Democrats count on huge Black turnout, but has the party delivered in return?
“If Democrats lose control of the Senate,” Slate, 48, said, “a lot of those issues that are important to us, they’re going to be sidelined again.” She talked specifically about abortion rights after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, but something else gnawed at her, namely the more overt racism that she and other Black Americans have experienced in recent years. She said she feared that Republican victories will provide more ammunition for people emboldened by former president Donald Trump to stir racial discord that threatens to set back years of racial progress in the country.
A few days later, Kelly Martin, 39, visited the same restaurant, having finished a morning workout, and voiced similar worries. “It’s a nerve-racking time to be Black in America,” she said. “I’ve never seen more Black wealth in America, but I’ve never seen more hate towards Black people in America. ... I’ve never seen more Black abundance in America, but at the same time, I’ve never seen more people that want to strip Black people of abundance in America.”
For a Democratic Party on the defensive as Election Day nears, there is perhaps no more important group of voters than Black Americans. Black women and Black men have consistently supported Democratic candidates in higher percentages than any other group of voters in the country. They are responsible for turning Georgia blue two years ago, helping elect President Biden and two Democratic senators, one of whom, Raphael G. Warnock, is in a neck-and-neck race for reelection this fall.
Given that the political fundamentals of this midterm election favor Republicans, Black voters are more crucial than ever for the Democrats. One overriding question is whether they will turn out in numbers big enough to offset those GOP advantages. Regardless, many Black voters fear a future in which overt racism becomes more apparent. They have concerns about whether Biden, who is well liked, has the strength to unify the country around a more positive vision. And there are questions about whether the Democratic Party speaks to Black voters as effectively as needed.
The choice for Black Americans is not just a question of which party holds power in Washington and in the states, but how that power is used, and whether they believe it moves the country forward or backward. For many Black Americans, the six years since Trump was elected president have been especially fraught, a time of some economic advances but also, as Martin described, one of apprehension about whether racial divisions can be overcome.
“If Democrats lose control of the Senate, a lot of those issues that are important to us, they’re going to be sidelined again.”
— Darlena Slate, 48
In 2020, about 9 in 10 Black voters nationally supported Biden over Trump, according to post-election analyses. Meanwhile, majorities of White men and White women supported Trump. In Georgia, exit polls showed that more than 9 in 10 Black voters backed Biden in an election in which the Democratic nominee prevailed by just 11,779 votes out of 5 million cast.
Trump’s support among Black men has produced conflicting data about how much he improved his standing during his second campaign. But the suggestion that Trump may have done better in 2020 (even if Black voters remained strongly Democratic overall) has triggered a debate about whether Republicans can make sustained inroads with these voters.
Black voters will play significant roles in determining competitive statewide races in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as in Georgia, where Warnock faces Republican Herschel Walker in a contest between two Black men that has drawn national attention.
In interviews in mid-October here in the hotly contested Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County, Black voters, with rare exceptions, expressed strongly negative feelings toward Walker, the former University of Georgia football star, whose campaign has been dogged by controversy over his personal life. Many of them said they are insulted by his candidacy, calling it a slap in their faces by a Republican Party they see as pandering to Black people by nominating someone many of them say is not qualified to serve.
The Georgia governor’s race is a rematch from four years ago, with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp challenged by Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator with a national following. Abrams is credited with helping to build the turnout organization, particularly among Black voters, that two years after her narrow loss to Kemp helped Biden, Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) win the state.
Abrams has been trailing, according to most polls, and there is concern that she might not be able to match the support among Black voters that she received in 2018. The contest will test both her capacity as a candidate and the effectiveness of the Democrats’ turnout machinery.
The Black voters interviewed, with some exceptions, said they see the Republican Party as having succumbed to Trump and Trumpism — transformed into a party that is unwelcoming to the aspirations of Black Americans. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll taken last spring found that 75 percent of Black Americans said they believed the Republican Party is racist against them. GOP leaders point to their efforts to recruit diverse candidates as evidence to the contrary, and their slates around the country this fall reflect that to a degree.
