Values That Unite Us
by Diane Halivni
We were lured in by an early statistic: Hillary only lost Atlanta’s 6th district by 1.5%. That’s noticeably different than in the previous 4 presidential races, where Republicans held the district by a 30-50% spread. When Tom Price’s seat opened up, Dems asked themselves: CAN WE FLIP THE 6th? Being a pragmatist, I questioned: does Atlanta really need me? Why care about a tiny house race in the south?
Researching the special elections for JAC’s research committee, I became invested in the outcome. I needed to see for myself. Hollis Wein and I were among 12,000 volunteers that poured into the district over the past few months to support the cause.
We arrived straight from the airport and signed in. The busy field office had dozens of volunteers grabbing a quick lunch before returning to the streets to canvass. Some were passed out on foam mattresses in the back room after being out all week in the extreme heat.
After we picked up our packet with door hangers and oversized JON OSSOFF stickers, we sat down for “Training”. I downloaded the “Minivan” app to my phone and learned how to verify data and voter leanings. We learned the talking points, and designated polling places and jumped back in the rental car and headed north.
Walking the red-colored streets of Milton, GA in the tip of the district, we counted the opponent’s signs everywhere as we recalled the opponent’s quagmired history with Planned Parenthood. We were not sure what kind of voters we would find.
We were pleasantly surprised to encounter civility and a neuvo-melting pot of sorts in suburban Atlanta. Among a good number of friendly caucasian residents, we also met Haitian, Latino, Russian, Black, and Indonisian residents who warmly greeted us at the door with, “ Yes, we’ve already voted!” or “Yes, we are going to vote today,” and even a few thank you’s. Especially sweet to me was Joey, the stay-at-home dad, eager for adult conversation who was hopeful about change, or the lady from Lake Forest who hugged me in excitement when she heard I was from her home town.
There was also the swimming pool tech who works 80 hour weeks. He had voted early and was rooting for Ossoff. When I asked about other members of his family, he said his son didn't vote, and that’s ok because he’s a Republican. I made a joke about how fun that must be at Thanksgiving dinner, and he replied, “We get along fine as long as we don't talk about religion or politics”.
That brought into focus the many homes we canvassed that had not made alternative voting arrangements for their 18-30 year olds who had not yet voted. Many didn't even live at home anymore but were still registered to their home address. On the drive back in the pouring rain I wondered if we do enough to talk about the issues before our kids leave home, and what is at stake if we don’t?
When I returned home still excited for having been on the ground, but disappointed and feeling disillusioned, I pulled up the extraordinary words of Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, which I strongly encourage you to refresh in your memories. Humphrey’s many statements will resonate and reaffirm what you know to be true. Further, he went on to lose the presidency by a fraction of a percentage point so the results in Georgia and elsewhere feel eerily familiar. EVERY VOTE COUNTS.
The statistical Democrtaic over-performing in the special elections in Kansas, Montana, Georgia and South Carolina maybe a slight promising sign for the 2018 mid terms. But we need MANY more people to stay informed and get involved. While critics say the Dems haven't a unified platform or message, we know that JAC’s core principles are clear and actionable.
Jon Ossoff’s concession speech was full of dignity, courage, kindness and humility, modeling the values that he hoped to bring to Washington. While he wasn't perfect, he was definitely a candidate I wanted to support. I thank Marcia, Hollis and the JAC team for their ongoing leadership and hard work to show us that in the words of Jon Ossoff: “The fight goes on, and hope is still alive.”