It's finally over: five full days after the end of the actual year 2020, the 2020 elections are also over.
And they ended with a bang early Wednesday morning, a lean but decisive victory for Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who in one fell swoop made both US Senate seats in Georgia Democratic. In this way, they ensured that the party would have a wafer-thin 50-50 majority in the Senate after Vice President Kamala Harris took office on January 20.
The results will thus fundamentally change American politics for the next two years. Rather than being hampered by an unyielding Republican majority leader in the Senate, President-elect Joe Biden will have a slim majority in both houses of Congress. As long as Senate Democrats agree, Biden will be able to use the budget vote to deliver more Covid-19 vaccination measures, additional economic stimulus and aid to states and cities, and investments in green energy and care as part of his “Build Back Better” "-Agenda. Political ideas that were deemed dead when they arrived, like a national public option for health insurance, suddenly, if not likely, look at least that way possible.
This is just the beginning of the impact of the Georgia special election results. Here's who came in front and who fell behind.
Winners: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff
That should not happen.
For one thing, there should be only one Senate election in Georgia this year; The other was not up for re-election until 2022. However, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson surprised everyone in December 2019 by announcing his resignation on health grounds. At the time, my colleague Li Zhou wrote that the move "could have a significant impact on democratic efforts to retake the upper chamber." Has ever done
Supporters of Democratic Senate nominees Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock listen as President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a rally in Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 4.
Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images
In a broader sense, however, Georgia should not be the turning point. In other highly competitive states, the Democrats really got their dream candidates. Governor Steve Bullock ran into Montana; Her top recruits in Arizona and Colorado, astronaut Mark Kelly and former Governor John Hickenlooper, also ran. Kelly and Hickenlooper won (and Bullock ran ahead of Biden in a deep red state), but the party lagged in states like North Carolina and Texas, where the best Democratic prospects weren't there.
None of Georgia's best Democrats ran in 2020. No sitting member of the US House of Representatives ran; Former nominee for the Board of Governors, Stacey Abrams, the National Democrats' top prospect, turned it down, as did the 2014 nominee for governor Jason Carter, the 2014 Senate nominee Michelle Nunn, and the former US Deputy Attorney General / Georgia-US Attorney Sally Yates.
Instead, Warnock and Ossoff, two candidates with no experience in the elected office, received the nod. Ossoff, in particular, who fell short in a closely watched, heavily funded special Congress election in 2017, felt almost like a standard candidate. Warnock has a long pastor background that gave him a built-in base; Ossoff had little more than name recognition.
Both were real outsider candidates. Yes, they received massive national funding and campaigning support, especially when it became clear that their runoff elections would take control of the U.S. Senate. But both are unlikely senators. Ossoff, only 33 years old, will probably be the first turn of the millennium to join the body. Warnock will be the first black senator from Georgia and only the second black senator from the south since rebuilding.
It's a big personal win for Warnock and Ossoff, even if the national impact of their victories could overshadow it.
– Dylan Matthews
Loser: Mitch McConnell
Soon after Mitch McConnell was sworn in for his first term in the Senate in 1985, he set himself a goal: to become majority leader of the chamber. It took 30 years, but it finally got there in 2014 when the GOP regained control of the chamber after eight years of leading minority Republicans. McConnell then protected his majority through tough election cycles in 2016 and 2018, confirmed three Conservative Supreme Court justices, and won his own re-election for his seventh (and, as many believe, final) term in November.
The Republican double defeat in Georgia, however, means McConnell will begin this term as a minority rather than majority leader – an outcome he has been desperate to avoid since it became clear that President Trump was losing re-election and control of the Senate in Georgia would be decided.
Senator Mitch McConnell will now lead the Senate minority rather than the majority.
Samuel Corum / Getty Images
His strategy initially was to leave some room for Trump as the president refused to admit to avoid splitting the GOP ahead of the runoff elections. In his first speech in the Senate after the election for Biden was scheduled, McConnell snorted at Democratic hypocrisy, saying the president was merely pursuing legal options, as candidates often do, and claiming "our system" would work things out. (This is the day an anonymous senior Republican official told the Washington Post, "What's the downside to humiliating him (Trump) for this short amount of time? Nobody seriously believes the results will change.")
But if you give Trump an inch, it will take him a mile, and the president's frenzied and corrupt (and absent-minded and incompetent) efforts to deny the results don't stop there. He was obsessed with dismissing the results in Georgia and pursuing personal feuds against state officials who would not manipulate the results in his favor. All of this culminated last weekend when Trump called Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger and asked him to find votes for him. As a result, Raffensperger's team released a recording of the call two days before the special Senate election, highlighting the Republican disorder.
To McConnell's (very limited) earnings, he did nothing to aid Trump's election campaign (and if you read between the lines of his testimony, you can tell he was not on board). Soon after the electoral college voted in mid-December, McConnell confirmed Biden's victory. But in November he had made the decision to let Trump run wild instead of trying to contain him – and given his position in Republican politics, that signaled many other GOP politicians to do the same.
It's far from clear that if McConnell had challenged Trump more openly in November, it would have changed Tuesday's results. (It could have potentially made matters worse if Trump had declared war on the Senate GOP instead of promoting Loeffler and Warnock.) But on top of Trump's aftermath, another recent decision by McConnell – his refusal to accept the Senate vote to allow purge measure to send stimulus checks worth $ 2,000 – will also require a second guess. What is clear is that the post-election period was a disaster for McConnell and that his long-held prize has slipped out of his fingers – at least for now.