“I grew up seeing Reagan and the Bushes — not that I grew up as fans of theirs,” said Dennisha Haynes, 45. “But this party, the 2022 Republican Party, is so far removed from all of that. I think they have allowed kind of an underpinning of racism and bigotry to run the party.”
If Black voters have mostly negative impressions of the Republican Party, some of them also have questions for the Democratic Party, despite consistently high levels of support for Democratic candidates.
Black voters are not a monolith, and their attitudes differ based on upbringing, geography and other factors. Still, surveys show that nationally, Black voters, particularly older ones, tend to be less liberal on many issues than, say, many liberal White Democrats. That is one reason Biden, who steered along a center-left lane as a candidate, drew solid support from Black voters in the 2020 presidential primaries; it was Black voters who embraced Biden in the South Carolina primary and immediately revived his sputtering candidacy.
Still, a common critique, even from those whose values tightly align with the Democrats, is that the party has taken Black voters for granted, counting on their votes but not offering reciprocal support for some of the issues they prioritize — such as voting rights or policing reform. As for Biden, polls show he remains well liked by Black voters, but some of those interviewed said they did not see him able to unify the country as he pledged to do.
“I don’t think that they do enough — and I know ‘enough’ is highly subjective,” Haynes said of the Democratic Party leadership. “Some of the issues that we’ve raised as being top issues for us, they end up going further and further down the list of priorities for them as time goes on. And then they remember them at election time, then they come back up the list.”
“I’ve never seen more Black abundance in America, but at the same time, I’ve never seen more people that want to strip Black people of abundance in America.”
— Kelly Martin, 39
Kelly Martin, husband Jolon, and daughters Phoenix, 7, and Winnie, 4, carve pumpkins at their home in Peachtree Corners, Ga., in late October.
The Washington Post this fall has explored the motivations of some of the voters who will decide the face of the next Congress. “The Deciders” series has focused on voter groups that were part of a Democratic coalition that delivered major victories in the 2018 midterm election, when Democrats captured the House. This same coalition propelled Democrats in 2020 as the party regained the presidency and, with the help of two runoff victories in Georgia in early 2021, won control of the Senate. Previous stories have looked at the roles of White suburban womenand Latino voters.
Slippage among any of these groups of voters could reverse Democrats’ gains of the past four years — upending the balance of power in Washington, blunting Biden’s legislative agenda in the next two years of his presidency, and shifting power in states that will be at the center of the 2024 presidential election.
Interviews for this story were conducted primarily northeast of Atlanta in Gwinnett, a rapidly growing and rapidly diversifying county. Those interviewed do not represent a scientific sample of Black Americans. But in speaking for themselves, they provide insights into the realities of their lives and perhaps others like them.
Between 2010 and 2020, Gwinnett County added more than 150,000 people, and its current population is about 1 million. The 2020 Census found that the county was about 33 percent White, 31 percent Black, 22 percent Hispanic and 13 percent Asian.
Over the past two decades, Gwinnett has been transformed from a Republican stronghold to a county that now favors the Democrats. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won Gwinnett with 54 percent of the vote. In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried the county with 51 percent of the vote. Two years ago, Biden won 58 percent of the county’s votes. Meanwhile, local political offices have undergone a partisan and demographic transition, from predominantly White and Republican to more diverse and Democratic.
Yet despite these changes, many Black people here said they experience a sense of unease as they look around the country. Martin, who is married with three children, including a stepson, and works in foreclosure law, was asked to describe how it feels to be a Black woman in America in the fall of 2022.
“Is this truly my country?” she responded. “Can I fly red, white and blue, or is red, white and blue inherently considered a racist flag? It’s very nerve-racking. … It’s very much a sense of wanting to belong but knowing that you’ll never belong. That’s how it feels to be Black in America.”
