(Hayley Powers/Contributing Illustrator)

Stacey Abrams conceded to Gov. Brian Kemp on Nov. 8, after losing the election by 7.7% of the vote. Her loss on Election Day threatens the rights of Georgian marginalized communities, who lost a chance at a governor who would protect their rights.

Kemp will now serve a second-term as Georgia’s governor, as he begins to enact policies left over from his last tenure and bring forward new ones. Marginalized communities had many rights at stake during the 2022 gubernatorial election, but Abrams’ loss leaves an open-ended future. 

As a state, Georgia barely turned blue in the 2020 election following Abrams’ efforts to increase voter turnout through her organization, Fair Fight Georgia. In 2018, they aimed to increase turnout in underrepresented communities and younger voters., after Abrams lost her 2018 bid for governor. The 2022 gubernatorial race came at a consequential time for key issues including abortion rights and critical race theory (CRT), but the results of this election should not deter Abrams’ supporters from continuing to fight for these urgent causes. If anything, it should be a reminder to keep Georgia purple and continue to support grassroots movements, even though Georgia’s governor may push the state further right. 

Gov. Brian Kemp’s win likely means he will be enacting policies from the latter half of his previous tenure. His oppressive stance on critical race theory could mean the complete omission of race as a topic of discussion in Georgia classrooms after he declared the subject to be “anti-American” and “indoctrinating.” Many Georgian schools already began to take this stance prior to Kemp’s authorization, like a group of Coosa High School students who faced suspension after protesting against blatant racism; students also commented how they were unable to wear shirts supporting Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community. Students of color were already unable to defend themselves in light of racism and a statewide ban may further complicate these processes. 

Kemp also signed a heartbeat bill in 2019, forbidding the termination of a pregnancy once a heartbeat is detected, which is usually at six weeks after conception or less. This bill recently took effect following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June and severely limits a person’s ability to choose if they want a child or not, setting a precedent to collectively limit bodily autonomy. This legislation targets people able to have children and furthers an anti-consent environment. 

Along with placing limits on bodily autonomy, Kemp is also expected to continue his assault on his own constituents’ rights to vote. In 2021, he signed SB 202 into law, establishing extensive limits to how and when people can vote, including narrowing the window for absentee ballot requests, creating new ID requirements and limiting the distribution of food and water to voters in lines. Unfortunately for voting Georgians, Kemp does not plan on stopping here —voting accessibility is a mere hoax to him. 

Just as Abrams lost to Kemp, other liberal politicians were outvoted by their conservative counterparts in several other states, like Texas, where gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke also lost. Feelings of frustration and discouragement from voters are understandable at the results of these elections. However, it is essential for voters to not lose their passion or support for meaningful issues. The fights for reproductive rights, the environment and a racially just U.S. are not over.  

Georgians should not feel limited by a governor that won’t advocate for their shared progressive positions. To some, grassroots movements may sound ineffective, time-consuming or just plain irrelevant when compared to national politics, but that is not the case; historically, grassroots movements have had the power to change policy and address important issues.

The best way to counteract this lack of representation is to generate buzz around and advocate for issues like gun control and healthcare reforms that still maintain their importance in the face of opposition. For example, if your passion lies in improving national transportation and making the United States greener, then perhaps first get involved with reforms targeting the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), here in Atlanta. After this citywide approach, move on to statewide transportation issues, such as expanding access to more environmentally friendly vehicles; starting small is key to building up a people-based movement. Another example is continuing advocacy for reproductive justice in Georgia. At institutions like the Feminist Women’s Health Center, community members can participate in workshops, volunteer to lobby at the state capital or simply attend educational and advocational events.  

While the anticipated actions by Kemp will likely continue to break down many Georgian rights, it is essential to continue uplifting reproductive justice, voting rights and other important issues. This year saw the highest recorded turnout ever of young voters for the early voting period; the best way to utilize that passion and energy created by the 2022 midterms is through supporting grassroots campaigns or lobbying government officials. It may have been disheartening to see Abrams lose on Election Day, but it is essential to remember that politicians don’t always save us. We empower ourselves to take action. Movements are hardly ever substantiated by politicians — they are put into effect by people. 

Take these sentiments to heart and keep advocating for your beliefs, even if Kemp does not. Georgia won’t turn blue overnight, so we must keep Georgia purple and not allow the issues that Abrams and her voters stand for to disappear. Proactively champion your beliefs, and do not be brought down by leaders who you feel misrepresent you.

The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Isabelle Bellott-McGrath, Rachel Broun, Evelyn Cho, Ellie Fivas, Marc Goedemans, Aayam Kc, Elyn Lee, Saanvi Nayar, Shruti Nemala, Nushrat Nur, Sara Perez and Kayla Robinson.