Is Georgia about to become a blue state again? Perhaps. A group of past and present Democratic Party power brokers prognosticated at the Atlanta Press Club this week about how the party’s fortunes were on the rise and predicted that a Democrat could win statewide by 2014 or 2016.
“We’re close, we know that,” said the Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon. “It’s not a question of if, it’s when. I think we are on the right track.”
A panel discussion included House Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams, Georgia State political professor Stephon Anthony, Chairman Berlon, Rep. Scott Holcomb and Better Georgia CEO Bryan Long.
“There are two reasons we’re on the rise,” said Abrams, an attorney and astute debater, who is the first woman to lead either party in Georgia’s Legislature. “Demography is moving in our favor, and we’ve actually had electoral successes that indicate that. We’ve hit the lowest ebb that we are going to hit as Democrats. The reapportionment map that drew us so low was unable to destroy us.
“Every election from here on will be about gaining seats; it will be about gaining seats in the House and gaining seats in the Senate, making us competitive in state-wide races,” she continued. “That trajectory is a bit long. It’s a 2014, 2016, 2018 trajectory, but it’s coming.”
She noted that there is nothing on the Republican side that can create a drag for Democrats because GOP members are squabbling internally, particularly on the national and state level. “As long as we have a cogent strategy and are willing to work at it, we can take advantage of it,” she said.
For the past several years, the palpable public perception of the Democratic Party has been almost laughable given the Republican political domination in the Legislature and state-wide elections. But Abrams, who is considered a brilliant, thoughtful and open-minded up-and-comer in the Democratic Party, plans to reverse that mindset.
“The people react to what they remember,” opined Abrams, of DeKalb’s House District 89, which includes the communities of
Candler Park, Columbia, Druid Hills, Gresham Park, Highland Park, Kelley Lake, Kirkwood, Lake Claire and South DeKalb. “The seeding of new ideas takes time. I’ve only been employing my strategy for two years and I’ve been successful.” But, she cautioned, “That’s a small success in a narrow place in a really large state.”
She believes that if the state party and Better Georgia keep up the good work, the seeds will take root.
“You have a coalition of groups working in tandem to create a perception and that perception becomes reality. In Georgia when it comes to politics the perceptions become reality at election time,” she asserted. “So you watch us in 2014, you watch us in 2016 and you will see that what we are saying isn’t fantasy but really is a prognostication of our opportunities.”
Her energy and optimism was dampened a bit by some doubters within the party and on the Atlanta Press Club panel.
Stephen Anthony, a Georgia State University lecturer and former executive director of the state party, questioned the validity of the Democratic claims, agreeing that the panel’s prognostications were somewhat “pie-in-the-sky.”
“No not at all,” he said when asked if he agreed with his party’s optimistic political forecast. “I don’t think it’s as bad as it’s been, but I disagree with many of the things that were said tonight. Democrats have got to develop a different message. One of the ways that we were able to hold the fragile coalition that we held was that we looked after the have-nots and did a little bit for the have’s also.”
“Success is several years away,” he continued, “especially at the Congressional and General Assembly levels. It’s a vicious circle. With Republicans in power, they control reapportionment. And, they draw the lines their way.”