Lecture Series Highlights Georgia’s Role as 2024 Battleground State
Georgia and its 16 electoral votes will be highly sought-after in the 2024 presidential election. This will put Georgia at the forefront of the national conversation as the campaign cycle ramps up, cementing its status as a battleground state.
Helping to examine the state’s place in the national landscape, the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts hosted the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein at the Bill Moore Student Success Center on Sept. 14 as part of the Meg and Sam Flax Lecture Series on Public Policy. Bluestein has covered Georgia politics for more than 20 years and has documented the state's shift from Republican stronghold to its current battleground status.
He believes Georgia could be the center of attention for years to come. Starting with the 2024 election cycle, he urged everyone, especially students, to take advantage of this unique learning opportunity.
"Georgia is going to remain the center of the white-hot national spotlight for the next decade,” he said. “Students here at Georgia Tech who are studying public policy or whatever it may be can see how what they're doing is implemented on a national scale."
Bluestein explained how independent voters and those continuing a "split-ticket" trend across the state have decided recent elections, primarily the 2020 presidential election, a race that helped decide control of the U.S. Senate, and the most recent gubernatorial race. With this trend likely to continue, Bluestein, who wrote a book chronicling the events surrounding the 2020 election in Georgia, told the audience how that has affected candidates' view of the state heading into the future.
"Every Republican and most Democrats say there is really no path to victory for any Republican candidate without winning Georgia. So, whether you like it or not, we're about to be the center of national attention, even more than we already are, which is hard to believe."
Addressing the students in the audience, he went on, "That's the beauty of where you are. You'll have a chance in the coming months and years to work for candidates, campaigns, and causes. Be directly involved if you want. Cover them for the media. But also go to their rallies and events –– candidates you like and candidates you don't like. You'll be on the ground level to be able to see these candidates up close and personal."
Politics on Campus
Like any campus around the country, Georgia Tech's student body is made up of Republicans, Democrats, independent voters, and those who stay out of the political fray. While politics can involve disagreement, the Institute has received recent praise for its efforts to protect freedom of expression for all on campus.
Associate Professor Richard Barke believes the Institute’s policies and efforts in this regard empower students to seek out differing viewpoints and to learn from one another.
“Any institution of higher learning has an obligation, both legal and intellectual, to encourage diverse political views to be held, discussed, and respected. It also must do something that no other institution can do: challenge students to test ideas, whether their own or those of others. At Georgia Tech we take these duties seriously,” he said. “Our students learn how political processes work, not which political values are superior or which outcomes should be dictated by individual preferences. They can, and do, use this knowledge to analyze and promote policies across the political spectrum.”
Second-year public policy student Luis Salazar attended Thursday's seminar and sees events such as this as a way to engage with his fellow Yellow Jackets about real-world issues.
"This is a place to come together, and the Institute's reputation makes it the perfect place for professionals and experts to interact with students who want to be involved in the political process. I appreciate how Tech facilitates these debates and conversations," he said.
Countless questions remain unanswered for both parties ahead of 2024, but Bluestein emphasized that, as candidates vie for the approval of young voters, students will have the power to make their voices heard.
"You'll be in the middle of it here at Georgia Tech. Smart candidates will come to college campuses to try to attract young voters, not just to vote but to work on their campaigns. Students and faculty here will have a chance to ask questions that other folks might not be asking about, whether it be about higher education funding, student policies, student debt relief, or any other issues that are top of mind,” he said.
The first true litmus test for the state in the upcoming election will take place on March 12 during Georgia's primary elections.