Views from the 6th: A Post-Mortem

The Georgia 6th District race is over. Karen Handel is the latest occupant of the seat formerly held by Newt Gingrich. Ossoff, despite running a machine of a campaign and spending more money than any rep ever has, lost by about 10,000 votes. So what did we learn?

Party allegiance is stronger than candidate evaluation, at least for now. Handel is a weak candidate that benefitted from the bruising multi-way primary. But the supposed Republican slate and antipathy for the Democratic name buoyed her well beyond her own charisma and message.

We need a deeper bench. Ossoff wasn’t a bad candidate and had strong support. But how much better would another local person holding current office or with known community credentials have fared? County parties do candidate development, so if you think everyone in power are a bunch of numbskulls and you can do better, contact your county party and step up. If you live in Atlanta, contact me and I’ll personally see to it that you are connected.

Not sure if you are ready to run? You can start with a two hour canvassing shift. Get behind a local candidate. Start talking to people. See how the game is played. Decide after that.

We have to fix gerrymandering. This district in this climate was winnable for Republicans because it was drawn that way. And incidentally, it’s your state legislatures that redraw federal districts. So again, stepping up for 2018 and 2020 state races are your best bet to have a chance to change this.

It would be good to try some different voting systems. Ranked voting would eliminate grueling and expensive runoffs, and allow people to better express their preferences. In this race, if we had ranked voting and you liked Ragin Edwards but would be okay with Jon Ossoff, you could’ve voted her first and him second. This would both better express preferences and encourage more people to run. And it would be substantially cheaper. Most importantly, having only one vote per election would increase turnout as well.

Hearts over minds. The progressive message is one of hope, inclusion, and courage. (I don’t call it the Democratic  because it’s not clear to me that they are on one message top-down.) The Republican narrative currently being sold is backward-looking to imagined halcyon days that conveniently ignore the exclusion and oppression required to produce them. It continues to be about an expansive and pervasive fear — terrorists, criminals, even our own government. This is not a message that should win rationally. 

But winning isn’t rational. So progressives have to pitch a message not about how stupid it is to want to live in 1950, but how courage is standing up for your neighbor, not letting terror cow us. For the religious, we don’t talk about where literal interpretation of the Bible is problematic; we leave that to the theologians. We talk about the emphasis on service and love for the outcast that we are called to, and how all the fear talk about today’s outcasts flies in the face of that.

Money doesn’t matter; we have to vote. Jon Ossoff proved that money can’t win an election. He literally had more money than he could use, and beyond a certain point, it only produced fatigue in the electorate. As good as turnout was for a runoff, the rain still kept many away, and it still was less than the presidential election, even though the impact of the lower level race on the area is greater. 

There are no two ways about it. We have to vote. Money can’t win an election, and as long as you have enough resources to reach the electorate, it won’t lose it either. It’s all about showing up during the generous three week early voting window and casting that vote.

If you don’t believe that you making that effort to vote makes a difference now, you are abdicating your responsibility as a citizen. I don’t want to hear all this Illuminati/Bilderberg/same-same talk. If there is an Illuminati or similar, your apathy means they don’t even have to work hard! 

At least show up, every election, and make the corruption in the system expose itself. You might be surprised to discover there’s no man behind the curtain at all.

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