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Tom Baxter

In 6th District race, who exactly is us?

not one of us, ossoff

John Ossoff, a Democratic candidate for the sixth congressional district, is portrayed as a 'D.C. liberal' in a video paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Credit: youtube.com

By Tom Baxter

When he ran his first race for the U.S. Senate in 1972 with the slogan “Jesse: He’s One of Us,” the late Jesse Helms raised quite a few eyebrows. It seemed obvious he was drawing attention to the last name of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Nick Galifianakis, a Durham-born son of Greek immigrants.

not one of us, ossoff

John Ossoff, a Democratic candidate for the sixth congressional district, is portrayed as a ‘D.C. liberal’ in a video paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Credit: youtube.com

Since Helms’ victory in that race, the phrase, so controversial the first time it was heard, has become a standard part of the political messaging tool box. Even Barack Obama used it, in a 2012 ad which warned working-class Ohio voters that Mitt Romney was “not one of us.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s use of the phrase in a series of ads targeting Democrat Jon Ossoff, who lives outside the district and is a “DC liberal” and, oh by the way, is Jewish, has hardly raised a ho-hum.

But ahead of the closely watched race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, these ads do raise a good question: Who is us?

In one of the ads, several 6th District voters, all of them white and one of whom has what may be a New England accent, lay into Ossoff on the “not one of us” theme. Demographically you can make a case for this, especially when appealing to Republican voters who might be tempted to stray off the reservation. The 6th is 64 percent white, according to the Almanac of American Politics, and its generally well-educated and affluent voters come from all over the place.

But there are some interesting aspects to the 6th. Only 13 percent of its residents are black, but Latino and Asian voters comprise 21 percent, second only to the neighboring 7th District to the east, where the combined Latino-Asian total is over 29 percent. These are not “us” voters.

The 6th District also has the state’s highest share of residents — 21 percent — classified as “white ethnic” based on their response to Census questions. This can refer to anyone who identifies with a list of over 30 countries, very few of which are “us” countries. As a political rule of thumb it generally applies to Jews, Greeks and Italians. For a point of comparison, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s south Florida district is 27 percent white ethnic.

Set aside white ethnics and you are left with only 43 percent of the district that can safely and confidently, winking at every nod, be called “us.”

I think Ossoff’s potential has been so oversold that anything shy of an outright win — which would be a stunning achievement for a Democrat in this district — will be looked on as a disappointment in some corners. But there are reasons why this could be an important election, past its short-term significance as a national bellweather.

The popular conception of what’s going on in the district is that a lot of reliably Republican voters, sort of like the ones you see in the NRCC ad, are so turned off by President Trump they are turning away from a buffet line of Republican choices to vote for a Democrat in the race to succeed Tom Price.

Some of that is going on, surely. A lot of normally Republican voters didn’t vote for Trump last November, and that’s what worries the national party most. Republican voters may also be disgusted with the Republican Congress and perhaps even Price for failing to deliver on an ObamaCare replacement. But it’s a much more difficult leap for a practiced Republican to vote for a Democrat five months after the presidential election.

Another, important part of what is going on is the slow slide from us to them, which vexed the GOP before Trump’s election seemed to make it irrelevant. In the long run, the party may not be doing itself any favors by advertising its exclusivity.

Next door in the 7th District, held by Republican Rob Woodall and flat-tax pioneer John Linder before him, whites have already slipped below 50 percent of the total population. These are districts Republicans can continue to win, but an us-v.-them strategy, of the Trump brand or otherwise, makes this increasingly problematic.

Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.


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  1. Steve Hagan April 17, 2017 7:40 pm

    The “he is not one of us TV ads” is just plain ignorant ! I am 68, white, gay, social liberal, fiscal conservative, male, atheist, new to the district from Wasserman’s district , who believes private health insurance is worse than a mafia operation and I am proud to have already mailed in my ballot for intelligent change offered by Ossoff.Report

  2. Je April 17, 2017 9:08 pm

    You know what “one of us is” WHITE and way right!Report

    1. Steve Hagan April 19, 2017 10:58 am

      Does your use of right mean correct or out of the moderate range?Report

  3. Burroughston Broch April 19, 2017 6:44 am

    Us is not Jon Ossoff. He will lose in the runoff by 10%.Report

  4. Steve Hagan April 19, 2017 11:04 am

    Do we need another Tom Price? Read his health care plan… It simply keeps insurance companies in the equation making health care 30% more expensive than it needs to be…..the allowed 15% profit and at least 15% overhead…..Medicare does it for 4%. Guess you love insurance companies running your life.Report

  5. Burroughston Broch April 19, 2017 11:45 am

    @ Steve Hagan We do not need a program like Obamacare that was designed to fail so it could be succeeded by a single payer, national health service like the UK’s NHS.
    Medicare wastes tremendous sums that you fail to mention.
    Are you a resident of the Sixth District? I am and I vote.Report

