Something incredible has happened in Georgia. In a gubernatorial race in a supposedly deep-red state — with a voter-suppressing, race-baiting, fearmongering Republican nominee — a fierce, compassionate, qualified black woman has captured the interest of a nation and made it a razor-thin race. Beyond her political talent, Stacey Abrams’ commitment to issues that give voice to working people, immigrants, and women of color is forging a new electoral path and forcing the old establishment to pay attention.
Political pundits said that Georgia would never elect a Democratic governor. They said Democrats should nominate a white moderate if they wanted to stand a chance, because they’ll never reach what the pundits call the “working class” — often a barely concealed code word for a specific subset of white voter. But the people of Georgia saw things differently and nominated a progressive woman of color who has flipped traditional politics on its head. Whatever the outcome of today’s election, the grassroots organizations and voters fueling Abrams’ campaign have transformed the political game.
These voters — women of color, immigrants, minimum-wage workers — are also some of the most disenfranchised. They have been called too expensive to reach out to, too unresponsive to turn out, and too fringe to be taken seriously.
As the executive director of Care in Action — the policy and advocacy arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance — I was able to see in real time as our members engaged with voters in all corners of Georgia, urban and rural alike. These amazing women — nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers by day — were mobilized to become defenders of democracy by night. More than 450 of them devoted what little free time they had to elect Abrams as the next governor. For them, this race is personal.
Women of color represent the majority of the domestic worker economy, and too often they are left outside of decisions about policies that affect them. They are forced to watch as predominantly wealthy, white, and male politicians make policy decisions that could impact them for generations. Now, they refuse to let it happen again.
When polls close on Election Day, domestic workers will have had half a million conversations with voters, 50,000 of whom haven’t voted in the last three elections. We’ll have sent hundreds of thousands of texts (and counting) to voters across the state. And we’ll have run the largest grassroots voter contact operation in Georgia on the independent expenditure side. We’ve formulated an important equation that will add up to results for today and for the years to come.
If elections are truly won and lost by numbers, then we’re changing the math: 600,000 voters in Georgia have voted early. We are seeing historic turnout numbers — a 120% increase statewide since 2014 and almost 200% increase in some rural counties. And the gubernatorial race is closer than anyone ever anticipated.
At a time when President Trump is putting the lives of families and children from immigrant communities and communities of color at risk every day, politically strong and independent women of color will be the force that checks this rampant racism, xenophobia, and bigotry. While Georgia Republicans block black people from voting, stagnate the minimum wage, and make it harder for people to access health care, Abrams champions universal voter registration, a living wage, and Medicaid expansion to improve Georgians’ quality of life. Those are the policies that are fueling the fire of Abrams’ supporters.
Working-class communities of color will be the catalyst that will usher our country in to the progressive future we all need. Domestic workers are supporting candidates who speak to directly to those often forgotten, dismissed, or underestimated voters, and we’re creating electoral strategies that ensure voters who can tip the scale are being invested in and engaged. We will elect thousands more like Abrams across the country.
Former president Obama, campaigning for Abrams last week, said it best: “The folks that earn their living cleaning other people’s homes, taking care of other people’s kids — if they’re not too tired to vote, you better not be.”
If Democrats want to truly succeed in the future, they should look to Georgia to see how these women are showing up to do the hard work to support a progressive candidate of their own. The coalition that has built around Abrams’ campaign is democratic, it is feminist, and it is inclusive. And it’s here to stay.
Jess Morales Rocketto is the executive director of Care in Action.