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Political Possibilites in the South & Sun Belt

Matt Perrenod discusses his new work focusing on the intersection of grassroots and electoral organizing, and their path to political power, throughout the South and the Sun Belt.

| Matt Perrenod |

In the wake of the 2020 election cycle, there has been renewed attention among progressive electoral activists to Sun Belt states where people of color are a large part of the electorate in a region that for several decades has been dominated by conservative whites.  The Biden electoral victory resulted not just from his winning three northern states Trump won in 2016 (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin), but also from victories in Georgia and Arizona, where Democratic candidates were unsuccessful for decades.  Similarly, the narrow Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate arguably rests on Georgia and Arizona, where Dems flipped four seats in 2018 and 2020.  There has also been significant attention given to North Carolina and Florida, where the GOP eked out a series of narrow victories in the 2018/20 electoral cycles, and Dems won the NC governor’s race.  Dems now control the state government in Virginia, as well as a majority of that state’s Congressional delegation.  A coalition of Hispanic, Native American and progressive white voters have delivered Dem majorities in New Mexico for several cycles.

Through much of the South and Southwest, however, the GOP retains an electoral majority, and progressives have been working on how to extend the successful experience in states like Georgia and Arizona to other areas.  Major states like Texas have drawn the attention of progressives for several cycles, but remain locked in the hands of the GOP. Stronger candidates have come forward in places like Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama, but all of these states continue to be dominated by the right, despite large African-American populations.  With few exceptions, Republicans dominate the border states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia as well.

The South and Southwest have become centers of demographic diversification in the U.S.  Much of the growth in Latinx voters has been in the region, and AAPI communities have become a major component of urban centers like Houston and Atlanta.  The region remains the largest concentration of African-Americans in the country.  Given this, we ought to continue to look closely at the opportunities for progressive political power in this region, while acknowledging that demographics doesn’t automatically confer success.  Rather, we should be asking, and acting upon what it will take. I believe the successes in Georgia and Arizona point to the importance of prolonged grassroots organizing to breaking the conservative white lock on the Sun Belt.  For this reason, I hope to post occasionally on the intersection of grassroots and electoral organizing in my native region, and highlight emerging examples of how these movements are striving for political power.  I will look to both electoral contests as well as community campaigns, help amplify regional voices, and try to identify the lessons as they’re being tested and learned.  And I would like to hear from others living and working in the region, and your perspectives on the current situation.  Please comment on my posts, and feel free to email me directly at mperrenod@gmail.com.

2 replies on “Political Possibilites in the South & Sun Belt”

Matt, thanks for your thoughtful summary of the electoral situation in the Sun Belt and South. I wanted to remind our readers that LABOR in the form of 400 full time canvassers from Unite-Here who were out of work from the pandemic and were supported by labor funds from other unions who had employment (e.g. carptenters) played a crucial role first in Arizona in November of 2020; and then later in Georgia in November 2020 to January 2021. This broke the approach of the Democratic Party which up to then had NOT primarily done door to door work but given the professionalism of the full time labor activists and good pandemic safe canvassing approach were able to reach many more key voters in both states. Floyd Huen , VND California

Thanks for the overview, Matt. As we head into the 2022 cycle, I look forward to further breakdowns and details, including any views of activist groups and candidates that we readers might support with buzz and contributions.

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