Political History of Georgia
Georgia, often times referred to as the Peach State, was the youngest of the original 13 colonies that would one day fight for its independence from England. In doing so, the Deep South state became the fourth state to join modern America with its vote to ratify the United States Constitution.
Additionally, the southern state was the first in its region to ratify the document and has been taking grand political strides ever since, distinguishing itself as a leader since the beginning of its statehood in 1788.
Nicknamed the Empire of the South, Georgia’s southern boundaries were significantly larger in its younger years, as it additionally encompassed both present-day Alabama and Mississippi. With more plantations than any other southern state, the Empire was a leader in agriculture and thus even more reliant on slaves for the economy in comparison to surrounding states.
Just short of a century after being granted statehood the civil war era began which is widely believed to be the most impactful event in the history of the state.
While the northern states, the Union, were in support of the abolition of slavery, the Confederate states in the south were heavily reliant on slaves for their agricultural economic needs.
However, the Civil War was more than a war on slaves- it was a war on state’s rights. To this day we still see much debate regarding which powers belong to the state and which to the Federal Government.
At the time of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Georgia was voting within the circumstances of a much weaker federal government and stronger state/local government. Thus, along with other factors such as slave property, Georgia developed a strong belief system in favor of low federal regulation of the states.
With the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln, whom the state of Georgia did not vote to elect, the secession of many southern states from the Union began. Georgia was the fifth to secede and stood out as a key participant in the creation of the Confederate States of America.
The foundational beliefs previously discussed which were held by the southern democrats during the Civil War were one of many symbols of the era. Generally speaking, the fight for power to belong to the state remains a prevalent issue in the republican southern states comprising present-day America.
Impact of Historical Events on Present-Day Georgia
While having a significant political impact on the civil war era, the effects of the Civil War would be significant in the development of the state.
With this knowledge regarding the events that have shaped present-day Georgia, it is apparent that while certain aspects have changed, many fundamental values have remained. We can refer back to historical events of the civil war era to find similarities between the ‘then and now’ of the Peach state.
The Georgia Secession Convention of 1861 was a moment characterized by the geographically diverse nature of the state. While attaining the largest population of slaves and slaveholders of the deep south, there were areas in GA which were dominated by populations where slavery was not prevalent.
Diversity within the state is growing ever-more apparent. While historically Georgia was less diverse in race, there was a clear divide in belief systems. Many Georgians highly valued their plantations and thus desired state-approved right to their property of slaves while others within the population were non-slaveowners who sided with the Union.
The most recent United States Census reveals that present-day Georgia is rapidly becoming more racially diverse in regards to race and social class, with African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians increasing in population at a much faster rate than the White population.
Interestingly enough, when analyzing the voter breakdown of the Georgia presidential primaries last March, it was found that Carroll County, GA was the most Democratic county, voting 79.85% Democratic. Similarly, in 1860, while the majority of Georgia supported the Confederacy, it was well-know that a grant amount of Carroll County residents were beginning to become more politically active in voicing their support for the Union.
Georgia’s Participation in Political Elections To-Date
Georgia has been politically active in every presidential election since it was granted statehood in 1788, with the exception of the year 1864 which signified the time of secession. In only four elections the overwhelmingly Republican state did not vote as expected.
Between the years 1868 and 1960, Georgia voted Democrat in every election, as did other conservative Democrats constituting the southern states. This was a time before the Republican and Democratic parties exchanged platforms.
In 1968, Georgia voted for an Independent candidate. In 1976 and 1980, Georgia voted for southern Democrat Jimmy Carter who held ties to the state. And the last time Georgia voted “blue” was in 1992 for Bill Clinton, husband of current democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Between Georgia’s recent diversity expansion, prior help in electing 42nd president Bill Clinton, and the unconventionality of this political season in general, certain factors are causing voters residing in the traditionally Republican state to level its distinction between the two political parties.
In a recent poll, researchers found that 46% of likely voters support republican candidate Donald Trump, 66% of these supporters stating to be firm in their opinion.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is trailing close behind Trump, with 43% of likely voters in favor of her winning the election, having 67% of these likely voters claiming to be firm.
Clinton only recently began targeting television advertisements in Georgia while Trump is still avoiding television campaign ads all together.
This Marist poll (as previously alluded to) yields significant results as it provides a mere 3 percentage points separating the Republican and Democratic nominee.
Past election results reveal that in 2012 the Republican candidate took the state by 8 percentage points while in 2004 Georgia elected the incumbent president George Bush by 17 percentage points. However, in 1996, the Republican candidate won the state by only 1 percentage point. Thus, voting to elect Dole over than Bill Clinton.
In addition to polls revealing voter differences, we can look to the narrowing dominance the real republican has had over democrats in recent years, as exemplified in several presidential elections.
Local Issues of Interest
There are various trends appearing that should be taken note of. Local issues for GA residents center around the job market and economy, education, criminal justice reform, transportation and infrastructure, healthcare, and natural resources.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R), who has held office since 2011, began his political career as a Democrat when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he later changed political parties in 1995.
Most recently, Deal has unveiled his Opportunity School District proposal in hopes of reversing the struggling school systems within the state. Action regarding this legislation will take place on November 8th.
Other developments include a $37.7 million award to 74 communities in hopes of boosting the economy, as well as a major law enforcement reform package to better ensure public safety.
These current issue are one indicator of the wants and needs of a majority of local citizens and thus should be taken note of in a comprehensive understanding of Georgian’s opinions regarding the two front-runner presidential candidates.
With these issues being of local interest, we should look forward to how the presidential candidate’s political stances align to be able to recognize important factors regarding the narrowing divide historically seen between the two major political parties.