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Book Review: ‘Flipped,’ by Greg Bluestein

A bright spot for Democrats in 2018 was Lucy McBath, the daughter of civil rights activists. She defeated Karen Handel to represent the Sixth Congressional District. Handel had won office a year earlier in a special election, beating Ossoff, a documentary producer who had hoped to show that with Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats could win suburban Republicans and independents in districts that had been dominated by conservatives like Newt Gingrich. Instead, the election proved that Republican voters in 2017 were still loyal. McBath, whose son, Jordan, was killed by a white man in 2012, won election by advocating gun control in the wake of a horrendous mass school shooting in Florida.

Ossoff and Warnock found ways to run effective statewide campaigns for the Senate in 2020 despite the challenges posed by Covid shutdowns, masking and social distancing. During the runoff election campaign after Nov. 3, both candidates responded to the fierce outrage among Democrats who were tired of the chaos and extremism coming from the White House. As Trump kept talking about himself and about rigged votes every time he visited the state (to the frustration of Republicans), Warnock and Ossoff ran smart social media campaigns and connected to voters’ hope for a better future.

Remarkably, Bluestein writes that the Biden campaign underestimated the potential for victory in Georgia. Since Democrats had not won the state’s electoral votes in a presidential election since 1992, Biden’s team concluded that the risk of losing was too high. Fortunately for Democrats, local candidates disagreed. They did so by embracing the party’s liberal traditions rather than trying to mimic Republicans.

Still, the victories in 2020 ultimately depended on volunteers and voters whose voices are too often missing from Bluestein’s narrative. He doesn’t do enough to capture the thousands of volunteers who engaged in phone banking, text messaging, canvassing and turning out the vote. Nor are there many portraits of the voters who went blue.

“Flipped” will disillusion Democrats who hope that a realignment won’t meet fierce resistance. Lawrence Sloan, a Black American who operated a machine that opened mail-in ballots in Fulton County, was scared for his life after a video circulated online that appeared to show Sloan giving the middle finger to the machine and tossing out a ballot. In fact, we learn, his temper flared because the machine had nicked his finger, and Sloan was throwing out instructions for how to complete a mail-in ballot. Because of the misleading video, which Trump’s sons retweeted, Sloan was harassed and threatened. On one occasion, he asked friends to rescue him from a restaurant filled with Trump loyalists. “As a Black man in the South,” he said, “I know when pickup trucks start pulling up and honking their horns, it’s time to go.” Similarly, the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who refused to go along with Trump’s schemes, decided that his two grandchildren could not safely visit his home.

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