The former Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, just pulled off one of the most comprehensively racist and anti-democratic campaigns in recent American history.
Ari Berman, one of America’s leading writers in the country who monitors voter suppression, provided us with the scope of the anti-democratic measures Kemp undertook to tilt the election in his favor:
Kemp began by shrinking the electorate. Under his leadership, Georgia purged 1.5 million voters from 2012 to 2016, twice as many as in the previous four years, and removed an additional 735,000 voters from the rolls over the past two years. On one evening in July 2017, Georgia purged 500,000 voters, in an act the Atlanta Journal Constitution said “may represent the largest mass disenfranchisement in US history.” Some voters were removed legitimately, because they had died or moved, while others were purged for more controversial reasons, such as not having voted in the previous six years. More than 130,000 of those purged had registered to vote in 2008, when Barack Obama first ran for president, and nearly half were voters of color.
Ari Berman went on to detail Kemp’s additional efforts to invalidate registered voters, absentee and provisional ballots, close hundreds of polling places in urban areas and created conditions that forced Georgians in predominantly African American districts having to wait 4 to 5 hours to vote. The cumulative effect was undeniable in a race decided by less than 55,000 votes. Kemp was also able to avoid a runoff by 18,000 votes.
This is what racist policies look like - a methodical abuse of power coupled with deliberate acts of discrimination.
There is no doubt that Brian Kemp’s atrocious acts of anti-democratic sabotage deserves every ounce of outrage and anger. But it is important to point out that he would not have been successful without the complicity of Georgians who helped make this possible. The majority controlled Republican legislature did nothing to stop or curtail these racist policies.
In his debate with Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, Kemp showed himself to be an unimpressive, mediocre man running on a deeply negative agenda. Kemp repeatedly lied on TV saying he’s had not engaged in illegal voter suppression when evidence and lawsuits proved otherwise. Kemp’s suspiciously corrupt business deals put into question other elements of his morality, and he stoked fear with a disgusting anti-immigrant political ad.
Just as white Georgians supported Donald Trump in 2016, they rallied behind their own homegrown racist in sickening numbers. Kemp won 74% of the white vote.
On the other side of the spectrum, Stacey Abrams, a black woman, ran a campaign that centered on integrity, positive energy and progressive policies. She spoke to Georgian voters like adults, promised greater transparency and accountability in government, and focused heavily on increasing voter registration and turnout. Abrams moved people to vote for her for the right reasons, impressing people with her intellectual gifts (that were so well respected, as Molly Ball points out in her Time magazine piece, Georgia Republicans in the legislature would come to her to help explain details in their own policies and bills).
Notwithstanding her valiant efforts, Stacey Abrams was not able to overcome Kemp’s acts of voter suppression, voter intimidation and the staggeringly high number of white Georgians who came out to support an overt racist.
Even after experiencing such a bitter and stinging defeat, Stacey Abrams exhibited grace, resilience and ended her campaign with a powerful speech that stated her desire to use her influence to create a better Georgia. Her hope is Georgia’s hope. Her fight is Georgia’s fight. Because in the short term, the ugliness that Georgians will continue to experience, leaves her no other choice.
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