This site has written before about the racist origins of the conservative stronghold in the Southern United States. But in 2020, when all sense of normalcy has been cast aside, some reliably red states have turned into battleground states.
Early in Joe Biden’s general election campaign, many Democratic strategists questioned whether Texas was a state worth devoting a large presence to. The argument went that campaigning in the state would be a cash drain with little chance of payoff. That argument now appears to be wrong, as Joe Biden currently trails President Trump by just one point in Texas, while Republican Senator John Conryn’s lead over Air Force veteran MJ Hegar has dropped from eleven to two points in the last month. While President Trump maintains a commanding lead in Mississippi, Mike Espy (whose campaign we have profiled here) has risen from a twenty-six point deficit against Confederate fetishist Cindy Hyde-Smith, now polling within a single point of the incumbent senator, and support is growing for a Mississippi ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Biden currently leads by two points in Florida, a state that President Trump will struggle to secure the requisite 270 electoral votes without. President Trump leads by just eight points in South Carolina, where Jaime Harrison leads resident hypocrite Lindsey Graham by two points in some polls. Biden leads President Trump by two points in North Carolina, where Cal Cunningham leads the Republican Senator Tom Tillis by three points.
And then there is Georgia, where, in a surprise to many, Biden currently leads by one point. It’s a state that the Trump campaign had, until recently, taken for granted: no Democratic candidate for the presidency has won the state in twenty-eight years. A blue wave appears to be rising in Georgia. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (once led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and his father) is consistently leading his Republican opponent in U.S. Senate polls, while his fellow Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, is in a tight race with incumbent David Perdue for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat.
Naturally, there are a number of factors at play here. Many suburban white voters across the South have grown disillusioned with Donald Trump and his ilk, especially with their attempts to gut the Affordable Care Act. Some Hispanic-American voters have rightly bristled against Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric. And the 3.7 million members of the LGBTQ community who live in the South are deeply concerned about the new conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court.
Of course, polls are far from perfect predictors of electoral outcomes. But they are real. They reflect a swelling movement of progressives across the South, the very idea that this site was founded to promote. There’s still plenty to overcome, not the least of which is systematic voter suppression in southern states, as we have recently covered. Many Democratic campaigns that once showed promise are now struggling. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama (whose campaign we have written about before), Marquita Bradshaw of Tennessee (another candidate we have profiled), and Amy McGrath of Kentucky are all expected to lose to their Republican opponents, and their respective states are not considered winnable for Joe Biden.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up on them. Every vote cast and every dollar donated to a progressive candidate in a southern state is a step in the correct direction. This movement cannot afford to see anyone on the sidelines. We must all participate. In Arkansas, Tom Cotton, the anti-immigration senator who considers chattel slavery a necessary evil, is running for reelection unopposed. If we don’t support progressive candidates even when victory seems unlikely, there is no guarantee that we will even have a progressive candidate in the next election.
It’s time for the New South to rise.