EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Last week exposed both the poison and the promise of America. Not surprisingly, the poison—Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol by a mostly white mob that looked, as Mike Davis noted, much like a “big biker gang dressed as circus performers and war-surplus barbarians”—received global attention. Meanwhile, the promise—the stunning election of an African American and a Jew to represent Georgia in the Senate—was virtually lost in the universal condemnation of the mob and President Trump. Yet, while prosecution of the perpetrators and repudiation of Trump are imperative, the incoming Biden administration should focus on building on the success in Georgia.
Democrats’ wins last week demonstrated that, with intensive organizing and passionate mobilization, the emerging majority can overcome both historical and current obstruction. As Eric Foner wrote for The Nation, Georgia’s history includes the 1915 lynching of the Jewish factory superintendent Leo Frank, the turn of populist Tom Watson into a rabid racist and anti-Semite in wake of electoral defeat, and the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 in which white mobs killed between 25 and 40 African Americans. Wednesday’s runoff resulted from a 1963 law that required office seekers to receive more than 50 percent of votes, a measure enacted to block the victory of a Black-supported candidate if several conservatives split the white vote. More recently, the state’s beleaguered Republican Party has systematically deployed modern mechanisms to suppress the vote, from purging the voter rolls to reducing early voting days to closing polling places.
Overcoming these obstacles required extraordinary long-term organizing, led by Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown of Black Voters Matter among others, courageous candidates and a majority of Georgians rejecting Republicans’ hysterical claims that a GOP-controlled Senate was the last redoubt against radical socialism. But the victories of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic church, and Jon Ossoff were more than symbolic. They displaced Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the master of obstruction, as majority leader and elevated Democrats to Senate control and committee chairmanships. That Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will likely head the Budget Committee demonstrates the sea change involved.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.