The control of the United States Senate over the next two years will hinge on two runoff races in Georgia, scheduled for January 5. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will face off against incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Democrats will need to win both to have 50 votes in the Senate, making Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.
Given the bewildering results of this election, one can't say with much confidence what kind of strategy might work best. But there's a decent case to make it a referendum on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's obstructionism, coupled to a concrete promise to Georgians that voting Democratic is the only possible way their state — and the country as a whole — will be fixed. This winter is likely to be extremely bleak, which may lead Georgians to think that only unified government will save them.
As David Dayen points out at The American Prospect, there is no clean narrative that either leftists, moderates, or conservatives can point to to claim success for their particular politics in 2020. Turnout was huge — probably the highest percentage in 120 years — yet contrary to many leftists' assumptions, it didn't lead to a Democratic landslide. Donald Trump got the second-highest number of votes of any candidate ever (both he and Joe Biden finally topped Barack Obama's 2008 record) and obliterated his previous vote totals in nearly every state.
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That said, moderate House candidates lost badly in several districts, while lefties like Katie Porter (D-Calif.) did well in a swing House district. George Floyd protests clearly caused an enormous surge in Democratic voter registration. Biden did horribly among Latinos in Florida and Texas, though better in Arizona and California. And in many states, including Georgia and Maine, downballot Democratic candidates ran behind Biden — suggesting a substantial population of anti-Trump conservatives who voted Republican down-ballot, or the kind of maddening people who vote for the opposite party as a check on the president (perhaps so they can then complain about gridlock afterwards). Others have argued convincingly that the lack of in-person canvassing and outreach to particular groups made the difference in some states.
Anyway, the postmortems are still being sorted out. Still, we can say with reasonable confidence that Republicans will leverage the above sentiment and run their campaigns on preserving divided government as a check on Biden's power, in addition to all the usual conservative agitprop.
But let's consider what is likely to happen over the next two months. The coronavirus pandemic is raging out of control in almost every state, Georgia included. Thursday saw over 116,000 new confirmed infections, hospitalizations are skyrocketing, and deaths (as always a lagging indicator) have been rising for weeks. The hospitals in some locations are already stuffed to capacity.
Meanwhile, the economic recovery has been gradually stalling out. Each monthly jobs report since June has seen a decline in the number of new jobs, and we are not even close to replacing all the jobs that were lost in the depths of the first wave in March and April. Georgia is doing relatively better than many states, though its unemployment rate actually increased between August and September (the most recent month for which data is available). And with the pandemic going gangbusters, it is likely that some cities or states may conclude they have no option but to introduce more lockdown measures, which will slow the recovery further.
At an absolute bare minimum, America is crying out for another major rescue package to tide us all over until either President Biden can introduce a rational pandemic control system, or (more realistically) a vaccine is developed and deployed. That means another round of $1,200 checks, a re-up of super-unemployment, more grants for small businesses, and so on. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already signaling that he is only open to a small rescue package if anything, while it seems unlikely that Trump will bother signing anything at all. McConnell is also saying out loud that, just like he did under Obama, he is going to obstruct the ordinary business of government at every turn.
I therefore suggest that Democrats develop their own rescue package, which every upcoming member of Congress, and both of the Georgia Democratic challengers, will promise publicly to pass on day one of the next Congress. Such a concrete offer might just drive enough liberal turnout to match what appears to be an extremely narrow Biden win at the presidential level in Georgia.
Vote Democrat, and get $1,200 simoleons directly into the pockets of each and every Georgia voter, plus other nice goodies. It's just crazy enough to work.
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