Just a full week into the new year, the US has already seen its fair share of division, political polarization and attempted government overturns. A coup attempt took place in the U.S. Capitol shortly after Georgia’s runoff results predicted that two Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock would win their Senate races on Jan. 6.
A runoff election takes place if the victorious candidate in a primary or general election does not reach the minimum number of votes required to win that state. If, under Georgian law, no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff to determine a winner.
Polls to drop out of Georgia’s January 6 runoff show that both Democratic candidates outperformed their incumbent Republicans Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue among black women and men. However, the Democrats were significantly less popular with white men and women. Only 27% and 28% of white men and 31% of white women voted for Ossoff and Warnock, respectively. In total, more than 7.7 million Georgians were registered to take part in the runoff elections in Georgia.
IU Political Science Professor Sean Byrne explained the importance of this victory.
“The only reason the Democrats have a majority is because of the two senatorial positions in Georgia,” he said.
These races were crucial in determining who controlled the Senate and, according to Byrne, would ultimately have the casting vote in the event of a 50/50 split. For the past 32 years, the Senate has been split between Republicans and Democrats. According to Byrne, after Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, the Democrats had a majority but one majority for 50 years.
While Democrats have a majority in the Senate, their efforts and laws will not necessarily be easily agreed and passed by Congress.
Professor Vanessa Cruz Nichols, of the IU’s Political Science Division, explained the need for a majority for Democrats to ensure that the laws are passed.
Cruz Nichols said there is a filibuster rule that made it difficult for former President Barack Obama to work past. She said the existing filibuster rule’s 60/40 threshold will still be an issue for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris because they need to attain a super-major.
This democratic victory, according to Cruz Nichols and Byrne, is the result of the hard work of grassroots organizations like The New Georgia Project and individual power plants like former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
In 2014, the New Georgia Project began as a voter registration program with the goal of registering all eligible, unregistered color citizens of Georgia by the end of the decade. By September 2019, the project had registered nearly half a million Georgians in all 159 counties of Georgia.
In a decades-long struggle, Stacey Abrams has proven that the black and brown vote can very well determine the outcome of an election for an entire state and at the same time determine the path for the nation.
Abrams helped register more than 800,000 new voters in the state of Georgia. Their efforts were fueled by their allegations that Republican governor of Georgia Brian Kemp was implicated in acts of widespread voter suppression when Abrams ran against him in 2018.
Since then, Abrams has been determined to ensure that all black and browns who are eligible to vote in the state not only register but also vote in the elections.
What happened in Georgia not only helped Democrats gain control of the federal government, it also gave way to the fact that votes matter.
The majority of democratic voters in Georgia are black – they make up about 30% of the total electorate – and it was these voters who drove the high democratic turnout.
Overall, voter turnout reached 93% of 2020 levels in areas where at least 80% of voters were black voters. When black and brown people come together, we are a force to be reckoned with.
Blacks and browns are at the top of the list of people who thank and appreciate this great victory for the Democratic Party. The favor should be returned through legislation.
Black and brown people have been fighting for equality and equal opportunities for hundreds of years, and a Democratic Senate could help meet some of their needs.
“The disproportionate rates at which the pandemic has hit black and brown communities are enormous,” said Cruz Nichols.
She said police brutality and immigration issues may be what the administration should address.
As the coronavirus pandemic and new strains emerge in the US, the black and brown communities remain the populations with the highest reported COVID-19 death rate. Blacks are 2.3 times more likely to die from the virus than whites.
Black and brown people make up a large portion of the frontline workers and are constantly at risk of contracting the virus.
Biden plans to roll out a plan to increase stimulus checks and COVID-19 bailouts for U.S. citizens from the $ 600 proposed by Congress to $ 2,000. With the Democrats in control of the Senate, Biden has the benefit of having these laws passed in Congress.
This relief will help create a financial cushion and support working class people living in low-income areas.
Another problem that is urgent in black and brown communities is student loans and the aftermath of a college degree.
The average black borrower owes nearly $ 34,000. With Biden’s proposed plan to cancel student loan debt of $ 10,000 for all borrowers, the blacks and browns will benefit financially.
While recent events such as the attack on the U.S. Capitol have shocked the nation, it’s important to understand that good can prevail. While it may not happen suddenly, efforts for unity in Georgia and across the nation have proven that change is happening in this society and showing people which side of history they want to be on.
In this sense one must never forget the power that exists in him. Use your voice. Use your power forever.