race. Instead she formed FairFight 2020, dedicated to fighting Jim Crow in courts, legislatures, before voting registrars and in the streets. She has identified 18 states where Jim Crow tactics are active.
Georgia is at the heart of it. Fair Fight has fought for a fair census, it has worked against a state voter purge, and it’s fighting those new voting machines. This doesn’t make national headlines. To read the national press, Stacey Abrams has gone to ground.
2020 will be a straight-ticket election. Both Republican Senate seats are on the ballot. One seat is held by David Perdue, former CEO of Dollar General. The other is held by Kelly Loeffler, whose husband is CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), owners of the New York Stock Exchange. Both represent the Republicans’ Moolah Wing, but both are proven supporters of its Mullah wing as well. They are Jim Crow Republicans.
The Mullah wing is represented by Doug Collins, who has decided to challenge Loeffler in the state’s first “jungle primary,” created (naturally) by the Republican legislature, yet-another innovation that dates from the Jim Crow era. While Collins has been 100% loyal to Trump, Trump and the GOP machine here support Loeffler.
This gives Democrats an assuming. Assuming Loeffler wins, run against Wall Street. If Collins wins, run against Church Street. In either case, Republicans become the minority.
I know it’s an uphill fight. The Democrats’ candidates are barely known statewide. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have a fair election. If we do, we can win.
If we don’t, America will be lost. The money will move to wherever public policy supports human capital, even if human rights are discarded in that process.