Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached a gospel inspired by the teachings of abolitionist pastor Theodore Parker in a sermon from 1853: “Look at the facts of the world. You see a continuous and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arch is long, my eye can only reach a little; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure through the experience of seeing; I can guess by conscience. And after everything I see, I’m sure it’s going in the direction of justice. ”
King focused the language on a call for faith and perseverance said the civil rights marchers of the following century: “We will overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but leans towards justice.”
Those words raised hope. But they also raised a question among Americans impatient for the onset of Freedom Day that had been postponed for so long. How could this bend be measured? When could we see the change that was not only promised but badly needed?
History teaches us that there are many measures. But few will go deeper than the United States Senate election the older pastor the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the King, US Representative John Lewis, and so many movements to which these legendary Americans dedicated their lives.
Rev. Raphael Warnock, a 51-year-old progressive with years of experience preaching, marching, and organizing for economic, social, and racial justice who will soon be the first Black Senator from Deep South Georgia, claimed his victory in a January 5 runoff, referring to King and Lewis and his 82-year-old mother, who “grew up in Waycross, Georgia as a teenager, picked someone else’s cotton”.
“Today, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands who used to pick someone else’s cotton went to the polls and elected their youngest son to be the United States Senator,” said the newly elected senator. “Well, I stand before you as a man who knows that the unlikely journey that took me to this place at this historic moment in America could only take place here.”
That it happened in Georgia is a major twist in American politics. “We were told we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that we are with hope, hard work and people by our side something is possible, ”said Warnock. He was right, and his Senate Democrats would do well to embrace this sense of opportunity as it has changed the circumstances of their party.
Tricks of two Democrats – Warnock and Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old former aide to Lewis, will give President-elect Joe Biden a majority in both houses of Congress. It gives the Democrats reason to believe too Stacey AbramsThe architect of so many voter registration and mobilization strategies that Warnock and Ossoff were elected with will win Georgia governorate in 2022.
A state that was once part of the Confederation and sent segregationists to Congress well into the middle of the 20th century is now represented by the first black Democrat elected to the Senate from a southern state and the first Jewish senator from The South since the direct election of the senators began ratifying the 17th Amendment in 1913.
This bending of the arc has been a long time coming. A year before Warnock was born Maynard Jackson was inspired by the assassination of King and Senator Robert F. Kennedy to present a major democratic challenge to segregationist Senator Herman Talmadge in 1968. It was a bold move by a 30-year-old black attorney to take over the former governor and veteran senator of a state where one of the grossest enemies of the civil rights movement in the south, Lester Maddox, served as governor – and where voters ran for president that same year of would support George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, who “stood in the door of the schoolhouse” to block integration.
Maynard Jackson lost that race but built the momentum for change that would ultimately lead to it his election in 1973 as the first black mayor of Atlanta. He also pointed to the prospect that one day a southern state would elect a King-inspired progressive Democrat to the Senate. The question, Jackson assured us, wasn’t a question of if but when.
Just two years earlier, the first modern black senator had been elected: Edward Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts.
Brooke was featured on magazine covers and his victory was hailed as a harbinger of change that was sure to come to the United States. However, it wouldn’t be until 1992 that another black Senator, the Illinois Democrat Carol Moseley Brownwould be chosen. And even now, Warnock will serve as one of only three black senators in the new Senate. With the departure of California Senator Kamala Harris as Vice President, Warnock joins the New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker and the Republican Tim Scott from South Carolina.
Warnock’s and Ossoff’s victory resulted from years of hard work building what Abrams described as “a multicultural, multiethnic coalition of urban, suburban and rural voters”.
Warnock addressed this coalition in his victory speech on election night:
To everyone Georgians who marched with us, organized with us, prayed for us, fought for us, believed in us or shared their story and pain with us – thank you for all your love and support. In the words of Dr. King, who grew up just a few blocks from where I am now, said, “We are bound in a single garment of fate and trapped in an inescapable network of reciprocity. What affects one directly affects everyone indirectly. “
The newly elected senator speaks from experience. As a pastor and activist for more than three decades, he has campaigned for peace and justice, for an end to police violence and for an end to economic violence, for civil rights and equal protection under the law. He last served as chairman of the New Georgia Projectfor voting rights. He knows as much as he does Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, stated, “Georgia is a battlefield state thanks to the relentless work that has gone into investing in and highlighting color pickers. The victory of elected Senator Raphael Warnock is an extraordinary moment in the history of Georgia and our country. ”
Ufot stated last Wednesday:
Through the Rev. Warnock, voters of the color and progressive white voters have brought us much closer to the bold vision of justice and equality for which we have organized over the years. We are undoing a history of oppression and injustice from voters in black and brown communities. The changes we are seeing now didn’t happen overnight and we don’t solve our challenges with just one voice.
This is an important message as the progress made last week, while historic, should be considered scanty. The Capitol was forcibly occupied the day after the Georgia runoff election Supporters of President Trump – some carry the Confederation flag – the endeavored to discard the results of the 2020 presidential election. This deadly attack on the seat of government was a terrifying reminder that the forces of racism and reactionary pose a clear and present threat to the republic. To counter this threat, the Biden and Senate Democrats must seize the opportunity presented by the Warnock and Ossoff victories to show that the government can bring change to the great mass of Americans.
To ensure progress, the Democrats must use their newfound power to tackle the electoral suppression that continues electoral politics in the states of this country. You must also be ready to challenge the gruesome strategies displayed in the election campaign of Ossoff’s Republican rival, Senator David Perdue anti-Semitic images in advertisements aimed at the Democrats. And when the Republican who beat Warnock, Senator Kelly Loeffler, attacked the pastor for being “socialists” and “radicals” and deliberately misinterpreting the Democrats’ sermons so often that he finally stated during their last debate, “She lied, didn’t just continue me, but on Jesus. ”
Loeffler made a grave mistake in attacking Warnock’s belief in the power and potential of a gospel of social justice. The Democrat’s moral clarity was his great strength as a first-time candidate for national office. He did not shy away from taking progressive positions, reminding voters that he had grown up on a public housing project and to explain“I fought for access to affordable health care, I fought for the right to vote, I fought for important workers, normal people, because I know what it is like to be an ordinary person.” And he did not shrink from the story he and the voters of Georgia made for their state and for their country.
“At this moment in American history, Washington has a choice to make, we all have a choice to make,” Warnock said explained when he claimed his victory. “Will we continue to separate, distract, and dishonor, or will we love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Are we going to play political games while real people are suffering or are we going to win righteous battles that stand shoulder to shoulder for the good of Georgia, for the good of our country? Will we try to destroy each other as enemies or to answer the call for the common good and together build what Dr. King called “the beloved community”? ”
Warnock answered his own questions with an expression of the faith that King advocated.
“I know we can use science and common sense to beat this pandemic,” he said. “I know we can rebuild a fairer economy by respecting the dignity of work and the workers who do it. An economy that honors those we now call “essential workers” by paying them substantial wages and providing them with substantial benefits. I know that with empathy and understanding, passion and intent, we can get closer to justice. ”