I was up late last night, watching the updated numbers come in from Clayton County, Georgia, a majority Black town 30 minutes south of Atlanta. It is the heart of the late John Lewis's former congressional district, one soon-to-be former President Donald Trump once claimed was “crime-infested" and “falling apart," so it was fitting that this county was the one that put Joe Biden over the top in Georgia (barring sad Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's desperately awaited military ballots).

Yes, Georgia. No Democratic presidential candidate has won the state since Bill Clinton in 1992. I was a college freshman during that election. My friend Zach ran around the Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia, cheering and dancing, once Clinton was declared president-elect. We were excited for change, but we didn't fear that democracy was at stake. We also didn't think we'd have to fumigate the White House once George H.W. Bush left.

It's a different, much darker time now, and not just because I've grown old and wear my trousers rolled. But I want us to reclaim our joy today and try not to think too much about President Klan Robe. Today is for the heroes.

Stacey Abrams narrowly “lost" the 2018 Georgia governor's race, one where her opponent was the secretary of state and literally in charge of who was able to vote. Brian Kemp's voter suppression tactics were blatant and repulsive, but Abrams still came within 55,000 votes of defeating him.

She accepted the tainted election results, but she didn't concede the battle. She launched the nonprofit Fair Fight, which according to Newsweek went on to register an estimated 800,000 new voters in the next two years.

[Fair Fight] also raised around $32 million by October 2020 to help increase registration. Abrams previously founded the The New Georgia Project in 2013, which focused on registering minority voters in the state.

Discussing these new voters with NPR on November 2, Abrams said: "Of those numbers, what we are excited about is that 45 percent of those new voters are under the age of 30. Forty-nine percent are people of color. And all 800,000 came on the rolls after November '18."

The early voting numbers in Georgia were through the roof and had almost matched the 2016 turnout before Election Day. It was predicted at least six million Georgians would vote in 2020. Black voters across the state, joined by more than a few Julia Sugarbakers in the Atlanta suburbs, came out in force to dump Trump.

This isn't “fraud." These are all legal ballots cast legally by American voters in a free and fair election. Republican officials have done everything they can to disenfranchise Black voters, but this election in particular has shown us our strength, the power we possess. Georgia was always more than Brian Kemp, Kelly Loeffler, and David Perdue. It's the home of Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Stacey Abrams, who broke through the red wall like the Doctor in my favorite episode of television.

Even if Biden's lead doesn't hold or survive a recount, this was a remarkable achievement that gave us a shot at prying the Senate from Mitch McConnell's cold, dead hands. Perdue fell below 50 percent and will face Jon Ossoff in a January runoff. Loeffler, who ran an overtly anti-Black campaign, will go head-to-head against Rev. Raphael Warnock. Flipping those seats feels like less of a longshot now.

Black voters also helped return the Rust Belt to the Democratic column. We turned out in record numbers in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. Some of the people sitting in lawn chairs in lines that wrapped around the block had never voted before, even for Barack Obama. That's how much was at stake this year.

Gerry Gaines was 62 years old when she cast her first-ever ballot — on Tuesday in West Chester for Joe Biden.

"After the [2016] election, I felt bad," Gaines. "I said, 'That's it. I'm voting.'"

Philadelphia Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, who is the leader of Northwest Philadelphia's 50th Ward, said proudly, "People came on a mission, they came to get a job done."

Philadelphia is known as the birthplace of freedom, but like most majority-Black cities, Trump considers it hostile territory. During his first deranged debate performance, he claimed that “bad things happen in Philadelphia." He apparently meant voting. This is why he declared victory Tuesday night before votes from the state's largest city were fully counted.

If only white people voted, Trump would've comfortably won reelection. But Black people in this country vote and we will continue to vote. Republicans who oppose true democracy won't stop their dirty tricks, but heroes like Stacey Abrams will make sure every Gerry Gaines has their voice heard. Today, we are speaking loudly and uniformly, and it's beautiful to see.

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Newsweek]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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