NY Times Laments Georgia’s Black/White Politics

Georgia’s high-profile, high-stakes elections caught the attention of another national media outlet late last week.

The New York Times reported on the Peach State’s November contests, saying that while Georgia has become more demographically diverse, its politics remain rooted in racism.

“The new Georgia [is] a state whose transformed economy has spawned a population boom and demographic shifts that are slowly altering its politics,” the article states. “With African-Americans coming in large numbers from other states, and emerging immigrant communities … Georgia is less white and less rural than it was a decade ago.

“Yet for all the changes … Georgia’s politics … are today playing out largely on the familiar terrain of black and white.”

The article actually does a pretty good job of profiling the challenges faced by both Georgia Republicans (maintaining their electoral grip) and Democrats (registering enough minority voters to loosen that grip). And it includes a good deal of history of the state’s politics.

What it misses, however, is arguably the state’s most important political chapter – how rural white and urban black Democrats coalesced for more than a century, dominating the state.

Practical-minded leaders like Tom Murphy, George Busbee, Jimmy Carter Carl Sanders and Zell Miller — and a progressive Atlanta business community realizing that green is the only color that matters — reduced the GOP to political insignificance for more than 100 years.

In the 1990s, though, the GOP began engaging in a massive, grass-roots recruitment. And when the Democrats’ liberal base took control of the party in the late 90s, a perfect storm ensued, most publicly manifested in the battle over the state flag and then resulting in Sonny Perdue’s stunning gubernatorial triumph. It took two more electoral cycles for Georgia Democrats to finally stop living in the past and re-build for the future.

But if what U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson says in the article is true – that “Georgia is a conservative state … it was a conservative state when … Democrats were in control” – it may not matter how many minority voters that Stacey Abrams and Rev. Raphael Warnock can register.


  1. Ed says:

    ” it was a conservative state when … Democrats were in control”

    This is a flat out lie. FDR’s policies were incredibly popular in Georgia and throughout the 1900s, a ton of fairly progressive policies were implemented. And of course, the state government was so conservative it determined which citizens were full citizens and which were not.

    • Lea Thrace says:

      Apparently the missing caveat to Isakson’s statement is that the definition of conservative is very fluid?

    • Charlie says:

      The mindset of GOP vs Democrat in GA as late as the 70’s or even early 80’s is that the Republicans were “country club liberals”, were the pro-choice party, and weren’t the social conservatives by any stretch.

      If you put it in either populist terms or social conservative terms, his statement is very correct.

      • xdog says:

        I’ve heard of country club republicans but never country club liberals. I grant you the first were more liberal on social issues than the rest of the party because they were better educated and better traveled, and because they could afford to be.

      • Jon Lester says:

        I can remember as late as 1984, Oglethorpe County local elections were decided in August primaries, because everyone was a nominal Democrat. Almost all of the same people started running as Republicans soon after.

    • Bobloblaw says:

      There has been quite a bit written, most recently by Sean Trende, that southern Dems in the segregation era were not economic conservatives, but populists.

  2. xdog says:

    Georgia started trending gop when the feds started eliminating Jim Crow laws. Gopers weren’t made from the ground up but were largely ex-donks. If/when donks get back to ascendancy in Georgia, watch as gopers cross the aisle again.

    Mentioning the flaggers’ role in Sonny’s surprise is only part of the story. The other big electoral move was Barnes’ losing the teacher vote by his proposals to make them more accountable.

    No story of the flaggers would be complete without noting how quickly Sonny cut them loose once he took office.

    • Bobloblaw says:

      GA like TX trended GOP starting in the 1970s when northern conservatives started moving into the state and the national Dem party moved left. The former is actually more important that the latter as local Dems were successful in distancing themselves from the national party.

      There was a demographic change in GA and TX. Old Yellow Dog Dems died off and were replaced by northern right wing transplants. The tipping point in TX was between 1990 and 1994 and in GA between 1998 and 2002. TX went first (and will remain red much longer than GA), because hispanics, unlike blacks, dont vote 90% for the Dems.

  3. The Republican/conservative alignment was actually starting to happen around the ’20s even in the south, which is roughly about how long you’d think it would take for the party that was on the wrong side of the war to start to heal its wounds. Of course the great depression happened and reset the clock for Democrats. When “should” the Republicans have started doing well again based on a similar timeline – sooner than they did. Georgia just had some skilled Democrats that kept it in the win column for them.

