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“Fighting for Democracy”: Carol Anderson on Voter Suppression & Why Georgia Could Go Blue

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As the 2020 campaign enters its final days, we go to Georgia, where two Senate seats are up for grabs and both Republican incumbents face stiff opposition. Joe Biden is also spending significant time in the state, which no Democratic presidential candidate has won since 1992. “Georgia is truly in play,” says Emory University professor Carol Anderson. “We have had grassroots organizing and mobilizing, registering folks to vote, working through getting through all of the voter suppression barriers to bring people out to the polls in unprecedented numbers.” Anderson is the author of “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A record-shattering 82 million people have already voted by mail or in person in the 2020 election. President Trump and Joe Biden and hundreds of other candidates across the nation are entering the last weekend of campaigning before voting ends on Tuesday. In addition to the presidency, Democrats are hoping to win back control of the Senate, and perhaps no state is as important as Georgia, where both Republican senators are on the ballot and face stiff opposition. On Thursday, Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue withdrew from the final debate, which was scheduled for this Sunday, against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who called him a crook during a debate Wednesday night.

JON OSSOFF: Well, perhaps Senator Perdue would have been able to respond properly to the COVID-19 pandemic if you hadn’t been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading. It’s not just that you’re a crook, Senator. It’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent. You did say COVID-19 was no deadlier than the flu. You did say there would be no significant uptick in cases. All the while, you were looking after your own assets and your own portfolio.

AMY GOODMAN: In January, Senator Perdue bought $65,000 in stock in a company that made personal protective equipment, on the same day he received a private Senate briefing about the COVID-19 pandemic. During Wednesday’s debate, Jon Ossoff also denounced Perdue for running an anti-Semitic ad against him.

JON OSSOFF: You’ve continued to demean yourself throughout this campaign with your conduct. First, you were lengthening my nose in attack ads to remind everybody that I’m Jewish. Then, when that didn’t work, you started calling me some kind of Islamic terrorist. And then, when that didn’t work, you started calling me a Chinese communist. It’s ridiculous. And you shouldn’t do everything that your handlers in Washington tell you to, because you’ll lose your soul along the way, Senator.

AMY GOODMAN: Instead of attending the final debate on Sunday, Senator David Perdue plans to speak at a rally with President Trump, who’s in a close race with Joe Biden in Georgia — a state no Democrat has won since 1992.

Meanwhile, Georgia voters will also be casting ballots in a special election for Georgia’s other Senate seat, which was held by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired last year. Twenty candidates are on the ballot, including eight Democrats and six Republicans. The front-runners are incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, the millionaire Republican donor who was appointed earlier this year to temporarily fill the seat; Republican Doug Collins; and Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former church of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In Georgia, Senate races go to runoffs if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. It’s possible both Georgia races could go to runoffs in January and could be the deciding factor in who controls the Senate.

To talk about all the races in Georgia and more, we go to Atlanta to speak with Emory professor Carol Anderson, author of many books, including One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.

You have Joe Biden, in the last days of this race, very unusual for a Democrat since no Democratic presidential candidate won there since 1992, going to Warm Springs, Georgia, to give one of his final speeches there of the election campaign, and then these two highly contentious senatorial races. Can you talk about the significance of this, Professor Anderson?

CAROL ANDERSON: I think that what it’s really showing is how Georgia is truly in play. And it’s in play because we’ve had not only massive demographic changes here in Georgia, but we have had grassroots organizing and mobilizing, registering folks to vote, working through getting through all of the voter suppression barriers to, in fact, bring people out to the polls in unprecedented numbers. And to have two really viable candidates running for Senate and then to have Biden going to Warm Springs, Georgia, which was the retreat for FDR, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, begins to give a sense that Georgia is more than in play.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, that’s fascinating that he went to Warm Springs, Georgia, where President FDR would go to convalesce from polio — in this period, in 2020, in the midst of this pandemic, that the former Vice President Joe Biden would choose Warm Springs to speak.

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes, and I think that part of what it is, too, is that just the way the U.S. was in significant trouble during the Great Depression and President Herbert Hoover was unable to work out of his ideological box, that this was going to require government intervention to help the American people, and FDR didn’t have that box. He had the New Deal. And I think that that is also what is being signified here, is that we are in the middle of a massive pandemic, where we have had 9 million cases in the U.S., where we have had over 225,000 deaths, businesses shutting down, schools not really being able to open safely. And it’s going to take massive government intervention, on the New Deal level, to get us where we need to be.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Republican Senator David Perdue — we just heard Ossoff, his opponent, speaking — who appeared to mock Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris at a rally for Donald Trump in Georgia, repeatedly mispronouncing her name as Kamala. And then Jon Ossoff tweeted, in response, quote, “Senator Perdue never would have done this to a male colleague. Or a white colleague. And everyone knows it.” This is Senator Perdue.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE: These aren’t activists; these are constitutionalists. They’re out there to protect you and me. But the most insidious thing that Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden are trying to perpetrate, and Bernie and Elizabeth and Kamala, or Kamala, Kamala, Kamalamalamala — I don’t know. Whatever.

AMY GOODMAN: Her name is Senator Kamala Harris, and she’s the Democratic vice-presidential candidate. I wanted to ask you, Professor Anderson, about the effect and the impact of Stacey Abrams and her organization Fair Fight, what it has meant, because whether it’s Georgia or Florida or anywhere in this country, talking about people’s right to vote, something you have spent a great deal of time examining.