Slate fears racial relations will get worse before they get better. She described the persistence of more overt racism as a “beast” that has been unleashed in recent years.
“The beast wants to survive,” she said. “So it’s like it’s going to modify itself in order to survive, in order to still have a voice, in order to still have a place.”
‘We’ve got to vote for one of them’
A “Reverend Raphael G. Warnock” sign is set up at a Souls to the Polls event at Victory Outreach Church in Atlanta on Oct. 23.
Inside the Pinckneyville Community Center one afternoon, poll workers sat at tables helping people cast early ballots. In walked Willis Golden, 55, who said he was voting Democratic. Asked about Walker, he shook his head. “All he had to do was tell the truth,” he said. “That would have been better for him.” Referring to the time when Walker’s ex-wife said her husband had held a gun at her head, Golden said, “Violence is not my thing.” Walker has said he was suffering from mental illness at the time.
The next day, about three miles away, the early vote facility at the Shorty Howell Park Activity Building was getting ready to close after another day of balloting. Leaving the building after voting, Fermin Stewart, 68, an ear, nose and throat surgeon still wearing his blue scrubs, stopped to talk. He was worried. Democracy “is really on the line,” he said, referring to the number of Republican candidates around the country who have denied or questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, including Walker. Asked his impressions of Walker, Stewart said, “It’s an embarrassment to me as a Black person. My grandchild could be a better senator.”
Those comments reflected the derision many other Black voters have for the Republican nominee for Senate. “The idea that Herschel Walker is a qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate, that is the biggest joke of the century,” said Penny Poole, 64, president of the Gwinnett County chapter of the NAACP. “[Republicans] know it, but they would rather have an ignorant Black man who they can puppeteer than someone who would actually make good decisions for the country.”
“[Republicans] ... would rather have an ignorant Black man who they can puppeteer than someone who would actually make good decisions for the country.”
— Penny Poole, 64
Polls have shown Walker doing no better among Black voters than most GOP candidates. A Monmouth Poll released in late October found that just 6 percent of Black Georgians said they would definitely vote for Walker, with another 2 percent saying they would probably do so.
On paper, at least, Walker might have appeared to have the kind of attributes that would attract crossover Democratic and independent voters. He had widespread fame as a star athlete at the University of Georgia in a state where football generally — and the UGA Bulldogs specifically — are revered. Many Republicans saw Walker’s candidacy, because he is a Black man, as a chance to make inroads with Black voters.
Still, Jasmine Clark, 39, a Democratic state representative in Gwinnett County, said she was puzzled as to why Republicans pushed him forward. Republicans had many choices for the person to go against Warnock, Clark said, yet they put forward someone who had many negative stereotypes attributed to Black men: “Violent. Absentee father. Multiple children by multiple women. Not very smart. All these stereotypes in one person.”
Beyond that are the contradictions between allegations about Walker’s personal life and his professed beliefs. Running as an opponent of abortion, he has been accused by two women of paying for abortions, charges he has denied.
LEFT: Herschel Walker delivers remarks at a Unite Georgia rally at the Global Mall in Norcross, Ga., on Sept. 9. RIGHT: Vanessa Manley waves the American flag at a Souls to the Polls event at Victory Outreach Church in Atlanta.
The Warnock-Walker race remains one of the most competitive in the country. If Warnock wins reelection, Republicans who promoted Walker’s candidacy — Trump was his leading advocate — may conclude they made a miscalculation. A Walker win in the Georgia Senate race would underscore that party allegiance in a time of polarized politics can overcome glaring weaknesses of a candidate.
Slate said she found much that was appealing in Warnock as her senator. “Warnock just seems like an honest person who has the best interests of middle-class and poor Georgians, including Brown and Black folks and those who don’t have wealth and direct connections to powerful people,” she said.
