Sandy Springs, Georgia—Father’s Day morning was a little quiet in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, where Democrat Jon Ossoff is battling Republican Karen Handel in an epic special election. That’s because some of the women leaders behind the Democratic renewal there had taken the briefest of pauses to give the men in their lives some attention. “They don’t know where we went,” said Louise Palmer, a cofounder of the local Indivisible chapter. “My house is a mess. We’re eating a lot of takeout. And we’re getting a lot of favors from our husbands because we’re at meetings every night.”
Palmer took most of Sunday off from the campaign, going to only one evening meeting. Essence Johnson, another Indivisible leader, took off an unprecedented—at least lately—full day. “I decided I needed to focus on him [my husband]. There’s been a lot of takeout. A lot of drive-by kisses.”
These suburban Atlanta Indivisible activists once seemed invisible—middle-aged, most of them mothers, some natives, many transplants, voting Democratic, sometimes not voting at all, in a deeply red congressional district that once belonged to Newt Gingrich. Donald Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton changed everything here, shattering Democrats, especially women. There were signs of hope, though, even in the depressing election result: Trump beat Clinton here by only 1.5 points. The district has the highest proportion of college graduates of any led by a Republican. Sorting through the post-election rubble, devastated Democrats here found some clues about how to rebuild—and how to find one another.
Indivisible is just one of many new progressive groups that’s aligned itself with the Ossoff campaign. (Some of the women I spoke with belonged to all of them.) Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb came first, uniting women who met at preschool meetings and soccer fields to take the first steps toward more visible Democratic activism. Then there’s the women-led Pave It Blue, which is more Yippie than yuppie (though not many are old enough to know what that means). They describe themselves as “ninjas.” They dress up like dinosaurs and make Ossoff signs that “glitter bomb” (the signs are bordered in Vaseline with clear glitter, so people who attempt to remove them find themselves coated in Vaseline and glitter). It’s a brilliantly defensive move: Sign removal has been a problem in this traditionally red district. And when their Ossoff signs began being set on fire, they started attaching American flags to them, since conservatives believe flag-burning should be illegal.
Meanwhile, the black women activists of Georgia’s sixth district—who are, as everywhere, the base of the Democratic Party—welcome the newcomers. “We love the new energy, wherever it comes from,” Beverly Jackson of Cobb County Democratic Women tells me. The sixth is only 13 percent black, and it was sliced and diced to stay white, with adjacent pockets of black voters placed in the districts of Representatives Hank Johnson and John Lewis. Recent transplants, of every race, have begun to change the region—the district is now less than 70 percent white—but the transformation has been slow.