Opening the show, Markos and Kerry briefly discussed the Biden administration and how Democrats can shift their strategy for the coming years in a productive way. As Markos explained, the mindset of reaching across the aisle to get things done has changed, for the better: “Bipartisanship and unity doesn’t mean ‘Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus’—it means the American people. And this is something I think was a fundamental problem, and maybe the flaw of the Obama presidency, is that he was so obsessed with getting Republican votes in Congress versus winning Republican support amongst the broader electorate … it’s actually a pretty important shift.”
Kerry agreed, saying, “It wasn’t just Obama. This is the sort of centrist mindset that has hung over the Democratic Party ever since the ‘90s, ever since Bill Clinton sort of fashioned it … it’s also just watching Joe Biden go forward really unapologetically on progressive issues. All those issues that we saw Obama sort of stumble over in the first handful of years in his presidency, at different times—on LGBTQ issues, on immigration, on climate change—Biden just dispensed with those.”
Next, the pair welcomed Nse onto the show to talk about her experience organizing with the New Georgia Project. In 2016, Donald Trump won Georgia by 5%. But in 2020, Trump lost by less than 1%. That huge swing was due in large part to the increased turnout of voters of color—which was a result of a massive GOTV effort spearheaded by organizations like the New Georgia Project.
Stacey Abrams founded the New Georgia Project in 2012 with the original goal of registering Black people living in rural areas for the Affordable Care Act. Abrams had noted years ago that 700,000 unregistered African Americans lived in the metro Atlanta area alone—indicating a huge untapped voter base, and one that was likely often overlooked by organizers. Obama lost Georgia by 200,000 votes in 2012, a 200,000 vote margin that Nse noted had persisted in the state for decades. What’s more, Georgia was home to 1.2 million unregistered BIPOC voters leading up to the 2020 election.
To date, New Georgia Project alone has registered over half a million people to vote. Another 300,000 were registered by other organizations in their ecosystem, and as Nse said, “Now, we have a ball game.”
By the numbers, in the nine weeks in between the fall elections and the runoffs, the New Georgia Project’s organizers
- knocked on 2 million doors,
- made 7 million phone calls, and
- sent 4 million text messages.
Nse mentioned other some eye-opening statistics, which include the fact that on average, it has cost the New Georgia Project around $40 to register each new voter. All this was done in the face of rampant voter suppression tactics that were being played out at every level. As Nse stated,
I’m super proud … [of] what we were able to accomplish due to the infrastructure we had built in the state, what we were able to accomplish in the nine weeks between the general and the runoff … we were filing lawsuits because they cut the number of days that people got to vote early, they cut the number of locations that people could vote early, they cut the number of dropboxes where people could drop off their mail ballots, their absentee ballots. They tried to restrict the number of hours that people had access to the dropboxes, but they lost in court.
Regarding these clear attempts at voter suppression, Kerry noted, “At some point [Republicans] are not going to be able to suppress enough votes to keep winning, and they might actually have to start trying to cater to voters in order to win them over. I don’t know how many defeats it’s going to take before that, because they just keep on.”
Discussing how to build on these wins, Nse said, “Trump won 71% of white voters in Georgia. I think that there’s an important lesson there: that a Republican can win 71% of white voters and still lose the race, because it’s a multiracial democracy.”
Looking to the future to lay out priorities, Markos and Kerry made sure to address the possibility of flipping states like Texas and North Carolina using the lessons from the Georgia playbook. Nse explained that Democrats in Georgia and elsewhere will have to remain on high alert for continued—and more aggressive—voter suppression efforts, especially in the wake of the severe “whitelash” occurring:
We are going to have to aggressively beat back this voter suppression agenda—I mean it. I have no idea what was at the top of their list of legislative priorities when the Republicans had their retreat planning for this session, but it has been completely erased, and replaced, by a voter suppression agenda. So they have vowed to get rid of vote by mail … It’s super clear that the rest of the country has moved on from what I still feel like was an extraordinary moment for America’s multiracial democracy and gave us a glimpse into what we could be as a country. But back home, we are facing severe backlash as a result of that, and it’s going to be a problem.
[Also], not the sexiest topic in the world, but redistricting and gerrymandering. I don’t want to fight these fights for the next ten years. I think that this is … the first time that the majority of Americans under the age of 18 are people of color. By the time we have the next census, the majority of Americans under 30 will be people of color. And so, what does that mean? Nearly 2 million people have moved to Georgia in the past decade—a very ethnically diverse cohort of people. I think that we are entitled to one, if not two, additional congressional seats—which means two additional electoral votes.
You can watch the full episode below: