Red, Blue & You: The 2022 Democratic Path
Democratic candidates must advance an inclusive message directly to voters.
It is true that we have been on an increasingly competitive path for the last decade thanks to shifting demographics, with gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ near-win in 2018 followed by President Joe Biden’s victory in the state in 2020 and Sens. Raphael Warnock’s and Jon Ossoff’s runoff victories in early 2021.
Democrats seized on the failures of the Donald Trump presidency to run on platforms focused on better healthcare, higher prosperity for low- and middle-income workers and a return to a sense of decency and normalcy. Nobody enjoys the toxic politics of shouting at each other all the time.
Or so we thought. It is no secret that Democrats have experienced some tough races recently. In the 2021 race for Virginia’s governor, Glenn Youngkin defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe by 2% in a state that Democrats won by 9% just four years prior. In New Jersey, Democrats went from winning by 14% in 2017 to just 3% in 2021.
Early polling this year indicates a similar shift in Georgia if state Democratic leaders do not address our challenges head-on. Biden’s approval rating in Georgia has fallen into the mid-30s, an often-troubling bellwether for the president’s party in off-year down-ballot races. In the likely marquee rematch for governor between Abrams and Gov. Brian Kemp, the Democrat is trailing.
While Abrams is running behind both Kemp and another potential opponent, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, in the polls, she does have one significant advantage – cash. In the first two months of her campaign, she raised over $9 million, almost $2 million more than Kemp raised in triple the time. Despite his wide name recognition, Perdue also came up short in his first fundraising report, raising just over a million dollars.
Abrams’ message is resonating with donors all across the state who are eager to elect the first woman and person of color to the governor’s mansion.
Even with this financial advantage, Democrats have a lot of work to do to win over a majority of Georgia voters – a tall task, but not an impossible one.
Georgia Democrats have the resources, experience and leadership to emerge victorious in November 2022. While activating our base and the progressive wing of the party are essential, there is no denying that moderate Democrats and swing voters will decide the upcoming election.
While moderate suburban voters deserted President Trump, with him off the ballot, those key voters have not necessarily found a permanent home in the Democratic Party. We cannot take a single voter for granted in Georgia, whether they are a deep-blue supporter or someone who must be persuaded with a compelling message.
Democrats must prove to an ideologically diverse universe of voters that we can deliver on our promises. Although delivering on political promises in a state where Republicans hold the reins of power is challenging, we have much to celebrate.
In the last several years, legislation to combat hate crimes passed at the state capitol, a cause long championed by Democrats. In the 2022 legislative session, Democratic legislators also made progress on extending Medicaid coverage for mothers’ postpartum care from six months to a year. None of these initiatives would have happened without Democratic leadership on the issues.
We must now leverage these victories to demonstrate how a Democratic-led government would deliver on other priorities like expanding Medicaid, increasing the minimum wage and protecting a woman’s right to choose, all of which enjoy bipartisan support among Georgia voters.
For persuadable voters, we must not let ourselves become distracted by the culture wars that Republicans are trying to engage us in.
The manufactured outrage over critical race theory, a concept that is not being taught in a single K-12 school in Georgia, proved pivotal in the Virginia governor’s race and was a key piece of legislation supported by GOP lawmakers during the recently concluded legislative session.
Despite what the hard-right primary-jockeying of Republican candidates might suggest, Georgia is not a deep-red state. We are politically purple state with the slightest blue tint.
Democratic candidates can win the support of key voters only by advancing an inclusive message directly to those voters. We are the party of the people. Now, we must prove it.