    I always like hearing from commenters here who say the problem with Democrats is that they aren’t conservative enough though, as if that’s the way to win going forward. I think it’s interesting that Democrats are at least trying to get the votes of white moderates (and maybe succeeding this year) but Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot with minorities (Sunday voting anyone?).

    Will make it pretty interesting once it is truly a tossup.

    • Bobloblaw says:

      VA and TN had voted for the GOP in the 1920s and 1950s.

      “”Will make it pretty interesting once it is truly a tossup.””
      GA will never be a toss up. It goes straight from Red to Blue like VA. GA isnt Ohio or Iowa.
      The only way GA maybe is a toss up is if the Dems, which will be the black run party, exclude or alienate white liberals. Nunn and Carter arent likely to be the types of candidates GA Dems nominate if they think GA is Blue and they cant lose.

      • Actually I think with the dynamics of the non-white population here being so solidly middle class there should at the very least be an opening for a low tax conservative party. If you look at DeKalb, black Democrats routinely compete with each other to be the biggest tax cutters (or at the very least the most opposed to increases).

        Yet Republicans currently only see those voters for the bus they ride to the polls on, but once we’re purple and then blue like 2 elections in a row, Republicans may try changing their tune a bit.

        • Bobloblaw says:

          “”Actually I think with the dynamics of the non-white population here being so solidly middle class there should at the very least be an opening for a low tax conservative party. “”

          One thing your missing is that the minority middle class owes its standing to govt jobs and affirmative action. Tax cuts to them mean losing your job.

          So a new party all together. Not the GOP but another party. I guarantee you that if such a party threatened the Dems hold, the racial demogoguery would come out to keep blacks voting Dem.

          Like I said GA will not be a purple state. It will go from Red to Blue. Blacks dont vote GOP (Hispancs will which is why TX doesnt go Blue until the late 2020s if ever). What the national GOP should do once GA goes Blue, is franky abandon the state and try to make up the EVs in the Great Lakes region with MI, WI and PA.

          • Lea Thrace says:

            “One thing your missing is that the minority middle class owes its standing to govt jobs and affirmative action. Tax cuts to them mean losing your job.”

            If that ain’t about the biggest load of bull….

            • Bobloblaw says:

              Oh no it isnt Bull at all. Jesse Jackson was lamenting the closing of USPOs saying it would hurt the black middle class. The black middle class is disproportionately employed in civil service and government. In fact there have been studies that show the black middle class is even more liberal and more Democratic than the black lower class.

              • Lea Thrace says:

                Please point me to these studies. Studies that are clearly peer reviewed and presented by unbiased (either way) sources.

                Please educate me.

  4. greencracker says:

    It’s always remarkable to me how black and white the whole Capitol is: staff, lobbyists, lawmakers, reporters, family, nearly everybody either black or white. You don’t hear a lot of non-native English speakers. Heck, even a lot of the surnames are old-fashioned Anglo. Sometimes I wonder what percent of regulars have a passport.

  5. Bobloblaw says:

    “”and a progressive Atlanta business community realizing that green is the only color that matters — reduced the GOP to political insignificance for more than 100 years.””

    Wasnt the Atlanta business community GOP? I am not certain but wasnt it a Atlanta businessman who ran for Gov in 1966 or 1970?

    • David C says:

      100 Years is certainly pushing it. The Atlanta business community was certainly part of the Hartsfield coalition that ran Atlanta with a mix of black and moderate white support up through the early 70s in opposition to people like Lester Maddox. And in general the business community was part of the Carter (state level) coalition he pioneered from 70 on that elected Busbee, Harris, Zell etc. A mix of blacks, yellow dogs, and business moderates. In 1966 Callaway (a businessman, but from West Georgia not Atlanta; Hal Suit, the 1970 nominee, was an Atlanta broadcaster) and Maddox tried to outconservative each other into the Governor’s office in the aftermath of Goldwater’s sweep of the state. They didn’t get that close to the Governor’s mansion again until 1994.

  6. NoTeabagging says:

    I find trends in recent threads a bit bizarre.
    1) Signing up minorities is going to immediately make them vote (and stay faithful) to a specific party.
    2) putting gender and ethnic diversity on a party slate is going to immediately get party votes.

    It appear parties only ‘play the numbers’ game to get votes. Why not put compelling individuals willing to voice their plans for the future before the public?

    The pandering to demographics instead of individuals sours my desire to take party candidates seriously.

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