Keith Walters, 60, a retired military officer, said Warnock is still learning the trade of being a politician and will need a few more years in office, but he will vote for him over Walker without hesitation. “I would say he has the right approach, and his heart and his intentions are the right way.”
If Black voters have strongly negative views about Walker, they are clearly worried about the governor’s race and whether Abrams can prevail. She has been struggling against Kemp, who defied Trump by certifying the 2020 election results and was rewarded by GOP voters with an easy primary victory against former senator David Perdue, an election denier.
Four years ago, Abrams claimed voter suppression at the hands of Kemp, then the secretary of state, and declined to concede. Some strategists said privately that this might have made her a more polarizing figure in the state. Her support among Black voters in Georgia remains strong, though a recent poll for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed her current level of support among Black voters slightly below that of four years ago.
Martin said she has followed Abrams for years and has high praise for her. “I love her get-out-the-vote campaign,” she said. “She’s a very boots-to-the-ground type of woman, which I like. It seems like she’s very much about the people and not afraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to really being among the people.”
Walters described Abrams as “a seasoned politician” with a good persona whom he believes can defeat Kemp. He added a caveat. “I think she can seem somewhat combative. It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. But that can turn off people.”
Slate said Black women are often unfairly judged due to their race and gender. “The simple fact that I am a Black woman, it’s going to piss some people off,” she said.
Haynes admires Abrams but worries about the state of the race. “It really should not be a competition,” she said. “Kemp does not have a fourth of the credentials that Stacey Abrams has.” But she went on to say, “In our state, and I think that’s usually the case for most places, the incumbent doesn’t have to fight that hard as long as the state isn’t in total upheaval. We’re not in total upheaval quite honestly, on the surface, we’re not. So that concerns me.”
Edward Muldrow, 56, served as Republican Party chair in Gwinnett County from 2019 to 2020. Born in Miami, he served for 23 years in the Air Force and now is a consultant working with other countries on large infrastructure projects.
In the Senate contest, he will be voting for Walker. He doesn’t think Walker is “ready for prime time,” but he doesn’t think Warnock is either. “We’ve got to vote for one of them,” he said. “And so for me, the tie goes to the runner. I go with the Republican.”
“The Democrat Party continues to lie to the Black community about what they’re going to do ... and then they go back on their word. But before that they say, ‘Oh, just vote for me again.’ ”
— Edward Muldrow, 56
His first presidential vote was for Ronald Reagan, a choice that sparked “a huge conversation” with his mother, who wanted him to explain his support for a Republican. Muldrow recalled telling her, “Well, I see everything else that everybody around here does. And, you know, it all seems to be kind of one-sided, with Democrats running everything, and everybody who looks like me is running everything. And it’s a horrible neighborhood. So maybe this guy has a different answer.”
As a Black man, Muldrow sees the Democratic Party as taking advantage of people of his race. “The Democrat Party continues to lie to the Black community about what they’re going to do and how they’re going to help them,” he said. “And then they go back on their word. But before that they say, ‘Oh, just vote for me again.’”
Muldrow pointed to a comment Biden made during the 2020 campaign, when he said in a radio interview, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t Black.” Biden later apologized, but the remark still offends Muldrow. “Who is this guy?” he said. “It’s the epitome of White privilege. You have a White guy telling the Black guys, you need to vote for me if you want to stay Black. That’s crazy.”
He said Democratic policies have hurt rather than helped the Black community, particularly the 1994 crime bill, which was drafted in the Senate by Biden. Liberals, he said, should “take a hard look at themselves” before casting aspersions at the Republicans.
Muldrow doesn’t spare his party from criticism. He noted that as Gwinnett County was diversifying, local Republicans did not recruit candidates who fit the changing demographics. “What you’re seeing right now is it didn’t work …” he said, “So now you got to try to play catch-up.”
Walker’s candidacy, then, could be read as part of that effort by the party to play catch-up.
