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Elections in Texas, Georgia on track to reshape Democratic party

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Adelaide Basco | Art Director

In just a few weeks, the future of the Democrats may be decided by elections in Georgia and Texas. In the next decade of elections, will the Democrats try to win over moderate voters, or will they focus on energizing their progressive base? It all comes down to the success or failure of two candidates: Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Georgia’s House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams.

Thanks to voters from America’s middle states, the Republicans control the presidency, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the majority of state governments. If the Democrats want to regain national power, they desperately need to win the support of voters in America’s heartland.

New faces like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes have brought energy to the party, but the Democrats cannot learn to connect with southern voters by studying a congressional candidate from the Bronx, New York. Coastal elites are turning their attention towards red state elections, trying to find out what they can do to turn those states blue.

Though Beto and Abrams are not running against each other, their ideologies are competing for dominance of their party.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto’s campaign for U.S. Senate has already captured national attention. More than 50,000 people attended his most recent rally in Austin, Texas. Though Texas is usually a solid red state, Beto is now neck-and-neck with incumbent Sen.Ted Cruz.

Beto represents a wave of Democrats oriented towards persuading moderate voters. Instead of running a bombastic campaign that antagonizes people across the aisle, Beto has focused on soothing partisan divisions. He has campaigned in every county in Texas, held more than 321 town hall meetings and has used each one to send a message of unity across the aisle.

Notably, Beto’s policy platform remains progressive, especially for Texas. He’s openly endorsed pro-choice policies, the legalization of marijuana and relaxed immigration policies. Still, his rhetoric and strategy are deeply rooted in welcoming moderate voters to the party.

If Beto defeats incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, it would signal the Democrats to move towards a message of moderacy across the country, dramatically contrasting the tone of the 2016 presidential election.

Stacey Abrams

Abrams represents a different future for the Democrats. Unlike Beto, Abrams has put little emphasis on swaying moderate voters. Instead, Abrams’ campaign to become Georgia’s next governor is trying to create a new democratic majority by elevating a coalition of progressive groups. Specifically, the coalition is composed of young voters, unmarried women and people of color, who collectively account for 62 percent of the voting-age population in Georgia.

“My approach is this,” Abrams said. “I’m not going to spend a disproportionate share of our resources trying to convert Republican-leaning voters when we can invest in lifting up the voices of those who share our values.”

This strategy already brought her success in the primary race, when she prevailed over Stacey Evans, a more moderate, conventional southern Democrat. If Abrams is able to prevail over Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp, Abrams could usher in a decade of hardline progressive ideology for the Democrats.

The Takeaway

Regardless of the outcome of November’s election, both Abrams and Beto have proven the potential for democratic success in Southern states. But if one of them is able to win while the other loses, it will be interpreted as a victory of their campaign ideology.

Keep your eye on these burgeoning new swing states, because they are about to reshape the nation’s political identity.

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
Elections in Texas, Georgia on track to reshape Democratic party