Ben Amis, guest columnist

Ben Amis, guest columnist

While record numbers of absentee and early votes have already been cast across the state, many more will head to the polls tomorrow on Election Day to vote for our next governor and a slate of constitutional officers, along with our members of Congress, state legislators and numerous local offices. Each and every one of these races are important, and I sincerely urge every voter to educate themselves on the candidates and on the facts of the election from the candidates themselves and from reputable sources. As for this article, I’d like to take the time to offer my thoughts on this election and how I view it in the historical context of our great state of Georgia.

I believe this election will reflect whether Georgia is ready to step into our imminent future or if we will elect to fight it and hold onto a past with many unfortunate and troubling aspects, working to delay the inevitable just a little while longer. Much of this style of debate, particularly in our governor’s election, has been centered on racial politics. This is reflective of the racial conflict we’re experiencing right now as a nation.

The face of America is getting more diverse. Georgia is in some ways outpacing the national trends, and will become a majority-minority state somewhere around 2025, which is nearly 20 years ahead of the rest of the country which will be so around 2041 to 2046 given current projections. It is common, even expected, for established races and classes to feel pressured by new people that do not come from their in-group.

We saw this a century ago when large numbers of European immigrants came to our shores seeking a better life. Many are still alive today that remember, for example, the wave of xenophobia that lasted for decades in our culture as a response to the great numbers of Irish immigrants who came to our shores seeking a better life. They were considered lowly, dirty invaders who would not assimilate into our culture. Anti-Catholicism spiked to new heights, the paranoia of which lasted even into the 1960s, throughout the candidacy of President John F. Kennedy, and many shops had signs in the windows saying “No Irish Need Apply.” This isn’t even to mention the even more recent upheavals of the Civil Rights Movement, right here in Georgia, that saw massive suppression and intimidation of minority voters and violence against those campaigning for equal rights, and it was only five years ago that two sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were overturned, allowing many Southern states to reignite similar tactics yet again.

The question is whether Georgia has learned from our history, embraces it, and chooses to be a state that will champion the American values of liberty and freedom for all people, or if we will turn aside to xenophobia, shrinking back into our past. For myself, I have and will advocate for the values of the Founding Fathers, the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and those who will champion and advance the causes of justice for which those patriots dedicated their lives. And that’s merely one reason I’ve cast my ballot for Stacey Abrams.

But it isn’t only the future and rights of women and minorities that are at stake. Our state government, controlled by the Republicans, has neglected and forgotten much of rural Georgia. We suffer from lack of access to broadband internet, underfunded schools and lack of access to healthcare. Over 500,000 Georgians are uninsured due to our refusal to accept federal dollars for our Medicaid expansion, which has left the ER as many Georgians’ only source of healthcare. Many have declared bankruptcy due to the inability to pay these expensive hospital bills, and that bad debt for hospitals have left our rural health centers struggling. Nearly a dozen hospitals in Georgia have closed in the last decade, and that doesn’t include the many more that have downsized. Utility bills continue to soar to fund false promises of Plant Vogtle, while our Public Service Commissioners rubber-stamp the for-profit endeavors of private utility companies. How much more can rural Georgia be left to suffer?

I’ve voted for change. I’ve voted for a Governor and a Lieutenant Governor that will fight to expand healthcare across our state and grow our economy. I’ve voted for a Secretary of State that will ensure the rights of all Georgians to vote and bring ethical conduct back to the office. I’ve voted for Commissioners of Labor, Insurance, Agriculture and Public Service that will advocate for Georgians as workers and consumers instead of siding with and taking money from the industries they regulate. I’ve voted for a State School Superintendent who will put our children first. I’ve voted for an Attorney General who’s actually tried a case in court and will be the lawyer for the people of Georgia, and not for special interests.

We need a government that works for us. A government that is truly of, by and for the people. The reasons I’ve given here are only a few of why I’ve supported our statewide Democratic ticket. I urge everyone to be an informed voter, read the candidates’ websites for yourself. Examine the arguments, consider your own biases (we all have them) and then ... go vote!

Ben Amis is a Democratic activist who lives in Rome. He studied theology at Asbury University and accounting at GNTC.