New Orleans ACORN had one-crew on the ground in metro Atlanta in the get-out-the-vote effort for the recent Senate election, recruited largely from Pennsylvania by longtime organizer and Pittsburgh activist and music aficionado, Maryellen Deckard. They were revisiting the turf we had hit two-years ago in the special runoff election to culminate the 2020 election, when Georgia was once again in the catbird seat. We weren’t able to do as much this time, but we wanted to our part for a lot of reasons, and here they come.
The South, urban and rural, is critically important to the future of the country and any pretense at democratic practice and traditions. This is where much of the fight has to take place. Georgia, maybe surprisingly to some, is an every day battleground, regardless of the election cycle, in being able to win in this struggle.
Electing Rev. Raphael Warnock means something to Georgia of course as the first full-term Black US Senator, but he also stands out as a Black Senator from the South, where there have not been any others since the end of Reconstruction. The fact that he also occupies the pulpit in Martin Luther King, Jr’s old church packs a wallop as well. Mississippi has come close, and maybe can come closer. Florida knocked on the door in the last election. In Louisiana, a two-term New Orleans mayor like Marc Morial found an opening as head of the New York-based Urban League, but that might not be the future, if we keep our shoulders to the wheel and push for equality.
Donors, inside and outside of Georgia, didn’t spend wheelbarrows full of money because they gave a flip about the South, but because they cared about the Senate. I get that, and it’s important. I heard a quote from President Biden on the radio, although I can’t seem to find it now, about a 50-50 Senate split between the parties, “created fifty presidents” essentially competing with him, as the only one elected as president, and his agenda. Watching the machinations of Arizona’s Sinema and West Virginia’s Manchin peacocking for special interests while holding up or diluting critical administration programs was painful. They and others still have leverage on a 51-49 split, but not like they had. Manchin claims he’s happy about this, which likely means he can vote against the majority more often.
Whatever, the extra cushion that comes with Warnock’s victory means more judges and progressive appointments both in the whole Senate and in committees, where there was an even-steven split, can’t be held up as easily. It won’t mean the end of gridlock, because the narrow House majority for the Republicans is a wild card in every big deck. There will always be politics, but it’s a straighter path to some progress.
Past the Senate mathematics, with Warnock guaranteed a full six-year term, it’s time we all learned more about the mettle and vision of the man, and whether or not he could play a larger role in moving the agenda of racial justice and equity forward in the South and the nation from his position. That could be huge. Bigger than Georgia and bigger than one more vote in the Senate.