MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the 2020 General Election, the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office reported more than 1.1 million Democrats in Tennessee came out to support Joe Biden at the polls. That is a 31% increase from the number of Democratic votes in 2016 for candidate Hillary Clinton.
Voting activist Tami Sawyer said Democrats never expected to experience what they did in the last four years, so the only way they were going to see change was through voting. She added the grassroots efforts statewide to register people to vote and get to the polls was exceptionally high during this election cycle.
"I think absolutely that a lot of people felt the urgency of the moment of this election and it’s not just the dislike of a person," Sawyer said. "It was a dislike of a set of policies and a type of leadership that that person exuded."
Sawyer said while Clinton's campaign was historic, she did not draw in enough blue supporters in Tennessee mainly because of her gender and scandals during her career. There was nearly a 20% decrease of Democratic support at the polls between the historic election of the U.S.'s first African American president Barrack Obama in 2008 and Clinton's historic 2016 run as the first female presidential candidate for a major party.
"We're still growing there," Sawyer said. "We’ve got a lot of work to do with women leadership and especially in the higher levels."
Sawyer added that some Republicans might have voted blue this election for the sake of their party's candidate. She said a lot of Democrats were also excited their party had diverse candidates.
Political analyst Otis Sanford said Democrats swarmed to the polls to simply vote out President Donald Trump. He added Democrats also figured Biden could bring a sense of calm to the country, they cherished his connection to Obama, and they liked that he chose a woman of color as his running mate.
"People wanted to vote against President Trump because they thought he was a disaster plus people also saw history here with Kamala Harris on the ticket," Sanford said.
Sanford added while exit polls showed that the economy drove people to the polls, he believes that the response to the coronavirus pandemic and racial inequality were the biggest factors. While there was only a 5% increase of turnout for Biden in 2020 compared to 2008 for Obama, Sanford said people matched the level of enthusiasm, but for different reasons.
"I think they were voting for a total change in the tone and the atmosphere that we’ve endured for the last four years," Sanford said.
Both Sawyer and Sanford agree that it's unlikely Tennessee will ever flip to blue. There was a 21% increase of Republican voters for Trump in 2020 compared to 2016.
They also both agreed that it will take a lot to keep up the momentum of this high Democratic turnout.
"I think it depends on the candidate," Sanford said. "I think it will depend on what’s going on in the country at the time."