‘The hammer in our toolbox’
Marqus Cole goes to check on the greenhouse at Grace Fellowship Church in Snellville, Ga.
Most Black Americans interviewed in Georgia see no home for themselves in the Republican Party and haven’t for decades, though they see the party of Trump as especially inhospitable.
Maleika Stewart, 21, a junior at Spelman College in Atlanta, said the GOP doesn’t “align with my values” and added, “I feel like there was probably a time when the Republican Party wasn’t so scary to analyze. As a college student, and me personally, I just try to stay clear of the whole party entirely.”
The modern Democratic Party pushed for the civil rights laws in the 1960s that secured Black people the right to vote and prohibited discrimination in public places, hiring and housing. Black voters saw Democrat Barack Obama elected as the nation’s first Black president. Just in the past two years, Biden picked Kamala D. Harris as the first Black, South Asian and female vice president and nominated Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
But the strong support for Democratic candidates among Black Americans should not be mistaken for blind loyalty. That is especially true for younger Black Americans.
Many Black voters feel that Democrats count on their support on Election Day but do not push hard enough at other times on their priorities. On issues like voting rights and policing, Biden and other Democrats have been rhetorically strong but have yet to deliver. The same is true for codifying Roe after the Supreme Court’s decision in June, an issue raised in conversations with Black women.
“I didn’t want to be a part of Biden’s legacy because I knew his policy history. ... But I also feared Trump’s potential because of his history. So I didn’t want to be a part of that.”
— Emmanuel Morrell, 33
Emmanuel Morrell and Carirosa Powell bake and package cookies at their apartment complex in Buford, Ga. “When I’m not doing activism work, I’m baking cookies and pies,” Morrell said.
For some Black voters, the party is neither progressive enough nor true to its stated ideals. Emmanuel Morrell, 33, was born in Georgia in a military family. He is entrepreneurial and operates a small baking business. He has been active in campaigns but has stepped away from the Democrats.
He had great expectations when Obama was elected in 2008. “I thought that was going to be a major transformation,” he said. “His election was of great significance to me. And then, as his terms continued, it [was] depreciating or diminishing returns. ... I found myself constantly having to explain away why he wasn’t taking certain actions.”
Today he is an admirer of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who twice ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. In 2020, Morrell declined to vote for either Trump or Biden. “I didn’t want to be a part of Biden’s legacy because I knew his policy history, so I didn’t want to be a part of that. But I also feared Trump’s potential because of his history. So I didn’t want to be a part of that.”
If Morrell is reflective of a populist and progressive critique of the Democratic Party, Marqus Cole, 36, offers a different perspective of the concerns he has about the party he embraced as a candidate for Congress.
“It’s really important to me that people hear the clear message to vote their values, and values don’t have to be tied to political identity.”
— Marqus Cole, 36
Marqus Cole, seen at his home in Snellville, Ga., ran for Congress in 2020.
Cole is a lawyer and national director of church engagement and outreach for the Evangelical Environmental Network. Married and the father of two daughters, he attends a predominantly White evangelical church and ran for Congress in 2020, losing in the primary.
“Running for Congress as a millennial Black person in the Democratic primary,” he said, “I would often get questions out in the community about, ‘Well, how are you also a person of faith? How do you go to an evangelical church?’ When I was at church on Sunday, people would be like, ‘How are you running for Congress as a Democrat?’ ”
Cole described his political philosophy as “help people, lots of them, especially ones you don’t always agree with,” and “loving your neighbors.” He said Democratic leaders need to be more flexible and willing to search for common ground. “It’s really important to me that people hear the clear message to vote their values, and values don’t have to be tied to political identity,” he said.
“For a long time, [Democrats] have gone to the hammer in our toolbox, which is voter mobilization, base mobilization,” he said. “It’s an incredible tool, and it’s very powerful. I often go to the hammer in my toolbox when I need to do home projects, but sometimes I need a screwdriver, sometimes I need a wrench. And so, while I’m all for base mobilization in turning out infrequent voters, there’s also the idea that values-based messaging, lowering the saliency of some issues, is another tool that’s also effective.”
