There’s an old song Georgia on my Mind. That sentiment pretty much goes, right now, for the whole world, focused as it is on the former Confederate state in the Deep South that Joe Biden startlingly won by about 12,000 votes in the US presidential election.
When it comes to whether the Democrats can win the state’s two runoff elections that will decide whether the US from January will have a Republican or a Democratic majority in the Senate, it’s useful to keep in mind that Southern hospitality is a very real attribute of Georgians – but only up to a point.
The flip side is a widespread and deep-rooted feeling that true outsiders should stay home and mind their own business.
Democrats are getting a lot of advice from Georgians and other Southerners. It essentially adds up to: Keep the carpetbaggers, the outside agitators and anyone else who might conceivably be tarred with such words at a safe distance from the election.
Carpetbaggers were people from the North who, after the Confederacy lost the Civil War, headed south in search of power and in some cases fortune in states whose white citizens had been forced to share the right to vote with former slaves.
The arrival of carpetbaggers, white or black, was not widely appreciated, to put it mildly. Of course, it was not their particular luggage style but their reformist views and goals that upset white Southerners.
The derogatory terminology has never left the Southern vocabulary – although during the Civil Rights era “outside agitators” was often substituted. Either way, you get the point.
Georgia’s business leaders may welcome the outsiders who move to the state’s cities and suburbs from the North, from the Midwest – and from India, South Korea, China and elsewhere in the world – and whose talents and spending are great for the economy.
Less welcoming have been Republican Party activists. They’ve tended to look at the newcomers and see voters who might – and finally, this month, did – ally with the Georgia-born Democrats to flip the state blue in a presidential election.
The Republican Senate incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, already have focused their attack ads on the alleged “radicalism” of their Democratic opponents. That was a favored term with which to describe the views of historical carpetbaggers.
This is a practical consideration that needs to be pondered by anyone outside Georgia who might feel moved to jump aboard the Democrats’ bandwagon.
Mike Bloomberg made highly publicized donations of millions to the Biden side in the Florida presidential election. He lost that bet. Should he try again, this time in Georgia?
His call, but if he does so he might be well advised to do it quietly. Meet former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams behind the old oak tree and hand her a sack of bucks to help get out the vote of the people she has already identified who need to vote.
Drop-in campaign visits by former presidents, who have presided over the entire country, might be more likely to rate a pass on the aversion to outsider involvement.
Some Georgia Republicans worry that Donald Trump remains so focused on himself and his thus-far failed effort to have the Biden victory thrown out that he won’t make much effort to lend his coattails to the party’s two senators and other down-ballot candidates.
Some other Republicans think Trump’s absence could be salutary, luring back suburban Georgians who in the presidential vote abandoned their Republican affiliations out of disgust with Trump’s persona – but who remain, overall, conservative.
On the Democratic side, Barack Obama intends mainly to defer to locals. “If I’m doing some robocalls or some guest appearances, it gets people excited,” he acknowledged during a video chat with the Washington Post. “But, ultimately, it’s the people in Georgia recognizing their own power that makes all the difference.”
For non-Georgian politicians less famous than Obama, the pandemic has provided a handy excuse for not helicoptering in. Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will use Zoom to host a virtual fundraiser for the Georgia Democratic Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock.
And by the way, don’t even think about transferring your voter registration to Georgia if you don’t really live there. That’s a felony, notes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The paper says Democrat Andrew Yang announced he would move his family to Georgia “to campaign for Ossoff and Warnock – but not vote.”
Bradley Martin grew up in Marietta, Georgia, and attended Atlanta’s Emory University Law School before becoming a career Asia correspondent.