“OPINION: Understanding what went wrong with Stacey Abrams’ second attempt to govern the Peach State requires a discussion of the myths about Black male voters, a Democratic Georgia and elections in general.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
As soon as Stacey Abrams won Georgia’s Democratic nomination for governor, people started saying things. To explain why she lagged in polls, we were told that Black male voters in Georgia were rejecting her candidacy because she is a woman. Sure, it would be an uphill battle, but Georgia was a blue state, so anything was possible. Especially since Kemp didn’t have the support of Donald Trump. So why are we so shocked to learn that Abrams isn’t the next governor of Georgia?
Because people just be saying stuff.
Although that may seem grammatically incorrect, African American Vernacular English perfectly encapsulates the political coverage of Tuesday’s midterm elections. People have said stuff. People are currently saying stuff. And, in the future, people will continue saying stuff. More importantly, the well-respected pundits tasked with saying stuff on your favorite news outlets aren’t actually required to know stuff. As long as they can articulate an arbitrary opinion with enough confidence to make it sound like an actual fact, they will be labeled a “political expert” and given free rein to say things that kinda sound like they might be almost right.
To understand what went wrong in Abrams’ second attempt at becoming Georgia’s chief executive, we have to disentangle the stuff that people be saying from the stuff that voters be doing. And to do that, we must separate myth from reality.
There never was a “Black male voter problem.”
When news outlets across America contended that the Georgia gubernatorial candidate had a “Black male voter” problem, everyone believed it. According to the popular narrative that someone totally made up, the Democratic Party was at fault for not using their mind-altering magic wand and an endless pot of money to hypnotize Black male voters into not splitting their tickets. Supposedly, there was a secret Black Male Voter meeting at Magic City where Black men collectively decided to support Raphael Warnock’s Senate run and undermine Stacey Abrams’ campaign. It had to be true. It was in the New York Times, the Washington Post and her hometown newspaper! How could all those experts be wrong? Even the astute political expert known as Killer Mike said it, and you know he was damn near Bernie Sanders’ vice president!
To be fair, when theGrio explained this manufactured narrative, we did not have a crystal ball or hire someone with an advanced degree in political soothsaying. We didn’t even have a difference of opinion. Instead of saying stuff, we just used history, facts and a little-known process called math. Maybe we should do that again to see if Black men in Georgia rejected Abrams by splitting their tickets.
Well, according to exit polls from the national election pool, 84 percent of Black men who voted in Georgia’s election cast ballots for Abrams. Raphael Warnock, on the other hand, won a whopping 85 percent of Black male voters. Not only is that basically a statistical tie, but it also reveals that Abrams’ support from Black men was equal to the Democrats’ level of support from Black men nationwide (82 percent).
As we previously noted, the people who be saying stuff about Black men seem to always forget that, over the past 50 years, Black men have overwhelmingly voted for Democratic candidates. They are the second-most reliable Democratic constituency, lagging behind Black women by an average of six percentage points. The gap in support is mostly because men of all races and ethnicities trend slightly more conservative than their female counterparts and Black men are no different.
New governor, who dis?
One of the least-discussed facts about politics is that it is nearly impossible to unseat an incumbent.
That’s why Ted “Cancun” Cruz, the most hated man in Washington, keeps getting reelected. It explains why Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis cruised to double-digit wins in Texas and Florida despite the media narrative about challenges by Beto O’Rourke and Charlie Crist. The overwhelming incumbent success rate isn’t just about reelection war chests and voters preferring the status quo; it’s partly because governors get to set or veto election rules. Plus, incumbents are essentially making a campaign commercial every day they are in office.
People who actually know stuff will tell you that unless there is a scandal or a huge demographic shift, candidates seeking reelection almost always win. Since World War II, about 80 percent of incumbent governors seeking reelection were successful. That’s still lower than the reelection rate for sitting members of Congress.
But why would anyone bother to learn actual facts when they can just say stuff? Or…
Maybe Georgia isn’t blue.
Remember when Black voters turned Georgia blue in 2020?
Except that never happened.
Sure Biden barely beat Trump in the 2020 election, but Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock didn’t win a majority of votes. They had to go to a runoff. In that same “blue wave,” GOP candidates won nine of the 14 U.S. House seats up for grabs in Georgia while Republicans won 34 of 55 State Senate seats and 103 of the 180 seats in Georgia’s House of Representatives. The secretary of state is Republican. So is the attorney general. In fact, there is not a single Democrat holding elected office in the state’s entire executive branch.
Georgia ain’t blue, bruh.
In fact, the idea that a historically conservative state just suddenly flipped undermines the hard work put in by Black women like Abrams and LaTosha Brown. Biden won Georgia because these women did the impossible. They registered nearly every eligible voter in the state. They got them to vote early in record numbers. They organized in places Democrats don’t usually go. And it worked. But that doesn’t mean the state “turned blue.” There’s another way to say it.
In 2020, one Democratic presidential candidate won one election by one-quarter of one percent.
This brings me to my last point.
But white people…
One of the biggest mysteries in all of Blackdom is the Black people who seem to always find a way to make things Black people’s fault.
There is a new class of Black folks who have veered so far to the left they have begun echoing the sentiments of white conservatives. These boomerang negroes love to leapfrog over the stuff white people do so they can look revolutionary by landing on Black people’s necks. But with all the stuff they spew, for some reason, they never ever seem to get to the white part.
Black people and the Democratic Party are far from perfect, and there’s nothing wrong with calling out their flaws. But before you do, you gotta mention voter suppression, felony disenfranchisement, shuttered polling locations, long wait times, gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and disinformation. Doing so does notdemonize white people; it simply offers a more accurate explanation of the political landscape. If we are searching for an explanation, why ignore the 53 percent of white women who voted for Brian Kemp? Why not mention the white evangelicals who proclaim to be pro-life, pro-police Christians but cast ballots for a lying cop impersonator who allegedly had his own secret abortion fund? Before suggesting that Kemp was more effective than Abrams at reaching out to Black voters, why not mention how Kemp closed 214 precincts during his tenure as secretary of state, often “in counties with high poverty rates and significant African American populations,” according to an analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But, I am willing to admit that I may be wrong.
Maybe there’s a clip I haven’t seen of Killer Mike telling white women to “stay the f–k home” if they don’t get their reproductive rights. Even if he truly believed Black people needed land, collective economics and gardens before they started a revolution, it seems like he would be castigating the systems that robbed African America of their wealth instead of telling Black people at a Black conference why “they ain’t ready to revolt sh-t.” Instead of explaining why Dems bamboozled us dumb negroes to “reliably vote blue,” perhaps Briahna Joy Gray should tell her white progressive viewers why the GOP doesn’t have to try with dumb white women. Black people wouldn’t have to revolt, plant gardens or pool their voting power if white people stopped white people-ing.
Or maybe this whole narrative was produced by lying cowards who would rather scapegoat Black voters instead of telling the truth about white supremacy. Perhaps math and data would ruin their grifter charade. Maybe they don’t have the time to learn things before they load them into their blowholes and spray them on the gullible public.
In any case, you must admit…
They do be saying stuff.
Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2023.“