Bonnie Greer’s state-by-state examination of US politics continues with The Peach State.
If it is possible to imagine Donald Trump taking the time to listen to music, then the guess would be that he would have the popular taste of the typical Baby Boomer. His choices would be solidly formed in the 1970s when he was in his twenties and also probably influenced by his parents. This helps explain his reported attachment to the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want, a song of caution whose words Trump does not seem to hear or understand, but loves nonetheless.
If he is thinking about the US state of Georgia – along with Arizona, one of two red states that may turn blue at next year’s elections and give the Senate to the Democrats – he has plenty of musical acts to chose from. A list of the state’s favourite singers and bands, chosen by fans and ranked in ascending order, features: Ray Stevens, Kanye West, Gladys Knight, Billy Joe Royal, REM, Jason Aldean, Luke Byran, Alan Jackson, James Brown, and – of course – at No.1, the Dean of Georgia music in every genre, the late, great Ray Charles of Albany, Georgia, known, quite simply, as ‘The Genius’.
But the best recommendation for the playlist of the 45th president may be another sound from Albany, Ga. The music of a band that no longer officially exists except in the minds and the hearts and the playback of its devoted fans; the Christian death metal band, With Blood Comes Cleansing – which broke up in 2010 – featuring the blood-curdling sound of lead vocalist, Dean Atkinson.
Their second and last studio album, Horror, features an oral warning about the Hour of Judgement, followed by some truly terrifying human sounds and rapid-fire rock drumming that is actually quite amazing.
Although released in 2008, the year Barack Obama was first elected to the Oval Office, the album seems to give a sense of the president following him – a warning about an existential, a recurring and incoherent scream that is building.
But if the electoral trend – especially in the state of Georgia – is anything to go by, that scream may belong to Donald Trump. He could end up regretting the fact that he has never listened to With Blood Comes Cleansing’s Horror, from the album of the same name, with the lyrics: “This world wins no more.”
Georgia could be another state that makes his probable second term very, very short indeed. Because if Nancy Pelosi can keep her red-state Democrats in their seats and if Georgia returns a Democrat senator, the Republicans could lose the Senate and Trump will be removed from office.
The state’s elections for governor and senator in 2018 exemplified the Deep South, and what could be called Trump Country in particular. These were races based not on policy, but on fear and entitlement.
The fear and entitlement were stoked up in the white majority, who see Trump as quite simply the protector of their values: a mix of Christian fundamentalism, white entitlement, and an idea of the place of women. Gone with the Wind, that fairytale of the antebellum South, did, after all, feature some true elements: how white women and white womanhood itself are seen in the Georgia that votes for Trump.
It is considered sacrosanct; untouchable and pure, a kind of distorted code of chivalry that did not consider non-white women as anything other than breeders of slaves, workers and pleasure pits.
Stacey Abrams, the African American politician and former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, cast all of those tropes aside to run for governor of Georgia last year. Abrams is quite simply not supposed to happen in this state.
In addition to daring to run for office, she is pro-choice; a fierce advocate of gun control; stricter voter ID laws that prohibit the de facto disenfranchisement of the poor, and she opposes a religious liberty bill that acts as a cover for such activities as erecting the Ten Commandments inside of the state house building.
She was also the first black, female, major-party gubernatorial nominee in the history of the republic. Her opponent was Brian Kemp, the secretary of state of Georgia.
The secretary of state oversees all elections. So Kemp was in charge of his own election. Abrams accused Kemp of purging almost 700,000 voters from the electoral roll in 2017, with 53,000 voters still waiting to be confirmed a month before the election.
Abrams, a lawyer, demanded that he at least step aside until the election was over. He refused. The campaign was brutal and personal as the Old South faced-off against the New South. The result saw Abrams receive 1,923,685 votes (48.8%) and Kemp 1,978,408 (50.2%). The big question is: can Georgia turn from red to blue? In other words: can the Democrats take Georgia?
The battleground remains the upper Midwest: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which along with Florida, gave Trump the 270 and more votes that he needed to win the Electoral College and the White House. But he is a deeply unpopular president, the most unpopular on record.
Hired gunslinger or not, Trump lowers the tone and Americans know it and feel it. And Georgia could be a key to taking the gunslinger out.
Abrams lost to Brian Kemp by only 1.4 points. She outperformed Hillary Clinton in the state by 4%. So how did Abrams get so close?
The turnout was high in Democratic-leaning constituencies. The black turnout level was high. The 18-29-year-olds came out for her.
But the surprising result was the number of non-college educated, white people who voted Democratic. In Georgia, it was working class whites who came out for Abrams, too, a counter-intuitive that was truly surprising.
Its share was said to be ten times the size of white college-educated voters. If the Democrats can find a way to hold on to that demographic; keep their usual college-educated whites, make sure that black and other ethnic minority voters are not ignored and tended to, something incredible could happen in 2020.
It is said that Trump’s favourite song was sung by a singer as far away from Georgia as you can get: one Norma Deloris Egstrom of North Dakota. Known in the halls of music immortality as Peggy Lee. Trump is supposed to love her rendition of Is that All There Is? with that opening lyric containing the words: “our house caught on fire.”
Trump is a chancer and charlatan. His genius is to profoundly understand that most of us are not.
And it might be this fact that Georgia presents to him at the end of next year.