Is the U.S. on the fast track to the left?

Georgia Senate runoff and presidential battleground states to determine the country’s political trajectory

4 mins read

“What we witness is a pendulum: a swing to the left and a swing to the right. I think in the immediate future we are going to be swinging left,” said Greg Brown (66). The teacher and politico, as he appropriately calls himself, had just finished up with his classes for the day. He was now answering my questions on where exactly this country is headed, a feat too great for the voter data on Census.gov.

Registered voters are getting younger, more diverse and more educated every year. (Okay, yes, I did get this part from the Census.) More prominently, explained Brown, voter turnout is at an all time high. “We can anticipate more engagement in elections: local, state, and national… in the middle of a pandemic, too.”

Greg Brown

So what exactly do these trends mean for the next four years? For future elections? Just how big is the recent blue wave under Biden and Harris and could it float them the 2024 presidential ticket?

Let’s break this down and look first at Biden’s upcoming term. According to Brown, the outcome of Georgia’s quickly approaching runoff election will determine just how much Biden can accomplish during his presidency. If Democrat nominees Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock fill both remaining seats, the party will all but take the Senate. Simply put, a Democratic win will put this country’s pendulum on the fast track to the left.

Madison Kendrick

For a closer look at Georgia’s political landscape and upcoming election, I turned to Madison Kendrick (23). Born and raised in Fulton County, Georgia, Kendrick was center stage for her county’s crucial role in the 2020 presidential election. She has voted in every election since she turned eighteen and was a strong supporter of “young whippersnapper candidate”, Ossoff’, in his 2017 run for the House of Representatives. 

Kendrick talks in detail about Georgia’s “slow burn” towards more progressive values. “I really noticed it during elections, seeing how close the numbers have gotten and the margins have gotten.” Like Brown, she credits these changes to an increase in voter diversity and overall citizen engagement.

Georgia’s minority and youth population is growing. These demographics have considerable influence on elections, especially in states that have lost their Republican stronghold. Both sides of the aisle are vying for their votes. “It’s crazy to see the resources that people are putting into this, and the money, and the time,” says Madison. “They are really trying to reach pockets of people who don’t normally vote, or wouldn’t be even registered.”

While the upcoming runoff election will largely determine how fast Democratic policies can be put in place, Georgia itself is just one piece of the puzzle. Other battleground states, like Pennsylvania and Nevada, helped land Biden his first term. By looking at the direction their voters are leaning, we can begin to predict if a second term is in our future.

Anyone who has spent time in Pennsylvania knows just how much swing a state can have. Growing up in a small town outside of Philadelphia, I have seen my fair share of pride parades in the city followed by Republican signage lining the scenic route home. 

For some insight into which way Pennsylvania voters might swing in the future, I looked to Stephanie Markstein (53). Markstein has served on the West Chester Democratic Committee for 14 years and was a delegate to the DNC for Bernie Sanders. She is confident that Pennsylvania will only become more progressive in the future. “The densely populated metropolitan areas will continue to grow,” she says. “Younger voters will likely register as Democrats.” 

Stephanie Markstein

That being said, Markstein is critical of her party. She believes Democrats need to take a hard look at their platform. “We underperformed in the House and Senate races and we were unable to flip any of the Republican held state legislatures,” she says.

I also spoke to two other Pennsylvania voters. Eva Wright (21) voted for Biden in the 2020 election, but is “more progressive” than the current Democratic party. Cindy Laudato (57) is a registered Republican and voted for Trump. Neither one is an avid supporter of their respective candidate, however. They more so voted against the opposition.

Eva Wright

Wright foresees the country moving towards more progressive values. “The coronavirus has changed a lot of people’s minds on government assurance and aid,” she says. “I think younger people are more open to a group effort than individual rights.” Laudato is unsure of the how America’s political landscape will form in the years to come. However, she hopes the “future holds some element of party convergence and national progress.”

Nevada native, Nolan Hollibaugh (25), has a different idea. As Republicans move further to the right and youth voters push Democrats further to the left, he foresees the country becoming more divided.

Hollibaugh currently lives in Las Vegas and also voted for Biden in the recent election. He believes Nevada may become more blue in the future and owes this in part to the mass exodus of Californians in recent years, as well as policies put forth by Democrats. “Five years ago canceling student debt seemed outlandish and now it is a constant talking point in the party.” Regardless, he foresees the state remaining a battleground for future elections.

Among those I spoke to, most everyone was in agreement on a few things. 

  1. Their state’s voters are becoming younger and more diverse. 
  2. This poses a threat, not only to Republicans, but potentially to the conservative values within the Democratic party as well. 
  3. A loose conclusion can be drawn that we, as a nation, will see a transition to the left.

These points hold a lot of truth, but they don’t tell us everything. Let’s revisit statistics taken from the Census. “Millenials are the only age group to see an increase in voter turnout since 2012”, but older generations still tend to dominate the polls. A shift towards progressive ideals is dependent on young, diverse, educated voters. Therefore, it will more than likely be a gradual one.

Raphael Warnock (left) and Jon Ossoff (right)

America is at a turning point, there is no doubt about that. Voters suggest we are moving towards progressive, sometimes unifying values in many states. Experts support this theory on a national level. “We’re going to be a more progressive country, I’m convinced of that. The only question is going to be how far and how fast,” says Greg Brown. We can’t be sure of exactly what this country’s next pendulum swing has in store for us. What we do know is that Biden and Harris have set it in motion and Georgia’s upcoming election will set the pace.

Mira Ciganek

Mira Ciganek has always loved writing. “She knew how to use a pencil before she knew how to use a fork,” says her dad. Now, she has turned her favorite pastime into a future career. Inspired by her move to New York City and her love for meeting new people, Mira is pursuing a journalism degree at Baruch College. She hopes to talk to interesting people and share their stories with the world. In the more immediate future, Mira can be found thrifting, doing yoga, and trying new foods.

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