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Sandy Springs, GA 30328
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Spirit of unity, suburban impacts
are lingering questions after
BY JOHN RUCH
Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory over Republican incumbent
Donald Trump is being greeted with different emotions among some local political
observers — but also with common hopes of Georgia and America moving forward
in a spirit of unity.
It remains to be seen whether such a spirit can emerge from a contentious elec
tion that Trump refused to concede amid lengthy audits. And activists in both par
ties were bracing for two momentous runoff elections Jan. 5 for Georgia’s two U.S.
Senate seats that could decide that chamber’s partisan control. Another outstand
ing question: How the presidential election and the Senate battles may trickle down
into local politics in the Atlanta suburbs that appeared to drive Biden’s victory.
“You can’t be expecting me to think with words in a moment of such intense
emotion,” said Valerie Habif of Sandy Springs, a co-founder of a grassroots polit
ical group called the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, on Nov. 7, the day media
organizations projected Biden as the winner. “...In the midst of the nightmare that
we were living, could we ever have dreamed that Georgia would do this? And now
what’s ahead of us is greater than what was behind us,” she said, referring to the
J. Max Davis, a Republican who was Broolchaven’s founding mayor and whose fa
ther long served in the Georgia House of Representatives, voted for Trump. But he
also once met Biden in person and likes him. Davis spoke on the phone from Flori
da, where his family went on vacation after tiring of the grueling anxiety of watch
ing day after day of election counts.
“I know people that are upset. I’m slightly upset,” said Davis. “But when it comes
down to it, we’re all Americans. We just all need to understand that withdrawing
from a friend or castigating your neighbor because of their politics is really a little
Davis said he is reminded “the world is not coming to an end tomorrow” and that
“we all have to row this boat together.”
Division and unity
For activists like Habif, Biden’s victory is a triumph over the Trump’s insulting
manners and approving comments of White supremacists and neo-Nazis in a time
that saw an increase in reports of anti-Semitic incidents and violence. She said she
wishes election numbers had a bigger margin and “had been a more resounding re
pudiation of Trump.” But it will do.
“Look at us. We have the first Black vice president, and the first female Black
vice president, and the first Indian American vice president,” Habif said, referring
to Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. “There’s a Yiddish word... lcvell. It’s when
you’re filled with pride, filled with joyous pride. What we’re doing is, we’re levell
Davis said he understands why Trump turned off many voters as a person.
“I voted for Trump. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he said or did,”
said Davis. “I know he’s crass. I know he’s bombastic like the salesman that he is.”
But, Davis said, Trump had many good policies and successes on the economy, Chi
na trade and remaking of international free trade agreements.
On the other hand, “I think Biden has a little of that in him as well,” Davis add
ed. “I don’t dislike Joe Biden at all.... He’s a good person. I think he wants what’s best
for the country,” though his advisors and Democratic Party officials might be a dif
Davis’s perception comes from a visit he made to the Obama White House for a
U.S. Conference of Mayors event while he was leader of Broolchaven. Davis said he
ended up sitting with the then vice president — at one point even serving as Biden’s
support when he stood on a chair to give a speech — and spent 25 minutes speak
ing one-on-one with him.