To the Voters of Georgia
On January 5th Georgians will decide the balance of power in Congress. This balance matters because it will shape how we emerge from a battered economy, from a plague which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and from a broken national spirit caused by four years of political gridlock.
In today’s polarized America, there seem to be two sides to every story, notion, and “fact.” Special interest groups on both sides would have you believe there are only two possible directions we can go from here, and that either direction yields a winner-take-all scenario.
I urge you, the voters of Georgia, not to view this election as a referendum on which special interest groups you like best.
In reality, neither liberalism nor conservatism is wholly good or bad. If we are to overcome our current gridlock in politics, we must look past this false dichotomy of current America. Instead, we must go back to the revolutionary idea upon which America was founded, the idea of liberty and justice for all.
Before we go further, we have to admit that although America was founded on liberty and justice for all, in practice this idea was applied only to white male landowners. Much has changed in America since the 18th century, and today many more people have seats at the table.
Still, the pursuit of liberty and justice is unfinished. To make this charter wholly real, we must acknowledge the harsh truth that life for many Americans is grossly unfair. Two persistent problems, of many, illustrate this unfairness. First, in the American justice system, people of color have experiences which are vastly different from and more punitive than those of other Americans. Second, in the quest for success, people of wealth enjoy advantages which play an outsized role in their success, resulting in an “achievement gap.”
With regard to the justice system’s failing people of color, this system’s inequities are more visible now than ever. Widespread smartphone adoption allows everyone to record and to broadcast high-definition video. Much video of police’s interactions with people of color has shocked our collective conscience. This collective shock reveals that decades old cries of racism are real, and we must not forsake Americans of color.
With regard to America’s achievement gap, it is wide, and it has persisted for far too long. In 1940, children from families in the upper 10 percent income bracket attained achievement levels roughly four grade levels higher than those from the bottom ten percent income bracket (Hanushek et al, 2019). In 2019, this gap appears largely unchanged (Hanushek et al, 2019). This persistent difference is a threat to our collective liberty, and we must work to correct this injustice. No fair society can have such a discrepancy based solely on the circumstances of one’s birth.
Building on just these two important issues — imbalanced justice and disparate achievement levels — we see there is much work to do. But we can take encouragement from America’s arc of history, for this arc shows us that we can accomplish this work.
In 1776, it was revolutionary when average landowners gained a say in governmental affairs. In 1920, it was revolutionary when women fought for and finally earned the right to vote. In 1964, it was revolutionary when federal legislation banned discrimination against people based on religion and skin color. These historic moments advanced the achievement of our unfinished charter, upon which America was founded.
Today, this work is not yet done. To this end, I ask you to exercise your basic democratic right.
On January 5th when you visit the polls, I ask that you, the voters of Georgia, reject the idea that this election is about conservative versus liberal. Instead, I ask that you condemn inequities in our justice system, and affirm our common goal of fairer, more level playing fields. And I ask that you continue advancing the American ideals of liberty and justice for all.
On January 5th, I ask that you vote for Reverend Warnock and for John Ossoff. Our American Revolution has been taking place for over 200 years, and Warnock and Ossoff are leaders who will continue its ongoing work.
Hanushek, E. Peterson, P. Talpey, L. Woessmann, L. The Achievement Gap Fails to Close. Education Next. Vol. 19, №3 (March 19, 2019). Retrieved from: https://www.educationnext.org/achievement-gap-fails-close-half-century-