White conservative evangelicals have abused Georgia’s fragile democracy- again- and it only serves to prove the need for a radical shift away from complacent democracy and toward a fierce refusal to accept oppression of any kind.
In a deeply Republican state, Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams managed to secure a fighting chance against her opponent, concerningly conservative former Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Had Abrams won, she would have served as Georgia’s first even slightly left-leaning governor in years, and she would have been the first black woman to ever be a governor in the whole country.
The election was bitter and harshly divided, a clear indicator of the current U.S. political climate. Abrams came remarkably close, so close in fact, that Georgia hovered in a state of confusion for days after the election, anxiously awaiting every last ballot to be counted. Abrams, just short of the votes needed to trigger a run-off, finally recognized Kemp as Georgia’s governor in a speech she gave on Friday, November 16.
“So let’s be clear — this is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper,” Abrams said. “As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But, my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy. Now, I can certainly bring a new case to keep this one contest alive, but I don’t want to hold public office if I need to scheme my way into the post.”
Abrams used the opportunity to call attention to a federal lawsuit challenging issues she had faced since day one – obvious election tampering and voter suppression perpetrated by Kemp, whose office oversaw the election he ran in. He has been proven to have suppressed over 53 thousand voters in his own election, with 70 percent of them being black. Beyond this, Kemp’s office lost a federal case in 2016 because of their use of an “exact match” voting system that disenfranchised minority voters. Kemp has been recorded expressing his concern of extending voting access to voters previously locked out of elections.
Perhaps what is most concerning is what this says about the beliefs held by our friends, families and community members. Historically, Georgia has been a conservative state, and it was no surprise to watch in somber and anger as the entire map of my state turned red with hatred. I have always lived amongst these people; they have been my coworkers and family, my teachers and classmates, my lawmakers and superintendents.
Being a spiritually fluid queer radical with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder has made navigating the social and cultural landscape of Georgia a challenge that nobody should have to bare, and a large part of that challenge is intentionally created by problematic white lawmakers with fascist tendencies. Despite multiple attacks on the voting process, the white conservatives of this state have always managed to turn out in masses to elect the very people who create those barriers to voting – some of the vilest garbage I have ever had the displeasure of calling human. These voters have bought the grandest lie; they have been manipulated by racist fear tactics invented by the ruling class and have been led to vote against their own interests in order to “preserve” a way of life that holds little to no moral value.
This election has highlighted a fundamental problem with the way democracy works in the state of Georgia and with the way democracy works in general. When democracy is corrupted, it stifles the voice of the people in order to preserve positions of power for the “elected.”
Even when democracy in this state has worked exactly as intended, it has still served as a force that strips marginalized people of their basic human rights. This is because when democracy works correctly, it relies on the majority opinion of a community’s eligible voters. Unfortunately, the majority opinion in many communities consists of views that degrade and undervalue the lives of poor, queer, feminine, and brown people.
When the majority of voting Georgians want to strip the poor of their healthcare; when the majority of Georgians want to legislate transgender people out of existence; when the majority of Georgians support a drug war that openly disproportionately destroys black communities; when the majority of Georgians support spending 700 billion dollars a year on war and weaponry in a world where billions starve – these views don’t magically become less harmful because they are backed by a majority.
Just because 51 percent of Georgia voters might believe immigrants are violent, dangerous, or destructive to the economy doesn’t make any of these things true. However, when voters make decisions based off of harmful, uninformed, and divisive beliefs, they elect officials who cut funding to programs that help immigrant students and children. They support policies that literally imprison children. They send men with guns to the border to meet refugees fleeing poverty and anti-LGBTQ violence.
When most Georgians don’t believe transgender people deserve love and support, they vote for transphobic politicians. In turn, those politicians make policies and laws that strip trans people of rights and use their positions of influence to normalize misinformation and hate speech against one of the world’s most vulnerable communities. This means that because an innocent transgender 12-year-old has ignorant neighbors she will not be able to join the girl’s team. She will not be called her correct name, or use the correct bathroom, or have access to hormone therapy, or mental healthcare that could prevent suicide.
Democracy in Georgia means that if most of the state wants a Republican we get a Republican; it means that if most of the state doesn’t want a republican we still get a Republican, even when that means children in Atlanta starve on the streets while our elected officials increase tax cuts for the wealthy.
I am no longer interested in what the majority of what my state or any state wants. I am interested in advancing human rights, in securing a safe world for queer, feminine, and brown people, in ending homelessness, poverty, environmental destruction, animal abuse, and starvation, in standing opposed to genocide, gentrification, and war. I have found that more often than not this means standing against the vast majority of my state- Republican and Democrat alike.
This state does not need a watered-down democracy that works in the hands of an evil agenda – it needs direct action, protest, a paradigm shift, and an unapologetic refusal of the capitalist status quo. With or without Abrams, this means rejecting democratic complacency and stopping evangelical conservative ideologies and officials by any means necessary. The safety of vulnerable and oppressed communities demands it.