Residents line up for early voting at the Beauty P. Baldwin building in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Oct. 21.
In one way, the fact that Trump got a higher percentage of the votes from Black men than from Black women is not a surprise. Women of all races vote more Democratic than do men of those same races. Biden still won overwhelmingly among Black men — with far higher percentages, for example, than among Latino men.
“All the things that people have talked about for the last 40 years, trying to explain in general why women are more likely to be Democratic and Republican, may also apply in African American communities as well,” said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University.
Questions about whether Black men can be pulled away from the Democratic Party have prompted discussion, debate and some consternation.
Terrance Woodbury, a Democratic pollster, worries that Republican efforts to woo Black men could bear fruit, even if nominally. He sees what happened in the 2020 presidential election and in some other statewide elections — where he said Republican candidates increased their share of votes from Black men — as something Democrats should take seriously.
“What makes it a big deal is that these Black men who are now voting for Republicans used to be Democratic voters,” he said. “This is where we are seeing men of color and not just Black men, but men of color, emerging as the most consequential swing voters in the electorate.”
Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster, said far too much is being made of what Trump did in 2020, saying that the level of support for Republican presidential nominees has moved in a relatively narrow band through many elections, including 2020. “I think it’s kind of myopic, in that the historical pattern here has been fairly consistent, from a data standpoint,” he said.
As the conversation about Trump and Black men continued, Belcher’s tone suddenly shifted, and he began to talk in personal terms. “Taking off my hat as a social scientist and having my hat on as a Black man,” he said, “I’ve become very suspect at why this has been something that is used in a negative way to attack Black men.... The Black man is somehow attacked … as a political problem.”
Belcher said he sees this discussion as part of a longer pattern in minority politics. “It’s always been divide-and-conquer within the minority” communities, he said.
Democrats worry even more about younger Black voters. Not only are younger people in general less likely to vote than older voters, but young Black Americans are also less likely to see the electoral process as the principal path toward progress, according to research by Cathy Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Chicago.
On surveys that she conducts, one question asks what the best way is to achieve racial progress. For young Black people, the No. 1 answer is “revolution”; about 1 in 5 pick that. Second is “nonviolent protests and demonstrations,” with “voting in state and local elections” running fourth.
These younger voters have grown up with city council members and mayors who look like them. “And they have also seen that even under those conditions or under that type of leadership, their neighborhoods don’t really improve,” she added.
Former president Barack Obama delivers remarks at a rally with Sen. Raphael G. Warnock and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in College Park, Ga., in late October.
For many Black Americans, the 2022 election is not just a moment of choice and decision; it is part of a continuum that dates back more than a decade, a period in which they have seen the country change. Some of those changes have been good, but others have generated feelings of anxiety and anger.
Many Americans, including some of those interviewed in Georgia, said they remember Obama’s election as a time of celebration and goodwill. Even some voters who had not supported Obama nonetheless expressed a belief that the country had made more progress in race relations. And yet for many Black voters, it was a moment of both elation and of concern.
Slate, one of the women who visited a Norcross restaurant recently before voting early in Gwinnett County, has four children and works as an independent financial consultant.
“I was just thinking about all of the history in our family for Black people in America,” she said about Obama’s election. “I was thinking, like many people, things are changing. But there was so much that was under cover that started to come out. … Racism and blatant racism were happening. There were things happening even before [Obama], but it just became so much more noticeable.”
Poole, the local NAACP leader, said she was among those who shed tears over Obama’s victory. During an interview, as she thought again about her own family’s history — her great-grandfather was an enslaved person — she choked up, pausing to regain her composure. She recalled the day after Obama’s election as one of uneasy silence that became a harbinger of what Tarece Johnson, chair of the Gwinnett County School Board, called the “blacklash” to the first Black president.
