When it became clear that former Vice President Joe Biden had won Georgia, prominent Democrats attributed the victory to Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight and other local grassroots organizations, often led by women of color and emerging as Democratic voters across the state. In response to Stacey Abrams’ thanks to local electoral organizations, Hillary Clinton tweeted, “And thank you, Stacey. Thank you very much. “But thank you is one thing and power is another. We have identified over ten local organizations that are publicly credited with increasing Democratic turnout in Georgia this year. What are the political priorities of the organizations including Democrats believe they made Georgia blue and are they likely to get what they want from the party?
Unsurprisingly, many of the grassroots voter mobilization organizations, especially in light of efforts to suppress voters in Georgia since Shelby’s decision against Holder, identify the right to vote as a key political issue. The New Georgia Project and All Voting is Local-Georgia, lauded for its “black-led grassroots organization that changed the landscape in GA,” has drawn attention to the ongoing disproportionate effects of voting changes – including registration blocks, election closings, and voter purges – on black residents. Abrams’ Fair Fight Action Emphasizes the need to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act 2019 (HR 4), entitled John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore the Voting Rights Act. Black Voters Matter-Georgia, which provides local community groups with access to voter records and text programs to aid their turnout, advocates automatic universal voter registration and an end to the restrictions that exclude former prisoners from voting.
In addition to the right to vote, immigration reform was also a common concern of the democratic grassroots in Georgia. Hailed for increasing voter registration in the state, Galeo has called for a rigorous, comprehensive path to citizenship for Georgia’s 400,000 undocumented residents. Fair Count Inc. opposed efforts by the Trump administration to exclude undocumented residents from the 2020 census, which will determine the redistribution and division of legislation. Galeo and the Latino Community Fund of GA have urged the state and federal government to prevent exploitative labor practices imposed on undocumented workers. Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, which has independently created linguistic resources in the language, registered new voters, and provided transportation and interpreting assistance to voters, has called for ICE to close its pipeline between prison and deportation. Mijente, who organized the “Fuera Trump” campaign to motivate Latino voters through knocking on the door and telephone banking, called on the Biden government to introduce a moratorium on deportation and to guarantee affordable health care for all people regardless of immigration status.
Finally, many of the grassroots activists in Georgia, who praised Democrats for their voter registration and turnout this year, have called for a plan to end mass detention. The NAACP in Georgia, which has focused its mobilization efforts on seniors, college students, ex-incarcerated citizens, and country voters, advocates the introduction of recovery practices to replace the punishment of cancer. After a report showed that blacks in Georgia are three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, the ACLU, which provided voting resource guides and helped voters plan their elections, called for the full legalization of marijuana use and possession nationwide.
These are, of course, only a few of the political positions that these grassroots organizations advocate. Black Voters Matter-Georgia, for example, subscribes to the M4BL (Movement for Black Lives) platform, which deals with issues ranging from health care to housing. However, three issues – voting, immigration and incarceration – have always been at the fore of the concerns that motivated grassroots organizers who blamed Democrats for their turnout that year.
If these are the political goals of the grassroots democratic organizations in Georgia, how likely are they to get what they want from the party? All three major issues are certainly on the Democratic agenda, and voting rights in Washington in particular would have a significant boost if the Democrats held majorities in both houses of Congress. To the extent that grassroots priorities in Georgia call for legislation, their progress depends on winning the upcoming state runoff elections, which in turn determine Senate party control.
However, looking ahead to the next few months, the picture becomes much more complicated. One could imagine that their perceived electoral power in a battlefield state would give these grassroots organizations a significant influence on Democratic priorities in the years to come. In a party, politicians are in coalition with pressure groups and activists, and movements that can cast votes tend to have authority over the party’s agenda.
On the other hand, there are reasons to doubt. Political scientists argue that the Democratic Party has been “hollowed out”, weakening the links between its grassroots and the party’s leadership. The decline of the party organizations went hand in hand with an increasing dependence on advisors and campaigners. The death of the campaign funding reform brought money from party institutions to outside groups that were heavily dependent on wealthy donors. In the amorphous networks of influence that dominate political activity today, grassroots organizations have less leverage to assert themselves.
 Fair Fight focuses on electoral reform and participates in voter education programs. Fair Fight Action mobilizes voters and advocates progressive issues. Stacey Abrams founded the organizations sharing the same website.