Friday, January 8, 2021

Georgia and the Road Forward (2)

Well. an exciting few days. It's clear that Trump miscalculated--to the extent he can be said to "calculate"--and the Capitol fiasco serves mostly to discredit his brand and fragment his support. He may have entertained notions that these scurrilous demonstrations could somehow stop the certification process but mostly I don't think he thought it through much. He had faith that out of chaos comes good things for him. Not this time.
So, he'll be out of the White House in 12 days if not sooner. And the task for the Democrats stays much the same: make things happen and make them happen fast. Stop the COVID pandemic. Get the economy moving. Get people who need help help. And do it at scale.
Realistically, even with Republicans softened up a bit, that means a big bill that can be passed through the reconciliation process. Besides the obvious stuff like unemployment relief, aid for states, cities and small business, vaccine distribution and checks (if Manchin-approved!) such a bill could also include important changes/funding for schools, health care, housing, child allowances and so on.
The key is to get this done fast and at scale so improvements that people can see and feel happen as fast as possible. Time is not your friend. The last thing Democrats need is a repeat of the populist backlash that happened in 2010. The way to forestall this is to change the facts on the ground as voters see them. Indeed, there is no other way.
With this in mind, let's revisit the Georgia results. How did Warnock and Ossoff win? What they ran on, as noted by EJ Dionne:
"Ossoff was unabashed in appealing directly to voters’ immediate interests: “You send me and Reverend Warnock to the Senate, and we will put money in your pocket.” Biden was equally direct when he campaigned for the Democratic duo on the eve of the election. “If you send Jon and the reverend to Washington, those $2,000 checks are going out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor to so many people struggling right now,” Biden said. “If you send Sens. Perdue and Loeffler back to Washington, those checks will never get there. It’s just that simple.”...
Warnock and Ossoff did not make that mistake when they were given a second chance in the runoffs. Their defining issues were economic, and their victories would make it far easier for Biden to enact a large new relief package, a major infrastructure program, and expansions in health-care coverage and child care — as well as democracy reforms and voting-rights protections."
As for Warnock in particular, as historic as his election, I believe, with Matt Yglesias, that the true significance of his appeal has been overlooked by many.
"For a long time in American politics, the view was that African-American candidates faced really big obstacles to winning in majority-white constituencies. In the post-Obama era, it’s time for Democrats to change their thinking on this. Black Democrats like Warnock (but also Obama and Cory Booker before him) are more likely than white ones to be rooted in institutions like churches that give them a better chance than white Dems of breaking out of the BA Bubble [Yglesias is referring here to the cultural bubble inhabited by youngish college graduate Democrats, particularly activists and media types.]
Just look at the patriotic framing (“… because this is America…”) that Warnock gave to his family story in this speech.
Warnock: “My mother who as a teenager growing up in Georgia used to pick somebody's else's cotton. But the other day because this is America, 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator."
For future statewide candidates, I think Democrats should be searching for more Warnocks — people of color with working-class roots who deliver unifying messages and don’t call themselves socialists. This is the way."
There is definitely a lesson here.
On a more quantitative level, further analysis released by 538 and the New York Times is consistent with my interpretation from Wednesday. 538:
"Looking at county-level results, we can see a couple of trends, the most important of which is that Warnock and Ossoff both tended to improve on Joe Biden’s margin in places with a large share of Black voters. (To keep things simple, the charts below show just Ossoff, but Warnock’s results look almost identical.) This includes both suburban counties like Clayton, in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where Warnock did 6 percentage points better than Biden, as well as more rural counties like Randolph, in Georgia’s Black Belt. And turnout among Black voters seems to have been up, as well: According to the Fox News Voter Analysis, Black Americans made up 32 percent of the runoff electorate, up from 29 percent in November. This corresponds with trends at the county level, which also show higher turnout in counties where a larger share of the population is Black.
At the same time, though, Warnock and Ossoff actually slightly underperformed Biden in counties with a particularly high share of college-educated voters, such as Forsyth, where 52 percent of the population has a college degree but only 3 percent is Black."
Nate Cohn/New York Times:
"Over all, turnout reached a remarkable 92 percent of 2020 general election levels in precincts carried by Mr. Biden in November, compared with 88 percent of general election levels in the precincts carried by Mr. Trump. These tallies include Upshot estimates of the remaining uncounted vote by precinct, and it suggests that nearly all of the Democratic gains since the November election can be attributed to the relatively stronger Democratic turnout.
A majority of Georgia’s Democratic voters are Black — they are roughly 30 percent of the overall electorate — and it was these voters who drove the stronger Democratic turnout. Over all, turnout reached 93 percent of 2020 levels in precincts where Black voters represented at least 80 percent of the electorate. In comparison, turnout fell to 87 percent of general election levels in white working-class precincts....
The relatively strong Democratic turnout produced such a marked shift in part because the November election featured relatively weak Black turnout. In November, the Black share of the Georgia electorate appeared to fall to its lowest level since 2006; Black turnout, although it increased, did so to a lesser degree than non-Black turnout. In part for this reason, Democrats had legitimate cause to hope they could enjoy a more favorable electorate in the runoff than in the general, even though they have tended to fare worse in Georgia runoffs over the last two decades."
Is this vote pattern replicable in the future? That's an important question, not least because Warnock will have to run again in 2 years. This time around, he was helped not only by Trump not being on the ballot to turbocharge Republican turnout but by Trump's actions and rhetoric actually depressing turnout. Next time around will likely be a big challenge for Warnock and his unifying message. A successful first two years of the Biden administration, though, will make it a lot more likely that he can meet that challenge.

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