    1. Steve Hagan April 19, 2017 2:14 pm

      I imagine you may not pay for your health care insurance. I used to pay $850 a month for a company of one! The Federal Gov is the largest employer in the US. They pay about $750 per employee. Imagine if we got insurance out of the equation! The cost of actual health care could drop 30% or more. That is whole lot more savings than worrying about 3-4% fraud in Medicare…..Why not lets states watch the fraud? Why do
      hospitals and other providers like the ACA? Because they can better run their business because they get paid for services rendered! The insurance companies are the evil part of this equation and it was the Republicans who wanted to keep them in the ACA equation, just like the Medicare Advantage program, which is another scam by insurance companies. There are a few countries who do function well under the private insurance model, like Switzerland, BUT they impose great control over prices of services and what insurance companies can charge. I could go for that but insurance companies would fight that also. I see zero need for an industry to make money off dispensing health care (ever fought with your insurance company to cover something?) when a government can do it for 3-4%..Report

  6. Burroughston Broch April 19, 2017 7:43 pm

    Steve Hagan, you dodged my question about whether you reside in the Sixth District. I take that as a No.
    I have paid into Medicare since 1965 and still pay. In addition, my wife and I pay a Medicare surcharge of over $400/month plus we have secondary insurance to protect us from medicare. Don’t try to tell me how great and inexpensive Federal insurance coverage is.Report

    1. Steve Hagan April 20, 2017 1:06 am

      Of course I live in six. I voted for Ossoff…..We all pay pennies in payroll taxes for Medicare…I started in 1965 about when it started…. Have you paid 850 a month for private insurance with coverage that begins after 5 K deductible?Report

  7. Burroughston Broch April 20, 2017 3:15 pm

    Steve Hagan, you and I pay lots more than pennies for Medicare. The Medicare tax rate is 2.9% for every dollar you earn; there is an additional 0.9% surcharge for every dollar you earn over $200,000 in a calendar year. If you make $100,000 a year, you pay $2,900. That’s not pennies!
    To further penalize you after you go on Medicare, they add a surtax if you have income that exceeds a certain amount. My wite and I pay about $450 a month. Plus we pay for private insurance to protect us from Medicare’s gaping holes in coverage, and our deductible is higher than $5,000.Report

    1. Steve Hagan April 20, 2017 9:24 pm

      Evidently you are on Medicare as I am. Why are you paying for a supplemental when you could use Medicare Advantage? Evidently, while employed you must have had your employer pay the staggering premiums your working years….right? I paid $850 a month in my final years, just for myself!!!! Plus of course I paid the 2.9%…..is pennies compared to $850 a month……. That is what I think is outrageous and unsustainable…..the private sector costs…….I guess you did not pay a $850 a premium (lucky you as only about 30% of workers have that benefit) so why complain about 2.9%!!!!! Do you not agree that 15% profit and 15% overhead could and should be eliminated from the health care equations?Report

  8. Burroughston Broch April 21, 2017 6:43 am

    Steve Hagan, we are off topic so this response is it.
    My wife and I have a supplemental policy because it fits our need. Not your need, our need.
    My employer and I split the costs when I was employed.
    I don’t agree that profit and overhead should be omitted from the equations.
    I have lots of cousins who depend on the UK NHS that is in a shambles. When Shetland cousins must go to a specialist in Aberdeen, they must endure an overnight ferry voyage instead of a 45 minute air flight, because the NHS must reduce their cost overrun.Report

    1. Steve Hagan April 21, 2017 10:22 am

      Gee, Medicare serves me just fine….I suppose people who live in remote areas of the US must travel miles to get specialty care also….I doubt you split the cost of your health care insurance while working…You may have paid ten or twenty percent…..I paid the full amount $850 a month….Now, that may seam reasonable for someone making 100K a year….ten percent of earnings, but how can anyone justify 600 or 800 a month for some making 20-40 K a year…..Trump might even tweet UNREASONABLE! The better way is just charge everyone another 3% and cover everyone……Think about it….providers get paid for their all services which means they do not have to jack up prices they charge to make up for thiise who do not pay….There are just so many benefits of universial care….It is just a matter of how to pay for it fairly…..Federal income taxes means a high wage earner buys more of a battle ship so why should we treat peoples health any differently??? Should not peoples health rate as high as a battle ship?Report

      1. Steve Hagan April 21, 2017 10:33 am

        PS…..Any country which has universal care allows private companies to sell and patients to buy supplemental policies so what is the problem?
        Indeed, I believe a patient can opt out of the universal care and
        purchase private care so what is wrong with that? I have friends on coast east of London….They love their plan.Report


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