“We were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Raphael Warnock said, speaking early Wednesday morning, as the vote count continued in the Georgia.
At the time, it was clear Warnock had defeated Kelly Loeffler, but Jon Ossoff was still trailing David Perdue. Fast forward several hours and Ossoff was ahead, poised to become the youngest US senator elected in four decades.
The sense of desperation in the Perdue campaign was palpable. “As we’ve said repeatedly over the last several weeks… this is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate and the voices of Georgians are heard,” the campaign remarked, in a statement. “We will mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted.”
In other words: Perdue planned to challenge the results where possible, but by Wednesday afternoon, both Ossoff and Warnock had margins big enough to avoid triggering a recount under Georgia law.
Democrats pulled off the blue sweep, albeit on a two-month delay. They will control the Senate with Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaker.
Of course, as documented here Tuesday and on countless occasions previous, that doesn’t mean carte blanche for Progressives to pursue “radical” policies, Loeffler’s (ultimately ineffective) scare tactics notwithstanding. This wasn’t a campaign to determine whether a “leftist” agenda would be implemented in Washington.
Rather, the Georgia runoffs were simply about determining whether Biden’s agenda would be obstructed wholeheartedly, or merely hampered by a slim majority and a reluctance on the part of centrist Democrats to lean too far left. That’s it. And that’s a sobering reality for the Progressive wing, even as all Democrats will naturally celebrate the results.
One key question was whether Donald Trump’s political capital with Mitch McConnell was exhausted on Tuesday evening. The president clearly cost Republicans votes in Georgia by casting doubt on the reliability of the process and suggesting that all manner of conspiracies were afoot. Following Wednesday’s harrowing siege on Capitol Hill, there was no doubt that McConnell’s patience with the outgoing president was at an end.
We’ll never know, definitively, whether the results would have been different in the absence of Trump’s belabored efforts to overturn his own loss in the state. But some Republicans will doubtlessly blame the outgoing president. “Will McConnell continue to show deference to Trump?”, The New York Times‘s“Will he blame him if the GOP loses its Senate majority?”
The answer is probably “yes.” Regular readers may recall that last month, I suggested McConnell would never forgive Trump if the GOP lost the Senate, and that, along with chaos in D.C., was McConnell’s reality on Wednesday.
Trump will continue to wield considerable sway in the GOP and will probably support primary challenges against some Republicans, but making an enemy of McConnell is perilous. Trump’s assumed 2024 bid could be an uphill battle if Mitch unleashes the establishment hounds. What happened in Washington on Wednesday may have doomed Trump’s chances of running for a second term altogether.
The AP documented the thinking behind two Georgia voters’ decisions. One, a 37-year-old Buckhead resident, voted “all Democrat” for the first time in her life. “I’ve always been Republican, but I’ve been pretty disgusted by Trump and just the way the Republicans are working,” she remarked. “I feel like for the Republican candidates to still stand there with Trump and campaign with Trump feels pretty rotten. This isn’t the conservative values that I grew up with.”
Even 56-year-old Will James, who told the AP he voted “straight GOP,” didn’t do so because of Trump. In fact, he was “concerned” that the state’s Republican candidates supported challenges of the presidential election results in Georgia. So, why did James still vote for them? “I believe in balance of power, and I don’t want either party to have a referendum, basically,” he said.
That’s not generally what you want to hear if you’re the Republican leadership. You want wholehearted support, not begrudging votes.
Trump managed to push through a historic tax cut and seat not one, not two, but three Supreme Court justices, thereby cementing conservative jurisprudence for a generation. That, along with his unparalleled ability to harness the rage capital of a notoriously fervent base and direct it at anyone deemed insufficiently loyal, allowed him to get away with pretty much anything, up to and including jeopardizing the country’s system of governance.
But “anything” may not include costing the GOP the Senate after losing the White House two months earlier and the House in the midterms.
And it certainly doesn’t include fomenting a literal insurrection, which was a word used by McConnell himself on Wednesday evening to describe Trump’s supporters in D.C.