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As Trump Heads to CPAC and Stephen Miller to Capitol Hill, a Reminder of How Xenophobia Played in Georgia

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News broke yesterday that Stephen Miller is set to speak to House Republicans this week on immigration policy and politics. This comes on the heels of news that Donald Trump’s will address immigration in his upcoming CPAC speech. Clearly, the Republican Party is still the Party of Trump. The GOP is doubling down on ugly xenophobia and racism rather than try to grow its appeal and reclaim lost suburban voters. 

The ongoing political transformation of Georgia captures the perils of this approach. In Georgia, a multiracial majority – sparked by the combination of bottom-up organizing, Republican extremism, and changing demographics – delivered two Senate seats for Democrats and flipped an important electoral college state for President Biden.

And as a new NBC News analysis, “Democrats’ biggest gains from 2008-2020 came in these Georgia counties” reminds us, Georgia is transforming politically: 

Republicans would be foolish to ignore the dramatic shifts that have happened in Atlanta’s suburbs since the start of the Obama era. In fact, according to a new NBC News analysis of presidential results in every county in the U.S., three Atlanta-area suburban Georgia counties — Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale — increased their Democratic vote share between 2008 and 2020 by more than any other counties in the country…

…Much was made last year about how suburban voters rejected Trump. These suburban Georgia counties tell that story — the lion’s share of the Democratic gains over time came with Trump on the ballot — and they also offer a reminder that Republicans’ suburban problem isn’t just about white voters with a college degree turning up their noses at Trump and Trumpism.

Diversity is a huge part of the story in these three counties. Across Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale, non-white residents outnumber those who are white alone. And the percentage of the population with a college degree in Henry and Rockdale is actually slightly lower than the state average.

Despite the changing demographics of Georgia, Republicans ran hard on racism and xenophobia in 2020. Our 2020 ad tracking project and report included detailed analysis and ad examples from Georgia (starting at page 22), noting in part:

Both Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue doubled down on the divide and distract playbook in the runoff elections … Loeffler went so far as to compare herself to Attila the Hun in a series of ridiculous and xenophobic ads. Her messaging stoked xenophobic responses to COIVD-19 and fearmongered over immigrants and crime. In the runoff, Loeffler dredged up the 2008 attack on Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, attempting to stir the same racial anxieties by linking Warnock to Wright as well. Loeffler’s allies also made coded racist attacks around crime and Warnock’s criticism of aggressive policing tactics…

…During the runoff election, Perdue turned to familiar anti-immigrant attacks on Ossoff. Previously, Perdue had only run scant Facebook ads with such xenophobic attacks, but in the runoff he put attacks on ‘amnesty’ and ‘voting rights for illegal immigrants’ at center stage. The NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund also ran ads attacking Ossoff for his support for a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors. Ultimately, Perdue’s divide and distract messaging did not carry enough weight with the majority of Georgia voters.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice: 

Republican Liz Cheney is calling out the Republican Party for becoming ‘the party of white supremacy.’ Meanwhile, CPAC and House Republicans are calling in Donald Trump and Stephen Miller to deepen the party’s embrace of white supremacy.  

In Georgia, and in states throughout the Sunbelt, political transformation is well underway. The combination of changing demographics, on-the-ground organizing, and the rejection of Republican racism and xenophobia are driving voters into the hands of Democrats and away from the GOP. 

Instead of changing course, working to reclaim suburban voters, and trying to expand their appeal, Republicans seem intent on speaking only to the cul-de-sac of the Trump base and re-emphasizing that white power is the beating heart of the party. They seem to gloss over the fact that Trump’s demonization of immigrants and refugees backfired badly, helping the Republican Party in the past four years to lose the White House, the Senate and the House. 

Have it at, Republicans.