On the heels of Stacey Abrams’ resounding primary win, Jason Carter took to the southern magazine Bitter Southerner, not to make a case for why Georgians should get behind our Democratic nominee but to remind her and others that white voters cannot be left behind. Funny how Democrats like Carter caution about leaving behind voters who are in fact not being left behind. Framing Abrams’ strategy as somehow disenfranchising white voters distorts the issues and failures of Georgia Democrats for the past 16 years. This incessant chasing of the elusive moderate Republicans has cost Democrats in the last few cycles.
Carter’s “advice” while not warranted and certainly not needed, drips with the desperation of staying relevant. His cautionary tale of how we need to be the “Party of Both” shows an evident failure to embrace the changing realities of Georgia and the Democratic party as a whole. He is not dealing with an honest analysis of the Abrams plan or the way forward. His words are laced with envy and disdain that Stacey Abrams organized and won in a way that far surpassed his coronation in 2014. Primary voter turnout was approximately 82% higher than when Carter ran. Abrams had more voters turn out for her alone than all Democratic voters in either the 2010 or 2014 gubernatorial primary. The mandate for change is evident.
As the grandson of beloved former Governor and President Jimmy Carter, Jason believed his A rating from the NRA, and centrist views would win over moderate Republicans enough to defeat incumbent Governor Deal. Like Roy Barnes before him, Carter’s coded language of concern regarding National narratives is reminiscent of southern Democrats refusing to comply during the civil rights era. It sounds like Trump’s “both sides” comment following Charlottesville.
While certainly attainable, the battle to flip Georgia will not be easy. Candidates in the runoff on the right are willing to appeal to issues that raise deep resentments such as immigration and gun rights. Coded language and weak stances will not magically make people come out and vote Democrat. Any piece reflecting on the primary election and winning in November should consider the resounding victory as well as the need to let go of losing strategies.
People defending Carter, saying that we should hear him out, also should step back and consider the caucacity of such request. The Barnes/Carter strategy and their chosen Stacey lost badly. Carter’s feeding into a false narrative of leaving behind white voters, says more about his fear of being a minority in the Party with the rising power of a diverse coalition. We are witnessing groups with White Nationalist ties stir up fear of an Abrams candidacy. Carter’s framing only furthers divisive rhetoric that not only undermines our collective success but Abrams’ safety.
Carter’s piece was hastily written and out of touch with the 76% of Georgians who voted for Abrams in the Democratic Primary and for the future. His piece relies on a false premise while avoiding the racial undercurrent flowing throughout the primary. There is no accountability or meaningful reflection in his article. Abrams had a flurry of interviews the morning after her historic win, including a sit down with PBS’ Judy Woodruff. Abrams has explained previously her strategy and what she hopes to build, but once again she made it very clear that her campaign strategy does not involve leaving behind white voters.
Carter further ignores that Abrams’ focus has been on standing strong on progressive Democratic values that provide Georgian families the “freedom and opportunity to thrive.” Rural communities are diverse, and Abrams is focused on the commonality in our values and building the most robust coalition possible. Continued mischaracterizations of the Abrams strategy and focus frustrates our ability to have meaningful efforts toward unity.
As one who supported Evans, Carter should be reflecting on the bigger picture that moves away from the same recycled losing electoral strategy. Efforts at unity should not tolerate mischaracterization of the nominee’s approach. For the past 11 months, media and various party insiders have doubted Abrams ability to win and build a multiracial coalition centered on what is best for all Georgia families and not just those deemed worthy by the other side.
The governance of our state cannot become a vanity project for elites seeking to retain control. We must embrace strategies that have us knocking on the doors and engaging with working and middle-class voters, without watering down commitments to racial and social justice. There is too much at stake this election cycle.
Winning 153 out of Georgia’s 159 counties, Abrams has laid the foundation for a diverse coalition of voters. Abrams was quoted last week as saying “[d]emocrats win when we stand together.” She concluded by saying, “when we push forward together when we bring every independent thinker who wants to come along with us, but who shares our values.” Building to win in November is about standing firm on values that matter to our families and communities.
Looking forward to what it will take to win in November, former Evans endorsers and supporters like Carter who claim to care about the future of the Georgia Democratic party need to get on board or be left behind. This isn’t about centering the need of Democratic elites to be heard. Abrams is focusing directly on voters, families, and entire communities left behind the last several years while chasing moderate Republican voters. Unity behind a nominee is about doing what is best to get the maximum engagement and turnout in November to win. For Democrats, that is building a diverse coalition excited about the prospect of a Better Georgia.