Raised in New York and then living in California for 13 years, I had spent my entire life in a blue state. I’m not talking about depression (surprisingly), but politically—I could always count on my homestead to be a bastion of liberal thinking. There is a comfort to this. You can be pretty sure your neighbors align with your values, and there’s little concern about the politicians you favor not being the ones selected, at least on a local level.
But then, four years ago, my husband and I moved to Georgia. Neither of us had ever really considered the South as a destination in which to settle, but economics and a restlessness of spirit—not to mention fear of future water scarcity—lead us here. As actors, we knew there was plenty of work to be had in Atlanta, and as humans, there was plenty of water and the prospect of cheaper housing. However, being as lefty-left-left as we are, we feared the idea of moving to a red state.
I do recall saying that I was excited by the prospect of having my vote matter here. Of course, all votes matter… in theory. Thanks to the Electoral College, however, California residents feel an air of futility all the more acutely, as our millions of Democratic votes go uncounted in service of an archaic system that is slanted against us.
But in a state slowly purpling like a bruise, my husband and I imagined ourselves being a part of this liberal influx that could actually create meaningful change. We registered our first week in town so that we could vote for Stacey Abrams before we even moved into our house. And we raged as the clear voter suppression—instigated by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp—kept her from eking out a victory.
Personally, I became more engaged. I would frequently call our horrible Senators at the time (Perdue and Loeffler) and leave sharply barbed criticisms with their staff. I probably got put on some kind of watchlist. And when elections came around again, I volunteered. I wrote postcards to get out the vote and worked as a poll monitor to make sure there was no funny business. I was more engaged because, unlike in my previous residences, I could not be sure of the outcome.
You’re also often not sure of the outcome when speaking to your fellow Georgians. You’re pretty safe within the perimeter of Atlanta, but you never know, in a casual interaction, if the person you’re speaking with is “on the other side.” Being as politically obsessed as I am—and as given to spouting my opinions to anyone nearby—this causes some measure of strain. You can have a lovely interaction with some human and wonder the whole time if they are aligned with evil itself! I’m not being hyperbolic. I was taking horseback riding lessons with this woman until she tried to pitch me on the ridiculousness that is QAnon. It was a less-than-relaxing moment. Yes, I found another barn.
That’s the thing with being in a purple state: the stress may also turn your face that color. The lows are lower, but the highs are higher. When Warnock and Ossoff won in 2020, and Trump was defeated here, there was literal dancing in the streets. It was miraculous. It was beautiful. I don’t really watch sports, but it’s not unlike the exaltation of your team prevailing after a hard-fought match—only it’s way more exciting and significant to daily life than sweeping the series.
Personally, I think I excel under this sort of duress. It gives me something to fight for, and to fight against. Complacency is my kryptonite. I’m not comfortable when things are comfortable. Thanks, childhood trauma!
It’s exactly this striving that inspired my very political, romantic tragicomedy film, Division, which I wrote and produced last year, based on my move here. It’s about the period of time prior to the election in 2020, and would not have happened if I’d stayed in California. Sometimes friction leads to fire.
And speaking of that election, I have to give credit where it’s due. Kemp didn’t acquiesce to Trump’s demands to overturn the results. I do have a modicum of respect for him because of that. I did also hope, however, that it would hurt his reelection chances with the Trumpy electorate. Instead, it looks like he’s in the lead over Abrams again. And it’s ridiculous that the abysmal candidate Herschel Walker is polling anywhere close to Raphael Warnock.
This news is crushing, but—of course—we all hope for and mobilize toward another miracle. It’s nice to live somewhere where such miracles can happen, and to play a part in bringing them forth. And if they don’t happen, well, I guess I’ll warm up my politician-dialing finger.