As a self-identified leftist and Marxist, I had mixed feelings going into the 2020 general election. I’ve long believed that this nation– and the world at large– require a deeply transformative change if we want to see anything resembling equity, the type of change that requires demolition of existing structures and construction of entirely new ones in their place. I felt conflicted as I darkened the circle for Biden on my ballot; still, I felt convicted in the belief that I couldn’t allow myself to be complicit in Trump’s re-election and the suffering it represented. This isn’t to shame anyone who didn’t vote because of a sense of moral obligation, nor is it to naively pretend that a Biden presidency wouldn’t result in a similar type of suffering; however, my own moral obligation prompted me to mail my absentee ballot in mid-October, voting blue down-ballot to fulfill a nebulous sense of duty.
I wish I could say I was more optimistic about the outcome. I’d come up with a mental list of bleak predictions for the election:
Georgia becomes a swing, or “purple,” state.
It goes red, giving Trump our 16 electoral votes.
Perdue (R) beats Ossoff (D) (despite Perdue’s anti-Semitic attacks on Ossoff).
Warnock (D) beats Loeffler (R) by a narrow margin.
Thankfully, I was wrong about several things.
Georgia turned blue for the first time since 1992. If you’d told me a year ago that this would happen, I’d have laughed sympathetically at your misplaced optimism. I remember seeing the margin between Trump and Biden narrowing and narrowing and narrowing… and then I turned off my phone to watch Ratatouille. I wasn’t about to get my hopes up only to have them dashed again. The next morning, I woke up to a blue Georgia and screamed. My friends from home and I texted rapid-fire about how unreal this moment felt; I won’t pretend I didn’t feel a hidden sense of pride that my vote was part of what flipped the state.
As election results continued to come in, the elections I’d really been tracking began to take shape. I’ve always felt that local and state politics do more for individuals than national politics; this country’s fixation on the presidency diminishes the work being done in Congress and in individual cities. This year, Georgia had two Senate races: the regular election and a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Senator Johnny Isaakson at the end of 2019.
No candidate carried the majority of the vote in their races, prompting a run-off between the top two vote recipients, in accordance with Georgia law. Georgia’s runoff law was actually created in the 1960s in an attempt to lessen the likelihood of Black candidates winning via a plurality in a multi-candidate race; since the 1990s, the law has been effective in keeping Republicans in power in the generally conservative state, with Democrats only winning one of the seven runoffs since then. This runoff has been scheduled for January 5th, 2020, and there seems to be a widespread belief that things may change this time. With record-setting Democratic turnout in the state due to sweeping attempts at combating voter suppression, it seems that there may be a real chance for this race to be close (and perhaps even swing blue).
If you’re wondering why any of this matters, it’s because if things go as expected elsewhere in the country, Georgia’s elections will decide the fate of the Senate until further notice. If Ossoff (D) and Warnock (D) both win their elections, the Senate will be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans; such a situation would require Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to cast tie-breaking votes and likely carry out the Democratic agenda. If even one of them loses, however, Republicans hold onto the Senate.
I wish I could say that I know what comes next, but that would be willfully naive of me. What I can say is this: I will vote on January 5th with optimism for the future in my heart. I will vote on January 5th with the understanding that my vote will not and cannot upend systemic inequality and carceral capitalism. I will vote on January 5th and then continue to work towards dismantling systems of oppression where I can. I will vote on January 5th with the knowledge that activism neither starts nor ends with a vote; far too often, elections present an excuse for complacency among neoliberals. I will vote on January 5th with hope for the coming of a day when I don’t feel compelled to cast a ballot for someone in whom I don’t believe. Until then, I’m going to continue doing what I believe is the next right thing.
In the immortal words of Assata Shakur:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”