The fact that Georgia was a battleground state in 2020 is not an aberration, but the inevitable conclusion of a four-year trajectory. This is the third cycle of huge Democratic turnout in the Georgia suburbs, and Paul believes this might be Georgia’s new reality. “We’re losing an entire generation of college-educated, smart, energetic, activist, young Americans,” he said. When Paul, who is 68, was growing up in the South, the Democratic Party was a haven for segregationists such as George Wallace, the Alabama governor who famously proclaimed, “Segregation now … segregation forever!” Paul believed that the Republican Party stood against Wallace’s message, and he was proud of that. Now he’s not so sure. “I’m not homeless,” he said, speaking of his party. “But I’m struggling to pay the rent.”
Early voting in Georgia this year was record-setting. By the end of October, nearly 4 million people had cast a ballot, a 64 percent increase compared with the same point in 2016. Jordan told me that she cast an absentee ballot so she could guide her constituents through the process; like thousands of others in this area, her husband stood in line for several hours. I met a volunteer poll watcher, Whitney Troope, who told me that she saw a woman in labor stop to cast her ballot on the way to the hospital, parking in a handicap spot and skipping to the front of the queue. It was the woman’s third baby, Troope said, so maybe she felt relaxed enough to risk it, but still: Contraction pains aren’t the worst metaphor for what’s happening here in the South.
Nearly every woman I spoke with in Georgia, from candidates to volunteers, told a similar story: Waking up on the morning of November 9, 2016, realizing that Trump had been elected president, they knew “that whatever we were doing in our regular lives wasn’t enough,” as Au, the new Gwinnett County state senator, put it. One of Au’s first moves that morning was donating to Planned Parenthood. Another volunteer I met, Jessica Tuman, said she had been a permanent resident in the United States for years, but the day after Trump won, she resolved to become a citizen and get involved in political activism. Conventional wisdom holds that abortion motivates more voters on the right than on the left. But that may be changing. “I have two teenage daughters, and I’ll take my last breath fighting to make sure politicians don’t end up in their doctors’ appointments,” Shea Roberts, a lawyer who appears to have flipped a Republican state-House seat in Jordan’s district by fewer than 400 votes, told me. This is the upside of the past four years, Jordan said: “As awful as it’s been … that’s what we needed to make us get into the game.”
From the November 2020 issue: The election that could break America
That Sunday in Sandy Springs, Jordan stood at a picnic table as volunteers bustled around her, studying a giant map of her district and the suburbs surrounding it. She could describe her area’s transformation block by block—here’s where the “über-wealthy” people live, here’s where Democratic candidates never used to even try. Her eye wandered north, to the district above hers, which covers the solidly Republican suburbs east of Marietta—her next potential conquest.