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, one of the key things is that, you know, Stacey Abrams ran for governor here and was — her opponent was Brian Kemp, who was the secretary of state, who did not recuse himself but engaged in massive voter suppression efforts to “win” that election. Stacey Abrams did not concede. I mean, when you hear her nonconcession speech, you know that you’re looking at a warrior, a woman who understands that in order to get this democracy back on track, it’s not just about an elected office. It is about doing the heavy lifting of democracy.

And that is what Fair Fight for Action is. It is massive grassroots organizing, registering folks to vote, and understanding it’s not just in Georgia, but it is in all of these states where we have this massive voter suppression. That kind of organizing, that kind of mobilizing and that kind of litigation has been absolutely instrumental in getting people out to vote and working with other organizations and in making very visible what had been so invisible, which is the evisceration of so many American citizens’ right to vote, the willingness to create what I call civic death. Stacey Abrams has been just amazing in terms of the work that she and her organization have been doing.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the meltdown in the primary that just took place a few months ago?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. So, in the primary, we had — our primary was scheduled for April, but because of the pandemic that has been allowed to just run rampant here in Georgia, is that it got moved to June. What that meant then was that it was supposed to give the election officials time to prepare. What in fact happened was that we had these massive, massive lines. They’ve done a recent study, and they found that in precincts that were 90% or more white for registered voters, their wait time was six minutes; for precincts that were over 90% or more minority, the average wait time was 51 minutes — six minutes to almost an hour. That’s not by accident.

And the work of making clear — what that did was it invoked a kind of sense of we have got to do what we must do in order to vote these folks out, the people who don’t believe in democracy, the people who don’t believe in voting rights. We have got to mobilize to vote them out. And this is why you see the massive early voting turnout happening here in Georgia and, frankly, around the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about the other senatorial race, where so many people are running at once, this special election to fill Isakson’s seat, that currently the appointed senator, Loeffler, has? And she’s running, as well. And among those she’s running against is the Reverend Raphael Warnock. We saw him preside over the funeral of Congressman John Lewis, the voting rights warrior. Kelly Loeffler, the white woman supporter of President Trump, co-owner of the WNBA’s franchise for Atlanta Dream, talk about her tenure and what this race means.

CAROL ANDERSON: And this race is also highly contentious and really in play. Part of what you have happening here is that when Senator Isakson resigned, retired, he — there was an opening. Doug Collins, who was Trump’s attack dog in the House impeachment hearings, he thought that he was going to get the appointment from Governor Kemp. Instead, Kemp chose Kelly Loeffler. So she is an appointed senator. She is not elected. And so she is running for election.

But Doug Collins believed that that was his seat, and so he’s still in the election. And he is right-wing, and so Kelly Loeffler is now trying to run to the right of the right wing. And so, this is why you see her blasting the WNBA. This is why you see her blasting Black Lives Matter. This is why you see her conjuring up images of massive Black violence, with the mob that was supposedly there at the Wendy’s when the police killed Rayshard Brooks. All of that is her running a kind of George Wallace campaign to go to the right of Doug Collins.

Then you have Reverend Raphael Warnock. And in Warnock, you’re seeing a vision that is about all of us. You’re seeing a vision about what does it mean when we’re in the middle of a pandemic and the Republicans have allowed hospitals to close in the rural counties. What does that mean in terms of being so pro-life that we’re willing to have the kinds of deaths, over 7,000 deaths that have happened here in the pandemic, and more than 360-some cases of the coronavirus? And so, you’re getting a vision of the we versus a vision of “I heard that there was going to — that this COVID-19 thing was going to be really bad, and so, like Perdue, I’m going to do some stock buys and some stock sales so that I can do my kind of — I can get mine. I can make my profit.” That kind of leadership is the kind of leadership that is really juxtaposed to the kind of vision and compassion and the centering humanity, and that we are not expendable, that we’re hearing from Reverend Raphael Warnock.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about that report, calls growing for Richard Burr to resign, as well as Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler facing new calls — this was months ago — over revelations her husband invested heavily in a medical supply company ahead of the stock market’s coronavirus crash. Loeffler’s latest financial disclosures show that her husband, who is chair of the New York Stock Exchange, bought more than $200,000 worth of shares of DuPont in late February and early March, when Loeffler had access to privileged briefings about the threat of the coronavirus.

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, you see what happened with that report, those calls for resignation, those calls for investigation, is that she was cleared by the Senate, but Burr has been under it. And because Burr was in fact the chair of one of the key committees investigating the role of foreign influence and the role of foreign attacks on our election system, and because he was chairing that committee, co-chairing that committee, he was left out there without Republican protection for his wrongdoing, whereas Kelly Loeffler was protected by the Republicans for what she did, for what she and her husband did.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Anderson, finally, what do you expect to see in these coming days? I mean, the amount of early voter turnout has been massive all over the country. And what are you most concerned about?

CAROL ANDERSON: I am heartened by that massive voter turnout. What we see here are the American people fighting for democracy, even when their institutions are not. What I’m concerned about are the series of court decisions that have created confusion in the system about when ballots have to be in, when they can be counted. And so, I am encouraging everybody, if this is your last day to early vote, please do so. The turnout lines and the confusion will be strong and long on Election Day, and so we need to mitigate that as much as possible. And that’s what I think is happening with this early voting.

AMY GOODMAN: Carol Anderson, thanks so much for being with us, professor at Emory University, author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide; her most recent book, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.

When we come back, we’ll be joined by Indigenous investigative journalist Jenni Monet on the Native vote and how it could determine Senate races. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Someday” by The Strokes. The Strokes’ lead singer, Julian Casablancas, has just launched a new interview series with Rolling Stone. I do the first conversation with him. His series is called S.O.S. — Earth Is a Mess. We’ll link that interview at democracynow.org. The Strokes will be appearing on Saturday Night Live this weekend.

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