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The Georgia Runoffs Show the Power of Democracy at Work

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News & Analysis

On January 6, what began as a joyous day turned violent and lawless in a matter of hours.

The day began with a historic victory in Georgia as Rev. Raphael Warnock won his runoff race for a U.S. Senate seat against Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. A few hours later, news broke that Jon Ossoff also defeated sitting Republican senator David Perdue, clinching a Democratic majority in the Senate. But by then, a mob of far-right Trump supporters had broken into the U.S. Capitol in an act of domestic terrorism, ransacking its chambers in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The destructive acts of insurrection deflected public attention from the magnitude of the electoral victories in Georgia and the incredible achievements of grassroots Black and Latino organizing throughout the state. But the violence also underscored just what Trump, his racist and extremist supporters and his enablers in Congress have fought so hard against – and what we saw in Georgia’s election this week: democracy at work.

The importance of Georgia’s political transformation during this election cycle cannot be overstated. Not only did it help Biden and Harris cross the finish line last November, but Warnock will soon become the first Black senator in the state’s history. Ossoff will become the youngest sitting senator, as well as Georgia’s first Jewish senator. Their places on the Senate enable the Biden-Harris administration to advance a bold progressive agenda to repair our democracy and offer immediate relief to the American people – and their wins are a testament to the power of grassroots political organizing.

Despite decades of right-wing assaults on Georgians’ right to the ballot, Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action and a host of other voting rights organizations, joined by organizers in Georgia and across the country, worked diligently year after year to connect with Black, Latino, rural and low-income voters and encourage them to vote. Early data reveals that those efforts made all the difference – and we at People For are proud of our campaigns and partnerships with groups on the ground to help make these victories possible:

  • Our Latinos Vote! program was among the first organizations to invest in Spanish-language media during the runoffs, producing a total of four TV/radio ads featuring People For board members Dolores Huerta and Cristela Alonzo. These ads aired in every key media market with a sizable Latino population in the state.
  • In addition, our savvy digital team produced two hard-hitting digital ads, which have been viewed in Georgia more than 500,000 times by undecided voters or those who had not yet decided to vote.
  • Separately, our Defend the Black Vote field team extended its nonpartisan texting program past the general election in Georgia. In November and December, the team reached more than 400,000 voters through more than 1 million texts to share information on when, where and how to vote. In addition, the Defend the Black Vote team produced two radio aids – one of which featured People For board member and Georgia native Rev. Tim McDonald.

The outcome in Georgia represents the best of America: democracy in action to build a just and more equitable future for all of us. But the bigotry and hateful actions on display on January 6 represent the worst.

The toxic effects of Trumpism, far-right extremism, and white supremacist terrorism, will have to be fought long after Trump leaves office. And progressives must continue to push for justice-driven policies that protect and expand our rights, including the voting rights that enfranchise Black, Latino, and other marginalized communities.

The voter suppression laws that organizers in Georgia worked hard to overcome are a direct legacy of our country’s white supremacist history – just as the violent display of domestic terrorism in our nation’s capital was.

Against a hateful backdrop of violence and racism, the outcomes in Georgia showed us the beauty and the promise of democracy at work: When we the people work together, we – and justice – will win.

In the new year, let us recommit to our vision of a fully realized democracy and push for bold, progressive solutions that advance justice and equity for all of us.