To woo black voters in Georgia, Dems need to change their course of action

To woo black voters in Georgia, Dems need to change their course of action

The Democratic Party needs to know when it comes to African-American voters in Georgia, in the words of old-school hip hopper Big Daddy Kane, “Ain’t No Half Steppin.” Stacey Abrams’ Georgia gubernatorial primary victory over Stacey Evans ignited a glimmer of hope in black corners of the Democratic Party.

Indeed, November could be a watershed moment for the Democratic Party in the South; it could be a "blue wave" reflected in part by Abrams’ election to office as the nation's first black female governor and the first woman to lead Georgia.

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However, the party that promises “we are stronger together” and claims to be the party of inclusion will need to refresh its playbook if it’s going to help cinch an Abrams victory and resuscitate its standing among black voters. That will mean working with intention in Georgia, getting out of the Democratic geographic comfort zone, and bringing back retail politics.

 

Nationally, African-Americans widely believe the Democratic Party takes black votes for granted, according to DNC pollster and strategist Cornell Belcher. The DNC has routinely abandoned Georgia as an inevitable red state even though, statewide, Democrats in Georgia lost previous races by 200,000 or so votes.

That was the margin by which John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's America fights back Mellman: Trump can fix it GOP strategist Steve Schmidt denounces party, will vote for Democrats MORE won Georgia over Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Are we a nation that rips families apart? Another chance to seek the return of fiscal sanity to the halls of Congress Colombia’s new leader has a tough road ahead, and Obama holdovers aren't helping MORE in 2008. That was the margin in the 2012 presidential election and again in 2016 when Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily immigration detention centers could be at capacity within days: report Trump likely to meet with Putin in July: report DOJ requests military lawyers to help prosecute immigration crimes: report MORE won Georgia over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump mocks 'elites' at campaign rally Trump backs down in rare reversal Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE. It is long overdue to stop underestimating the power of black voters who represent more than 30 percent of the electorate. And it is time to invest the resources into sustained field operations to turn out the vote in both comfortable the “less comfortable” spaces and places.

Of course, the party will engage Atlanta. Atlanta now has fastest-growing, second-largest black Millennial population in the country, according to William Frey, noted Brookings Institution demographer. It is not rocket science to reach out to young black voters on college campuses and in social gathering places in metro Atlanta.

However, if ever there were a time to scrap “privilege” politics and taking any single voter for granted — this is it. 

That means helping potential voters who were formerly incarcerated understand their right to participate in the process when their sentences are complete. Over 280,000 Georgians have lost their right to vote due to a felony conviction, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

But once a person has completed all of the terms of their sentence, Georgia automatically restores the person’s voting rights. Many eligible voters may not know their rights are restored and that they have a voice in the electoral system. 

Valuing all voters also means reaching beyond backbone cities of Atlanta and maybe Augusta, and knocking on doors and holding meetings in exurban counties like Clayton County south of Atlanta and counties in the southern and border areas of the state like Sumter County where Jimmy Carter is from, with its progressive leanings.

It is easy to talk to likely voters, and it is simple to go where you know your friends will turn out. However, if the Democratic Party is about inclusion, it needs to bring retail politics back — asking for the vote person by person, knocking doors, shaking hands and meeting black voters where they are, even in spaces and places the party has not traditionally engaged.

Of course, density is a challenge. But there are easy tactics that will enable the party to show their respect for the power of the black electorate in urban areas and more rural counties. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe case for a ‘Presidents’ Club’ to advise Trump After FBI cleared by IG report, GOP must reform itself Bill Clinton hits Trump administration policy separating immigrant families in Father's Day tweet MORE did a bus tour rolling local media markets in Georgia in 1992, and people are still talking about it. It went places the Democratic Party had never been — and has never been back.

Abrams’ campaign reports having focused on field operations from the very beginning, trying to build infrastructure in every part of the state. Now, it’s the Democratic Party’s turn to pick up the slack. Abrams can’t be everywhere, but the party can open offices, engage local leaders, buy in African-American media markets, and recruit surrogates to amplify her message. Break out the yard signs, entertainers, local validators and, yes, ask for the vote.  

There is renewed energy and enthusiasm infiltrating the black corners of the Democratic Party. And the party can capitalize on that energy by going back to politics 101. Reach and respect the voter. We will show up to the ballot box, if the party shows up for us.

Alaina Beverly is a civil rights lawyer. Previously, Beverly was the National Deputy Director for African-American Outreach on the Obama for America Campaign in 2008.