Opinion – Charles M. Blow: Power will start to feel like a normal thing for black voters in the US


I am a staunch advocate of reverse black migration: blacks returning from cities in the north and west of the United States to the southern states to concentrate political power.

This reverse migration was already happening before I started defending it and it is still going strong. As demographer William H. Frey wrote in September for the Brookings Institution, the inversion “began as a trickle in the 1970s, grew in the 1990s, and has since become a veritable exodus from many areas of the North.” .

This movement has many reasons, above all economic, but I specifically propose to add to them the gain of political power —at the state level.

One of the ways in which people often counter what I am proposing is to speak of opposition and backlash to the growth of the black population and black power base in the Southern states. Well, Georgia is serving as the field where this discussion is being put to the test in real life.

After the Georgia runoff election in which Raphael Warnock defeated Herschel Walker, I heard many people saying some version of “yes, but the difference in votes was too small.”

It seems to me that these comments, along with many others, miss the most important point: something absolutely historic is happening in Georgia, something that points to a massive political realignment in several southern states.

Georgia voters proved this year that the historic election of a black senator from a southern state by a coalition led in many ways by black people was no fluke.

And that coalition re-elected Warnock to the Senate, defeating staunch opposition. Not only did the state Legislature and Governor Brian Kemp do everything in their power to suppress voter turnout — a tactic that is almost always aimed at marginalizing nonwhites — but Republicans turned out in force to try to retain power, which they consider to be escaping.

In addition, black voter turnout for the general election was low. According to Nate Cohn, the black share of the electorate has fallen to its lowest level since 2006.

But in the second round of the dispute for the seat of senator, when the options narrowed and defined better, the coalition in favor of Warnock came back with everything, stronger and more defiant.

According to the Georgia secretary of state’s office, blacks make up just 29 percent of the state’s registered active voters. They had an exceptional presence in the early voting. They went to the polls to prove something. Voted to change the situation. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the number of black people registered to vote in Georgia rose 25% between 2016 and 2020, a far greater increase than any other racial group.

Yes, many people, like myself, were offended by the presence of Herschel Walker as the alternative option and voted as much to challenge him as to affirm Warnock.

But even in that regard, I think we need to take a step back, take a deep breath and calmly assess how historic his presence was. The power structure in Georgia was so shocked by what this Black-led coalition accomplished that they let Donald Trump impose a totally unqualified Black Republican on them, thinking he would help them regain power.

Georgia Republicans thought they could split the black vote. They didn’t. The black vote held together and strong.

For me, as a black citizen and voter, understanding this fact provokes enormous, almost unspeakable, joy. This startling new reality of electoral politics demolished any remaining lies about inferior black leadership or unruly black voters. Black voters want what every other voter should want: solid leaders who will listen to them.

Some people might look to Stacey Abrams’ defeat in the gubernatorial election and see it as a warning of caution, a sign that the “old south” is still alive and going. But I see it in another way. No one relinquishes power passively. Those who hold it fight with all their might to keep it. And in this struggle for power, some of those with power in their hands are going to win some of the battles.

Each election will depend on the candidates and campaigns. The feud between Kemp and Abrams is not a preview of what’s possible. Black voters in Georgia are left reminding themselves of what is possible when they focus their attention and efforts, as they did this runoff.

That kind of engagement is psychologically powerful, as is the reward of victory. It seems to me that once people get a taste of power, state power, it will be difficult to tear them away from it. Having power will begin to feel normal and predictable. This is a reality that many in America have feared for centuries. It is a reality that today gives me great joy.

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