Georgia's Sixth Didn't Flip, Yet, But it was an Enormous Red-State Rebuke to Trump

Politics Features Jon Ossoff
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Georgia's Sixth Didn't Flip, Yet, But it was an Enormous Red-State Rebuke to Trump

Ever since Tom Price vacated the seat he’d held for more than a decade in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, after he was promoted to Secretary of Health and Human services, the nation has been captivated by one of the most unique special elections in modern history. Former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff, unknown just two months ago, found himself the sudden figurehead of the national anti-Trump movement. Democrats and Republicans across the country watched the race with bated breath, assuming that if the 6th—which has been red for 37 years, but which Donald Trump only carried by 1.5% in November—went to Ossoff and the Democrats, it would be the first sign that the general public is already so fed up with Trump that 2018 might begin to look like Custard’s (Paul Ryan’s?) last stand.

If Ossoff (or any other candidate) had managed 50 percent of the vote in this initial special election, he would have won the seat outright, but as it stands he garnered around 48% of the vote—an impressive total to be sure, but one that fell short all the same. As a result, Ossoff and the top Republican vote-getter, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, will now have a June 6 run-off election that promises to be an even greater circus than the past couple of months have provided. Handel basically represents the same-as-it-ever-was brand of Republicanism that is largely out of step with most of the country—both those who abhor and adore Trump have shown little patience for establishment GOP tactics as of late—whereas Ossoff is a 30-year-old wild card that looks like he probably still gets carded at bars and would almost certainly not be in this position were it not for the general reprehensibleness of the Trump regime.

Although the 6th is still (and probably will forever be) the type of place where someone like myself, who looks like he just finished touring with the Allman Brothers circa 1972, gets followed around grocery stores by a security guard, Trump’s presidency has inspired untold numbers of left-leaning folks to come out of the woodwork with guns (or yard signs) blazing. Having grown up in the fightin’ 6th, and having spent around 23 years of my life in and around the district, I can vouch that the predominantly white and wealthy district is experiencing a slow but definite change as the close-minded old guard is slowly replaced by younger people with more modern and open minded ideas. In speaking with friends and family that still live in the district, I was reminded that we left-leaning folks often had to be clandestine when discussing politics and morality in public, lest we be chastised by those around us (among the bros I grew up with, this would usually entail being called something genius like a “liberal fag” by a fellow in a polo shirt and khakis), a sentiment that was oft repeated in the countless national articles written about the race.

Trump and his policies have emboldened the formerly quiet liberals residing in 6th to rise up, leading Jon Ossoff to eviscerate all comers in the race by an embarrassing margin. The victory is short-lived however, because tomorrow the Ossoff campaign goes to work on a runoff against Karen Handel that will only exacerbate the circus-like atmosphere of the past few months to nuclear levels (“circus” and “nuclear” becoming synonymous with American politics as they have). It might seem to an outsider that Ossoff has nothing to worry about, given his landslide victory over Handel and everyone else who ran, but for all of its slow progress, the 6th (and much of the South) still has people like Jere Wood to deal with. Ole Jere is the longtime mayor of Roswell, a town in the district, and he made everyone who resides in the 6th look like a horrible jackass when he dropped this golden gem of knowledge to The New Yorker:

“This isn’t a youth vote up here,” he told me at his office, when I asked him about the makeup of the Sixth. “This is a mature voter base. If someone is going down the list, they’re gonna vote for somebody who is familiar.” He paused. “If you just say ‘Ossoff,’ some folks are gonna think, ‘Is he Muslim? Is he Lebanese? Is he Indian?’ It’s an ethnic-sounding name, even though he may be a white guy, from Scotland or wherever.

Yes Jere, a true sign of a mature voter is arriving at the polls, totally uninformed, deciding who has the least “ethnic-sounding name,” and then voting based on that. The problem with Mr. Wood’s narrative is that today’s voting numbers show a district completely fed up with Trump, and one quickly souring on the GOP and Jere Woods’ brand of Good Ole Boy-ism—and the district reflects the growing disdain across the nation for this administration’s policies. The President-in-Tweet has already begun is misinformation campaign, taking to his favorite outlet to lie (again) to the American public:

First of all, the GOP put at least $4 million into the campaign and shipped hundreds of volunteers into Georgia for the election, so Ossoff wasn’t the only beneficiary of outside donors; secondly, how is the media “FAKE” in this instance? What does that even mean in this context? I ask yet again: What is this man even talking about? I’ll get to the 11 Republican candidates in a moment, but I am truly having a hard time understanding how getting 48% of the vote and crushing your nearest opponent by 28 points constitutes a loss. It sure seems like a win to me—a bigly win even—but then again I didn’t attend a high-class institute of higher learning like Trump University.

What happens in the run-off between Ossoff and Handel will be hard to predict, but what is crystal clear right now is that Republicans who received support from their more accomplish GOP brethren were unequivocally sent a message tonight: even a district that has been held by the GOP for 37 years is tired of the bullshit. Look at the murderer’s row of candidates they trotted out:

—Bob Gray, in his infinite wisdom, completely tied his fate to that of The Donald, and as was completely embarrassed for this strategy, garnering around 10% of the vote. This sad (!) number is impressive considering the how the rest of the field faired however, for as the saying goes, “In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

—Bruce LeVell is the head of Trump’s diversity commission (I know, I was shocked Trump has one too) and made a last minute trip to the capital to garner favor with the president, in hopes it would gain him leverage back home. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski also campaigned for LeVell. These high-level connections allowed LeVell to triumphantly steamroll his way to less than 1% of the vote.

—Former state senator Dan Moody put $2 million of his own money into the campaign and received an endorsement from U.S. Senator Sonny Perdue®. This bought him less than 10% of the vote.

—For some reason, Sean Hannity got behind Amy Kremer, whose campaign went so well I forgot she was in the race until this evening—as did the voters of the 6th district.

—Judson Hill received endorsements from “Little” Marco Rubio and the man who began the GOP’s stranglehold on the 6th 37 years ago, Newt Gingrich. Hill’s embarrassment at the polls is Gingrich’s as well, and a clear sign that voters have moved on from the bad ole days.

—Handel, who is undeniably experienced—and undeniably the type of stuck-in-the-past stick in the mud that even many right-leaning voters are tired of (hence Trump’s victory)—managed only 20%, bringing the GOP’s total to about 40%, meaning that Ossoff would have won comfortably if all the GOP votes were pooled in Handel’s favor.

In the face all of this, what did President Trump say to members of the GOP in Georgia? “YOU’RE WELCOME.” As delusional as the man is, even he has to be nervous about the weeks leading up to the June run-off, because the nation will absolutely be watching—and the 6th seems to have spoken: Trump’s policies and the politicians that support them are not welcome in the district, at least not anymore.

The amount of money and effort already poured into this race by both parties is staggering, and the Democrats need to stay focused on the region and strike while the iron is hot. The momentum and money are there—now it’s up to Jon Ossoff, his team and the people on the left supporting them around the country to show that they and the Democratic Party can, for once, capitalize on an opportunity to flip not just the sixth district of Georgia, but to change the national perception of just how big the resistance to the Trump regime has become.