ATLANTA — Georgia flipped blue for President-Elect Joe Biden the morning of Sat., Nov. 7. The state then headed for a hand recount of over 5 million ballots. This week, Georgia completed its recount, confirming a 12,000 vote lead for Biden. Gov. Brian Kemp certified the electoral votes, then turned around to call for an audit, citing supposed significant errors made in Floyd, Douglas, and Walton counties. It appears Kemp is specifically targeting signatures, referring to the state’s signature mismatch policy — which isn’t too dissimilar from the suppressive exact match policy which disenfranchised 54,000 voters alone in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race which paved the way for Kemp to the Governor’s Mansion.
This year marks the first time Georgia went blue for a presidential candidate since 1992 for President Bill Clinton — and administration that ultimately granted the U.S. the 1994 Crime Bill and the militarization of the police force we see today.
Meanwhile, the nation’s eyes remain on Georgia as both Democrats and Republicans charge down the barrel of two Senate runoffs: the special election race between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic contender Raphael Warnock and the crucial running between longtime Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue and Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff.
This week in our “To the Left” podcast series, founding editor Aja Arnold and contributor Ryan DeMattia discuss what’s next for the working class and progressives now that Georgia has flipped blue. What is likely to change under a Biden-Harris administration for working class Americans? How will Georgians’ material conditions improve with two blue Senate seats?
Less than two weeks after Biden clinched the general election, he has begun to fill his transition team and cabinet with more than 40 current or former lobbyists, including his chief of staff Ron Klain and potential Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz. Perhaps the most concerning is the appointment of Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who is reported to become the White House’s liaison to the climate change movement and one of Biden’s senior advisors.
During his 10 years in Congress, Richmond has received copious amounts of funding from donors in the oil and gas industry while representing one of the most air-polluted census tracts in the U.S. Additionally, according to the Daily Report, he’s also voted against Democrats to side with Republicans to increase fossil fuel exports and promote pipeline development, voted against Democratic legislation to place pollution limits on fracking, and voted for GOP legislation to limit the Obama administration’s authority to regulate the practice.
As millions of dollars continue to be poured into Georgia for its two Senate races — and while the Biden campaign calls on working class Americans to fund its transition into the White House during a global pandemic — it’s important to ask what we are really fighting for. Are progressives stepping into the terrain of another Democratic administration full of symbolic wins, or are Americans ready to cross the threshold and ultimately leverage and fight for material ones?
Most of the wins that exist for progressives have been symbolic wins; historically, this has been embodied by symbolic and toothless rulings of the Supreme Court and lower courts that every so often (but rarely) favor the people over corporate interests. Symbolic wins not backed by actual changes in policy is all we will ever get in the U.S., as it stands.
President Obama’s win and administration is the most obvious and recent example. Consider his entire presidency and place it in the context of an external perspective to see that there was zero meaningful policy change against the trend of the last 70 years. In our society, we still have a pro-police, pro-corporations, military-maximizing, colonial imperialist government which will shelter multinational criminal corporations, stage politically advantageous disruptions of democratic governments elsewhere around the world, and use military power to influence economic outcomes for ourselves and others in the world.
In other words, what we’ve seen in 2020 and the years leading up to it is performative democracy. As we see in Biden’s cabinet appointment decisions so far, the interests of the Democratic Party clearly remain for corporate and capital interests rather than the people.
However, there are many things Biden can do to almost immediately improve material conditions for working class and lower-income Americans, regardless of what happens with the Senate seats in Georgia come January. The question is whether or not progressives will rally and pull gravity to these important issues, rather than fixating on the distractions of MAGA protesters and the now-political loser Donald Trump’s bogus lawsuits contesting the election results.