Keep your eyes on Georgia
Recent developments in the Peach State could have huge implications on next year’s midterms and beyond. Plus: A book that inspires us to tell our stories and hold space for others to do the same.
I wrote yesterday that Congress’s legislative agenda for December is intense:
First, the lawmakers have to pass a spending bill by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
Then, they’ll need to increase the amount of money the country can borrow so we can pay our bills and avoid default.
Senators will also work to pass legislation to appropriate $768 billion in defense spending for the next fiscal year and repeal the resolution that authorized the Iraq War.
And you didn’t think I forgot about the Build Back Better Act, the jobs and climate plan that passed the House before Thanksgiving. Democrats in both the House and Senate say that both chambers agree to about 90 percent of the plan to invest in health care, child care, education and the environment. But it’s still unclear how smooth the negotiations will be for that final 10 percent. Remember: Democrats have no votes to spare in the evenly split Senate.
But of all the issues top of mind for progressive activists and politicians, voting rights is at the forefront. And personally, I’ve had my eyes on some developments in Georgia with huge implications on next year’s midterms and beyond.
First, there’s Rep. Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Bell, a Black teenager who was shot to death in Florida in 2012 and a gun-control advocate, who was recently drawn out of her current seat by state Republicans in an attempt to reclaim one of the two congressional seats they lost during the previous presidency. Now the two-term congresswoman will run for reelection against another Democrat in a neighboring district.
“Once you’ve cultivated a legislator who you think represents you, your neighbors and constituencies, part of what you are interested in are having that competitive edge to allow that relationship to continue,” Adrienne Jones, assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta, said during a phone interview earlier today. “When they draw her out, you make that impossible. You don’t even get to pretend that you’re competing for the quality acknowledgment of your elected officials.” (Jones and I, for the record, aren’t related.)
Then there’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial, committee-less congresswoman, who will now represent a deep-blue Black-majority slice of Cobb County along with her rural district in a turn of events that has both her and future constituents pissed. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the area is home to the first Black mayor in Cobb County and the launching pad for the county’s first African American commissioner.
“If you live in that demographically changed area of Cobb County, you have no chance of having a representative who is going to prioritize the needs of your majority. And the idea of districting is to allow people who think similarly to be able to vote for the things that they want,” Jones said. “And so when that is curtailed, you’re unable to maintain things that you thought were important and you’re unable to get new things that you think are critical to your community.”
Jones told me that in an ideal world, there would be some competition so that voters have an opportunity to express their needs to their elected officials. But now that once-competitive districts in Georgia and across the country are being finessed by state legislatures into safe seats, politicians are now concerned with winning their primary campaigns since they’ll probably trounce the candidate from the opposite party in the general election.
However, our government wasn’t designed for this hyperpartisanship.
“Parties were not contemplated by the founders. Parties emerged shortly after the Constitution was established because folks like [former President] Martin Van Buren found that this was an effective way to mobilize voters and elected official support,” Jones said. “The House of Representatives is supposed to be where the play is, where you’re represented based upon your population, and in order to do business, you’re going to have to make some compromise. Right now, we’re in a position where compromise really isn’t necessary for the GOP right now.”
The Peach State was the bellwether of the 2020 election, with record voter turnout flipping the Senate blue and giving Democrats control of Congress and the White House. “Georgia has always been a cornerstone in the Voter Rights movement, from the Black Suffrage Movement in the ‘30s, the Atlanta Student Movement and obviously the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60s,” freelance creative director RK Jackson said to me last year after Biden won the presidency.
But Republicans have aggressively worked to disenfranchise the communities leading this political shift under the guise of “voter integrity.” Democrats have responded with multiple proposals to counteract this conservative anti-voter movement, some of which would make several of the maneuvers these states are deploying illegal. And Vice President Kamala Harris added the issue to her already treacherous portfolio. But Senate procedures have empowered congressional Republicans to block any progress. “We’re getting very close to the deadlines that are going to require that the redistricting that has been drawn remain the way that it is,” Jones said.
A spokesperson for the vice president did not respond to a series of questions from Supercreator News of if she has been in touch with Senate Democrats on the issue or met with the president lately to strategize a path forward. The spokesperson also didn’t respond when asked if Vice President Harris is optimistic voting rights legislation will pass in the near future. Supercreator News also asked spokespeople for the eight cosponsors of a voting rights compromise and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for an update but did not receive a response.
If we removed politics from the equation, what does all of this mean?
“Some of this boils down to what is my representative doing? Are they drawing federal dollars to our district? And so if my legislator looks like me, understands my background, understands the importance of my public schools, maybe they’re going to make sure the public schools get some love,” Jones said. “Now, we’re getting some improvement of the infrastructure and that wasn’t happening. Presumably, we’re getting some improvements with immigration. That wasn’t happening. On the contrary, [former president Donald Trump]’s building a wall. So it matters who’s in power and it matters that they’re able to maintain that power.”
But cynicism and disengagement are ingredients for an even worse outlook. “It is the case that your vote may not matter. That is absolutely true,” Jones said. "But it may make all of the difference. You want to keep voting? Then I need you to go vote. Even if you think it’s stupid.”
Dec. 1, 2021 at 8:41 a.m.: This post has been updated to remove a quote that contained personal information at the request of an interview subject.
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Today in Politics
This morning President Biden signed four bills focused on supporting veterans. Then he traveled to Rosemount, Minnesota to visit a technical college and promote the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He’s on his way back to the White House now.
Vice President Harris participated in a virtual rally with advocacy organizations on the Build Back Better Act this morning before joining the president at the aforementioned bill signing.
The House met today this afternoon to debate and vote on 11 bills, including one to raise public awareness of synthetic opioids and another that focuses on maternal vaccinations. House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer also released the 2022 floor schedule. The House will convene for its Second Session on Jan. 10 and meet for 112 days, which is consistent with the 111-day second-session average over the past 15 years.
The Senate met this afternoon to resume consideration of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the annual budget and expenditures for US armed forces. Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked a procedural motion to advance the bill.
In The Know
Amazon workers in Alabama will get to re-do the union vote that failed earlier this year. A US labor board official ordered a revote citing an agency review that found the company improperly pressured warehouse staff to vote against joining a union. (Alina Selyukh / NPR)