“White people were not looking [at you], and they were not talking,” Poole said. “They knew if they looked in your eye, you could see their disappointment.” She then quoted an expression she had heard from her father as a child: “It was so quiet you could hear a rat piss on cotton.”
Cole, the evangelical leader and former congressional candidate, said he wasn’t prepared “emotionally and spiritually” for how much that election would touch him. “And I wasn’t prepared emotionally or spiritually for the backlash that would come from him becoming president, and the threat,” he said. “For me, it was affirming of identity. For others, it threatened their identity and helped accelerate some of the problems we see today.”
The problems seem unending. The massacres inside a Charleston church or a Buffalo grocery store or schools practically everywhere. Police killings of Black men. The White supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The insurrection at the Capitol.
“Being a bully somehow became equated with somehow being strong, and standing up to bullies got equated with being woke.”
— Jasmine Clark, 39
State Rep. Jasmine Clark canvasses door to door in Lilburn, Ga., in late October, encouraging residents to vote.
Clark, the state representative, said she worries about exposing her 14-year-old daughter to the hostility she sometimes encounters while campaigning. “People are more empowered to be hateful and think that that’s okay behavior,” she said. “Being a bully somehow became equated with somehow being strong, and standing up to bullies got equated with being woke.”
Looking to the future, she sounded pessimistic. “You have a really nice plate, and you break that plate,” she said. “Even if you glue it back together, it’s just not going to be as strong as it was when it was a full plate. And I feel like we have broken off a plate, and now we’re trying to bring it back together. And we’re picking up the pieces and holding it together as much as possible, but it’s never going to be the same.”
Shoppers outside a Dollar Tree in Lilburn, Ga., sport shirts for state Rep. Jasmine Clark, who held a neighborhood canvassing event.
Like many states, Georgia allows early voting, and for weeks citizens across the state have seized that opportunity. With so much at stake, early turnout has easily eclipsed that of 2018, though it has remained short of the turnout in 2020. There has been a particular surge of participation from Black people, women, and voters over the age of 50, according to a Post analysis, and the increases have been largest in the Atlanta region.
“I can’t complain if I don’t vote my voice,” Haynes said in a text message sent after she was interviewed. “And as a Black child of the South, whose family wasn’t always able to do so, I don’t take it for granted.”
But she said she worries about where the country seems to be heading. “I’ve been so concerned recently that I’ve almost just wanted to turn it off because I just have a real fear about what’s happening with the democracy,” Haynes said. “It sounds so trite, but I have a real fear of what’s happening. There seem to be so many people who don’t care about each other.”
“I grew up seeing Reagan and the Bushes — not that I grew up as fans of theirs. ... The 2022 Republican Party is so far removed from all of that. I think they have allowed kind of an underpinning of racism and bigotry to run the party.”
— Dennisha Haynes, 45
Cole, too, worries about the “blinking lights” that represent threats to democracy, from the attack on the Capitol to the possibility that election deniers will be elected in some states and then oversee future elections. But he also sees the 2022 election as part of a longer arc of history.
“The story of America’s growth has always been intrinsically tied to America’s relationship with race,” he said. “And so at these key moments, America faces an opportunity to acknowledge how race has played into that and grow in a different direction, or to decline to acknowledge how race has played a part of that and continue a malformed growth.”
He continued: “My hope and observation is that many of us choose the healthy way of growth, not the cancerous way of growth. But the reality that we have to observe is that cancer is growth, too. … I think if we ignore the cancer, then we can’t get the treatments for the cancer, and it’ll continue to spread until it chokes us.”
About this story
Design and development by Aadit Tambe. Design editing by Madison Walls. Photo editing by Natalia Jimenez. Graphics editing by Kevin Uhrmacher. Story editing by Philip Rucker. Copy editing by Sam-Omar Hall."
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