George on Georgia – How Ossoff and Warnock could lose in three weeks
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Let me tell you how Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock lose in three weeks.
They lose if they let people who don’t live here manage their relationships with the people who do. They lose if they let earnest young political operatives with Ivy League degrees and a mercenary’s sense of self-preservation tell them who is important here and who can be ignored.
This is how Clinton lost in 2016. And if they allow this dynamic here, it is how they will lose in January.
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I went to the capitol Monday to watch the casting of electors, and to go loony watching. I should take up golf. I hate golf. But the bystander risk is lower, since a wrong turn with the militias less like eating a slicing drive and more like catching a tire in the stands at Talladega.
The militias stayed away Monday. The loonies did not.
As I stood with the folks from CNN, I saw CJ Pearson walk by in the hall. Pearson is a young Black Republican activist, a social media star and the lead plaintiff on Sidney Powell’s absurd election lawsuit.
He also would have been one of the Republican electors, had Trump won Georgia.
I recognized him because I knew him. I have known him for at least five years because I know Georgia politics. I knew he was on the Powell suit because I know Georgia politics. I knew he was an elector without having to look it up because I know Georgia politics. And I understood immediately what his presence must have meant — an attempt at elector shenanigans by voting an “alternate” slate — because I know Georgia politics.
I was not, however, a credentialed journalist, so the folks from the Democratic Party politely told me I had to observe the event from the cheap seats. Which is fine, since the plane crash was downstairs. Now, I could have been very quiet and simply scooped everyone. I did tweet about it quickly. But I also passed the word along to every news reporter present about what was happening in room 216 of the capital, and the implications, because we’re all in this loopy alternative timeline together and there should be solidarity among the press.
Or so I believed.
Tuesday, the Biden campaign took over the campaigns of Warnock and Ossoff and Blackman for a day, as the president-elect swooped in to offer encouragement to the masses in Kirkwood.
Kirkwood. Our backyard. Decaturish’ stomping grounds. The place where this publication covers local restaurant openings and neighborhood planning unit meetings and school board debates, where we have to think about how people will react to a traffic calming feature on Memorial Drive or new playground equipment in a park. The locallest of local coverage.
Biden’s team denied Zoe Seiler and Dean Hesse, Decaturish’s reporters, media access to the event in addition to some other local outlets. They claimed it was a COVID-19 protocol and were restricting access to pool reporters only. And then they let in people they liked anyway.
Now, I suppose I could have been there, but I am not in the business of bigfooting other reporters for Decaturish on their assignments. And if Biden’s team were making ad hoc decisions about access, then perhaps someone on the local campaign team might have recognized me, and I might have been given access.
And that’s not how this is supposed to work.
This isn’t about me. This isn’t about Decaturish. This is about whether the Democratic candidates and their campaigns have enough sense to understand how to build relationships they’re going to need to keep for two years, or 20 years — not with me, but with the people and the institutions of the communities they represent.
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Decaturish is a Poynter-institute recommended publication for local election information, with 400,000 page views monthly. Those readers are, by and large, in the sweet spot for the campaigns: suburban, somewhat more affluent and the people most likely to have flipped from Trump to Biden over the last four years.
And the Democratic campaigns just took a dump on it.
Four years ago, Clinton’s team of Beltway veterans with six-figure salaries figured they had Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the bag — so much so that they didn’t even bother running ads there until a couple of weeks before the election. These are people who generally go unpunished for failure because access is success. None of them lost a meal or missed a mortgage payment because Trump won.
As a liberal, I call them the Beltway political elite. Republicans call them the Swamp. It’s the same thing. They live a thousand miles away. They hold wealth and authority largely because of their ability to manage palace intrigue and not because of their ability to deliver results. They are perceived as at best indifferent if not actively hostile to the interests and preferences of the average voter. And they are repulsive to Georgians, left and right.
I smell them on you, guys. And if I can smell them, voters can smell them. Take a shower before Election Day, while you can. There’s too much at stake.
– George Chidi is a political columnist and public policy advocate. He also writes for The Intercept.
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