‘Total control’: Fear of a socialist takeover of America drives some Republicans to the polls in Georgia runoffs

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

It is hard to imagine a less fitting backdrop for a socialist takeover than the town of Dalton, in northwest Georgia. But here in this deeply conservative corner of the Peach State, in a town once known for its bustling carpet trade, it is all people are talking about.

As voters took to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots in a crucial runoff race that will decide which party controls the US Senate, many here said they viewed the election as the last chance to stop a radical transformation of America.

“Everything is at stake. Our democracy, our freedom, everything is at stake. Socialism. Taxes. Gender. Everything,” said Rose Hardy after casting her vote at City Hall.

“They will have free reign to do whatever they want with our country. They’re taking Amen out of prayer,” she added.

Ms Hardy is not alone in believing in such an improbable scenario. In numerous interviews on election day, Republican voters expressed fears that a win for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock would open the doors for incoming president Joe Biden to introduce socialism, or Communism, or both at the same time.

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It’s not difficult to see where the fear comes from. There is little escape from the deluge of dire warnings about creeping Marxism on the airwaves here in Georgia. Both Republicans and Democrats have poured money into this race, but while Democrats have focused largely on the business dealings of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and promised to improve healthcare, advertisements in support of Republicans have cast the race in apocalyptic terms, repeatedly raising the spectre of socialism to drive voters to the polls.

“Save the Senate, Save America,” reads a banner that has been plastered across the state. An ad for Loeffler presents her talking in front of a large sign that says “stop socialism” in all capital letters.

They may be local races, but these are now national themes. This doubling-down on no-holds-barred campaigning is yet another sign that the volatile national political atmosphere fostered and utilised by Donald Trump is here to stay. The views expressed in polling lines here have increasingly come to define the base of a party that has been moulded into his image.

Much of that rhetoric has come directly from the president. On the eve of election day, Mr Trump repeatedly touched on the same themes as he spoke to thousands at a rally here on the outskirts of Dalton.

“If these two don’t win,” he said of Loeffler and Perdue, “and if we don’t take the presidency, you have a country that would be run by Schumer, Pelosi, and Biden. The people of Georgia will be at the mercy of the left wing, socialist, communist, Marxists.”

Those warnings have found a sympathetic ear here in Dalton. The town lies in the 14th District, which is represented in the House of Representatives by Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has publicly promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Most voters in the town appeared to have a broad definition of socialism as the preferred system of government for an oppressive state which would take away their rights, without providing much detail about what that would look like in America.

“I’m voting for the freedom of our country, our democracy. Our future is on the line. I think we’re teetering on socialism,” said Eric, a Dalton resident who gave only his first name.

“It’s just the massive control that seems to be coming from the Democratic Party. It’s scary some of the things they are talking about taking away. Second Amendment rights.”

Sherry Cline, who cast her vote at a senior centre a few blocks away from City Hall, said she felt “the liberals were trying to take over.”

“Total control. Total government-run. That’s what most of us are trying to prevent. I’m for hearing both sides, but they are not for that,” she added.

The battle to stop a socialist takeover of America here in Dalton takes place against the backdrop of a months-long campaign by Mr Trump to overturn the results of the November presidential election through the spreading of conspiracy theories.

In many ways, they are part of the same story. Mr Trump and conservative media organisations that support him have created an alternate universe for their supporters and viewers in which he won the election, and Democrats are attempting an unconstitutional coup to introduce socialism.

All attendees interviewed by The Independent at Mr Trump’s rally on Monday evening believed the election was rigged. Some warned that a civil war would follow if Mr Trump did not remain in office.

“You’re gonna have a lot of people get mad. Some are going to be upset to the point that they are gonna wanna get violent,” said Kary Rosenow, a retired police officer from Tennessee.

“There will be some that will be willing to take up arms. It only took three percent of the American population during the Revolutionary War to win. And I’m pretty confident that out of a population of 300 million people, there are probably three million people at least who are willing to take up arms,” he added.

It may be a few days before the results of the Georgia runoffs are known. Democrats need to win both seats to win a majority in both Houses, which would allow Mr Biden to pursue a bold agenda in his first term. Without it, he is likely to be stymied by Republicans.

As the country waits for the results, Congress is set to certify Mr Biden’s electoral victory on Wednesday. Mr Trump has not given up trying to prevent that from happening, and has piled pressure on everyone from local state election officials, Republican senators and Congressmen, as high as vice president Mike Pence, whose job it is to announce the results.