January 2, 2011


Base bails on Democrats in droves (Chris Joyner, 1/01/11, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Since the November election when the party lost control of all statewide offices, nine Democratic legislators have become Republicans, including Athens Rep. Doug McKillip, who switched less than a month after his colleagues elected him chairman of the House Democrats.

Now party leaders are scrambling to find new growth strategies while attempting to be more than a speed bump for the Republican majority. [...]

In a Mason-Dixon poll taken for the AJC in the fall, only a third of Georgia voters identified themselves as Democrats — a number that had declined from previous polls. Republicans say the party is simply out of step with state voters.

Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz said conservative, largely white voters are unimpressed with the party. “The electoral base, over time, for the Democratic Party in Georgia is pretty similar to the base of the national party,” he said.

The defections by rural, white Democrats continue a trend that’s made the Georgia Democrats a more urban and African-American party. As a result, the power of its African-American Democratic leaders has grown while the party’s statewide influence has dwindled.

Sen. Emanuel Jones is chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, which bills itself as the largest such state caucus in the nation. “We increased our membership in November,” said Jones, D-Decatur.

Fifteen years ago, African-Americans made up a third of Democrats in the House. Now they are a two-thirds majority in the House Democratic Caucus and hold most of the leadership positions. In the Senate, African-Americans make up more than half of Democrats compared to one in four in 1996.

At the same time, Jones said the party needs to figure out how to attract more white voters. “We have to make sure that the message we are communicating is one of inclusion,” he said. “The white Democrats did that many, many years ago when they gained the support of African-Americans to hold on to power.”

Jones said the party needs to do a better job of reaching its base. But what is the Democratic base in Georgia?

“That’s a good question,” he said. “There is no one, good description of the base of the Democratic Party.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 2, 2011 7:40 AM
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