If nothing else, Tuesday night’s runoff election in Georgia has given us the first Black U.S. Senator from that state — Rev. Raphael Warnock, who preaches in the pulpit once filled by Martin Luther King Jr. and will now occupy the seat once held by the segregationist Herman Talmadge. That’s pretty awesome.
But Democrats may have won a bigger prize: Control of the Senate itself. As of Wednesday morning, the vote is still close, but it appears that Democrat Jon Ossoff is on his way to defeating the incumbent, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), to give his party the margin it needs for a very slim majority.
If that holds, Democrats will hold the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time since the early days of President Barack Obama’s tenure. Back then, Democrats had a global recession and the fallout from the Iraq War to confront. Now, they have a global recession and a pandemic to try to fix. It’s never easy, is it?
Three thoughts about Tuesday’s election results in Georgia:
Trump’s failure is complete. I never understood the strategy of having Trump directly participate so much in the Georgia runoff campaign when he performed worse in November than the GOP’s congressional candidates. That was probably a sign for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to encourage the president to stay home.
Instead, the race in many ways became all about Trump. His fixation on having lost Georgia’s electoral votes — a state Republicans hadn’t lost in 30 years — led him to publicly and privately pressure the state’s GOP officials to change the results. His rallies in Georgia only perfunctorily mentioned Perdue and Loeffler, and instead became extended rants about his hurt feelings. He even promised to be a fixture in the state’s politics for years to come. The two Republican candidates, accordingly, joined the campaign to undermine the results of their own state’s election. It seems more than possible that all of this left a bad taste in the mouths of Georgia voters — and that they decided that returning Perdue and Loeffler to the U.S. Senate might unnecessarily empower the Trumpist elements of the GOP. At the very least, as The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman pointed out on Tuesday, Trump “spent two months refusing to concede the election. It left a mark.”
Stacey Abrams can write her own ticket. Of course, there were other factors that determined the election — including, notably, a strong turnout by Black voters. There are lots of people involved in making that happen, but Abrams has the highest profile, and perhaps the highest ambitions. (And she took a well-deserved victory lap on Tuesday night.) It is clear those efforts worked, both in November and on Tuesday night. Democrats should be eager to reward her with a high-profile post, but odds are good that she will run once more against incumbent Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in 2022. Weirdly, she might get help from Trump, who has promised to campaign against Kemp in the next election.
Democrats won. Progressives didn’t. Some progressives on Tuesday started fantasizing on Twitter about possibilities of Democratic control of the Senate — D.C. statehood, getting rid of the filibuster, things like that. But Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House are going to be so narrow that ambitious lefty legislation may not get much traction; it will only take a few centrist Democrats to defect or demand concessions. Already, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) is looking like one of the more powerful figures in national politics, and he is no friend of ending the filibuster or big-ticket items like Medicare-for-all.
On the other hand, President Joe Biden will have an easier time getting both Cabinet members and judges confirmed now, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stands to become chair of the Senate Budget Committee. And if your goal going into the November election was — minimally — to limit the damage Trump had done during his four years in office, Tuesday’s results should at the very least provide some satisfaction.