Editor’s Note: This piece was written prior to the midterm elections, and Georgia’s gubernatorial vote, that took place on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.
“We go to work in the rain; we go to church in the rain; of course we are going to come here in the rain.”
The term ‘rain’ might have been a bit of an understatement on this day.
I’d awoken to the camper van violently rocking from side to side to the point I thought I was back on the plains of Nebraska in the middle of a tornado, instead of a truck stop parking lot just outside of Macon, Georgia. Rain was falling so heavily I couldn’t see the car parked next to me out the window, so heavily that when I opened the sliding door and stepped out, my feet splashed down totally submerged.
Ah well. Rain makes corn; corn makes whiskey, as they say down here.
But certainly, I thought, the event would be canceled. If not at the behest of organizers, then because nobody is going to show up in this … are they?
I pulled into the parking lot in which the event was to be held a full hour early, and already a few dozen people were milling about, huddled under the enormous overhang of a Home Depot.
Dozens turned quickly into a hundred, maybe two. People ‘like the US Postal Service,’ I casually remarked to a random woman beside me. ‘Like they go to work or church,’ was how she responded. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night …
Her name was Catherine Clarke, with an “e” at the end just like me.
“We’re cousins!” she exclaimed, wrapping me up in a big hug. I’m not sure how true this was, given our skin tones were what you would call ‘the opposite.’
Regardless, we both, like the crowd around us, had braved torrential rains for the same reason – to see Stacey Abrams speak.
It is an interesting thing to stand at the center of the country, metaphorically speaking – to stand in the eye of the storm, to use a metaphor fitting the weather.
See, Stacey Abrams is running to become the first African-American female Governor in the United States. And she is not doing it in progressive California, or New York, or Washington, or Colorado, or Vermont – all places currently governed by an old white man – but rather in Georgia, the deep south.
She is, as of this writing, in a dead-heat according to polls.
Earlier in the week, Oprah knocked on doors across Georgia and stumped with Abrams. John Lewis warmed up the crowd at the event I was at. On Friday night, President Obama stumped with Abrams at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Georgia, the nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Further, on Sunday night, President Trump arrives in the state to stump for Abrams’ opponent, Brian Kemp.
And what an opponent he is.
If Stacey Abrams – endorsed by Our Revolution and campaigning on the pillars of expanded Medicaid, education “from cradle to career,” voting rights, criminal justice reform, and so on – is the progressive candidate, then her opponent is some sort of comedic caricature of a cross between George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
In a deep and satirically exaggerated southern drawl, Kemp runs ads in which he brandishes a gun, a chainsaw, in which he brags about the size of his truck “just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself.” Plus, as Georgia’s current Secretary of State, the de-facto referee in the upcoming election he is trying to win, Kemp has flamboyantly and repeatedly tried different voter suppression tactics, even going so far as to say that Abrams’ voter outreach “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.” The man whose job it is to ensure people’s right to vote is concerned about people exercising their right to vote.
It’s one thing to actually literally be Donald J. Trump, and entirely another to try to be him. Brian Kemp appears to be a man mocking his own audience by seeing how asinine he can act and still receive support.
Most hilarious of all is an attack ad Kemp’s campaign has running on a loop across Georgia radio stations. The ad uses Abrams’ own words in an attempt to make her look bad.
“If you change the leadership of Georgia, you change the South. If you change the South, you change the country.”
Well, at least we’re all on the same page here.
When the Stacey Abrams campaign bus finally pulled up and the candidate stepped out, the soggy crowd went wild, yelling, clapping, chanting ‘Stacey! Stacey!’ waving signs.
As Abrams spoke, she began to weave a story from her own childhood. She had won the position of class valedictorian; the reward was a trip to the Governor’s mansion. As she approached the great building with her mother and father, as many valedictorians from across the state were doing that day, they were stopped by a security guard. He told them they were not welcome, they had to leave, that the event was private, by invite only.
The story served not only to illustrate what Abrams herself has had to overcome on her way to the University of Texas and Yale Law School, on her way to small business owner and employer, to award-winning author, and house minority leader in the Georgia General Assembly, but it also served as an appropriate euphemism for Brian Kemp’s campaign – short on big ideas, instead, a smirk and a hand in the face, a wink and a nudge; she’s not welcome at this private event. That is, unabashedly and unapologetically, his platform.
And yes, it is Georgia.
Those north of the Mason-Dixon line may have read it like, ‘Georgia, *eye roll, sigh*.
But let’s not forget that Georgia is the birthplace of the civil rights movement, and now, so many years later, the state may be preparing to strike perhaps the most significant blow against the rhetoric of Trump Nation to date.
Maybe it is Georgia. But in a few days, it might just be Stacey Abrams’ Georgia.
Quote of the Week: