Voting shows: Resistance is rising, even in Trump country
Jon Ossoff speaks to supporters at the watch party in Dunwood, Ga. on April 18, the night of the original special election. Facing a huge number of GOP opponents he came within two points of winning the election outright that night but because he fell short of 50 percent, he was forced into the runoff with Karen Handel. | John Bazemore/AP

In special elections for House seats yesterday, voters showed that they are gearing up to fight Republican efforts to destroy Obamacare and that resistance to Donald Trump is growing. The resistance is evident even in Trump-controlled congressional districts that are rife with voter supression and have been gerrymandered to ensure right-wing control.

The elections were held in Georgia’s 6th and South Carolina’s 5th District. In previous years, right wingers waltzed to victory. This year, voters forced them to run scared. They managed to win, but by margins significantly slimmer than their predecessors.

In South Carolina, the Politico online newsletter reported, “The district swung drastically to Democrats.” Right wing U.S. Representative Mick Mulvaney had won by 21 points last November and Trump won the district by 18 percentage points.

Mulvaney vacated his seat when Trump tapped him to become director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The district is largely rural and observers expected Mulvaney clone Ralph Norman to win it handily. Norman is a state legislator who Politico describes as “a conservative hardliner [who] has said he would join the House Freedom Caucus if elected.”

Norman seemed to have everything going for him: he was supported by the billionaire-backed backed Club for Growth. His Democratic opponent, Archie Parnell, was largely ignored by the Democratic National Committee and ran a relatively low-budget campaign.

Norman made clear that he supports lowering Medicaid benefits even though a large number of District 5’s rural, poor and older voters depend on them.

As a result, Norman eked out his victory by less than three percentage points, even though in 2010 Republicans redrew the district’s lines to ensure that it stays within their grip.

Nationally-respected political observer Stephen Wolf explained in the Daily Kos that “Democrats were competitive in three different Republican-leaning [South Carolina] congressional seats as recently as the 2010 elections, and Team Red consequently sought to solidify their hold over South Carolina’s congressional delegation during 2010’s redistricting. Republicans packed as many Democrats into the black-majority 6th district as they could from Charleston, Columbia, and the rural Black Belt to ensure that all four surrounding seats were heavily white and Republican.”

Wolf went on to say “Hopefully, black voters will sue [under the Voting Rights Act] to force” the re-drawing district lines in the 2020s round of redistricting.

There were large swings to the Democrats earlier this year in special elections in both Kansas and Montana. In all three of those states (Montana, Kansa, and South Carolina large numbers of Trump voters switched away from the GOP and voted for the Democrats running for Congress.

Voting in Georgia

It took a heavy dose of voter suppression, along with dirty tricks, tens of millions of dollars, the GOP keeping its healthcare plan secret and the full force of the Trump regime to defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia.

The 5th District seat became open when Trump pulled Tom Price out of it to become U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. It’s been captured by right wingers since 1979. Newt Gingrich held it for 20 years, until he was caught in a scandal and had to resign. However, it has remained in the hands of tea party types,

Ossoff won by over 48 percent the so-called “jungle primary this past April against close to 20 other candidates, both Republican and Democratic. His closest rival, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, won just 11 percent of the vote.

Right wingers then united behind Handel big time and pulled out all stops to defeat Ossoff in the run-off election, held yesterday.

First, the Secretary of State’s office “lost” 40,000 new voters registered by the New Georgia Project.

Then a dark money super PAC jumped in and sunk to new lows. It ran ads implying that Ossoff, was a supporter of Osama Bin Laden.

According to an article the Huffington Post, written during the campaign, “The Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC is funding Islamophobic ads … against Ossoff. [They claim that] Ossoff is connected to the late terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden because his company sold documentary films it produced to the Qatari-funded television network Al Jazeera.”

“Another says Ossoff has a “radical agenda” and flashes images of anarchists smashing windows.”

Because of laws protecting big money political donors, the donors to the Congressional Leadership Fund remain a secret.

Furthermore, Donald Trump continually sent out tweets calculated to discredit Ossoff and make voters afraid of him.

All these efforts had the opposite effect.

Voters across the district flocked to the Ossoff campaign. Local groups like Needles in a Haystack and the Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb became almost overwhelmed by new activists and had to find larger venues for their meetings.

In his concession speech, Ossoff said, “At a time when politics have been dominated by fear and hatred and scapegoating and division, this community stood up, women in this community stood up, and … showed the world that in places where nobody thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight.

“ … this is the beginning of something much bigger for us.”


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.