Democrats triumph in Georgia: a huge boost for Biden

Democrats triumph in Georgia: a huge boost for Biden

 “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed... and we will deserve it.” So tweeted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham back in the spring of 2016. His prediction didn’t look so clever by the end of that year, said David Graham in The Atlantic (Washington DC), but he has finally been vindicated. Over the course of just four years, Donald Trump has led his party “from unified control of Washington to the wilderness”, losing the House of Representatives, the White House and – thanks to Democratic victories in two run-off elections in Georgia last week – the Senate. Trump’s electoral success rested on his ability to turn out voters who traditionally shun the polls. But that wasn’t enough to win against Joe Biden, given the backlash he provokes from other quarters, and it certainly hasn’t helped his fellow GOP candidates. “In short, Trump has broken the old Republican coalition, perhaps irrevocably”, and created a new one that apparently only works for him.

Trump bears direct responsibility for the losses in Georgia, said Marc A. Thiessen in The Washington Post. Not only did he “barely lift a finger” to help the two Republican candidates, he actively undermined their campaigns by endlessly insisting that the first round of Georgia’s Senate races – in which none of the candidates received the requisite majority of the vote, thus necessitating a run-off under state election rules – was rigged. “Many Georgia Republicans believed his conspiracy-mongering and stayed home”, while Democrat voters turned out in force. By depressing the GOP vote, Trump foolishly delivered the state’s Senate seats to the Democrats, who now have “the power to reverse his legacy and irreversibly transform our country”.

The results in Georgia are an extraordinary development, said E.J. Dionne Jr in the same paper. The southern state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in 20 years. Civil rights groups had registered hundreds of new voters. The Rev. Raphael Warnock, who won one of the seats, will be the first black senator in Georgia’s history. He’s the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – the congregation led during the civil rights era by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. His victory seems “fitting after a tragic year of suffering and brokenness that fed a demand for change, which led to Biden’s election”.

“Warnock’s win is good for the nation’s soul,” agreed Michelle Cottle in The New York Times. And the Georgia results are certainly great news for Presidentelect Biden and his party. But it won’t give them unfettered control of Congress. The Senate is now split 50:50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a crucial tie-breaker for simple majority votes. Given that most bills need a 60-vote supermajority, passing legislation will still be tricky, requiring a large amount of bipartisan support. Now that the Democrats are in control of both chambers of Congress, Biden is likely to come under strong pressure from progressives to make all sorts of big changes, but this Senate make-up is not “a recipe for bold change”. Still, the Democrats’ narrow advantage will make it easier for Biden to get his Cabinet members and judicial appointments confirmed. Crucially, it also means that the Republicans no longer control the legislative agenda. For the past five years, the Republicans’ “iron-fisted” leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has obstructed the Democrats’ reform plans at every turn, but his “days as the Grim Reaper of legislation are over”. He’ll no longer decide what gets brought to the Senate floor. Meaningful progress in Washington might still prove impossible, but “thanks to Georgia, the incoming president, his party and the nation now have a fighting chance”.