– Andrew Procopius
Loser: Trump's election discrediting strategy
It's too early to say exactly why the Republicans blew up two winning Senate races. However, there is good reason to believe that President Trump – and his anti-democratic attempts to overthrow the presidential elections in Georgia and other states – will bear a significant portion of the blame.
There are at least two reasons to believe that Trump's attacks on the election hurt Loeffler and Perdue.
President Trump will fight alongside Senator Kelly Loeffler in Dalton, Georgia on January 4th.
Sandy Huffaker / AFP via Getty Images
First, his repeated assault on the integrity of the electoral process – on the grounds that Georgia in particular experienced massive fraud in the presidential election – appears to have convinced many Republicans that the election was indeed fraudulent. CNN's polls on the exit found that 76 percent of Republican voters believed the state's presidential election was not fair and that the Republican turnout was low compared to expectations. While exit polls are not particularly reliable, it is possible that a small but crucial number of Republicans were so indebted to Trump's fraud allegations that they didn't even bother to appear on the polls – a boycott put forward by some Trump – Was promoted to allies who were annoyed by the national party polls for not going all-in on its claims.
Second, Trump's attack on the elections ignited the Democrats and helped nationalize the races in particularly unhelpful ways. He turned competitions that might have been driven by local considerations into a referendum on Trump in a state he had lost. It's possible that Republican attacks on Ossoff and Warnock would have been more effective if Trump hadn't been on the news all the time. It's also possible that Loeffler and Perdue may have benefited more from their votes in favor of the popular coronavirus relief act, if Trump's electoral renanigans were not a priority.
To put it bluntly, it is far too early to say for sure what role Trump may have played in Georgia's results. But those theories are likely to become a staple of Insta cable news postmortems and the GOP round troop that will pop up on Wednesday morning. The more this becomes part of the public narrative of what happened in Georgia, the worse Trump's election attacks will look even among partisan Republicans.
That's good for American democracy.
– Zack Beauchamp
Winner: Joe Manchin
In a little over two weeks, Joe Biden will become President of the United States. Warnock and Ossoff's victories mean Republicans in the House and Senate cannot actively sabotage the executive branch of the federal government. With a Democratic Senate, Biden will be able to approve a cabinet, approve at least some judges, and sign at least some expense bills, thanks to a process known as "budget reconciliation".
The balance of power in this Senate, however, is held by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus. If Republicans band together against a Biden candidate, it is most likely that Manchin will decide whether that person is confirmed. If Biden wants to negotiate a budget or a new Covid-19 aid law, Manchin will play an oversized role in these negotiations.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), together with a group of bipartisan lawmakers, unveiled a proposal for a Covid-19 aid law on December 14, 2020.
Caroline Brehman / CQ Appeal via Getty Images
Biden will control the executive, but it's just a bit of an exaggeration to say that Joe Manchin – the most likely turning point for any number of actions – will control the legislature. It's worth noting that Manchin has a history of partnering with Republican Senators like Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Mitt Romney (UT), all of whom occasionally break out of their party on significant votes. But where he disagrees with his occasional Republican allies, Manchin will likely hold the 50th vote in the Senate and have the power to decide whether important matters succeed or fail.
Whenever a controversy arises in Congress, the first question on every reporter's lips is, "What does Sen. Manchin think?" Not long after it became clear that Warnock and Ossoff were likely to prevail, Joe Manchin's name began to trend on Twitter.
Unfortunately for Biden – and for America – Manchin is also given the power to decide whether most of Biden's legislative agenda will be dead upon his arrival. Manchin is a staunch opponent of the abolition of the filibuster, the outdated process that allows a minority in the Senate to block most laws unless 60 senators agree to end that blockade.
The Republicans will no doubt ruthlessly use the filibuster against Biden, just as they used it against President Obama. In the meantime, Democrats and Liberal politicians are likely to come up with different plans to weaken the filibuster without getting rid of it. For example, I suggested exempting government bills from the filibuster.
Will any of these suggestions prevail to weaken but not eliminate the filibuster? That's probably because of Joe Manchin.
Winner: Stacey Abrams and Georgia organizers
The real face of the Democratic victory in Georgia is not Jon Ossoff or Raphael Warnock. It's Stacey Abrams.
Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and founder of the Fair Fight constituency, has been encouraged by many to run for the Senate herself. Instead, she chose to organize along with dozens of other constituencies.
She had long argued that Georgia was on the verge of becoming a swing state and getting enough there dedicated resources and organization. Years of hard work by dozens of groups made it a reality; first with Biden's November victory, then with Ossoff's and Warnock's breathtaking January victories.
"Our time is now," Abrams Vox said in an email interview just before the November election.
Stacey Abrams and local organizers have successfully turned Georgia into a swing state.
Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images
Between mid-2018, when Abrams narrowly lost the governor's race, and the November 2020 election, 800,000 Georgians signed up to vote. And from November to January there was no rest for the election organizers in Georgia.
"We register voters 365 days a year, not just during a major election," Georgia Stand-Up executive director Deborah Scott recently told Vox.
A coalition of dozen groups, coordinated by America Votes, knocked on 8.5 million doors in Georgia. They also made about 20 million phone calls and sent over 18 million texts. Some groups got creative to generate low propensity voters to mobilize food drives and Thanksgiving turkey giveaways to encourage people to register and vote.
In the end, their work paid off tremendously, proving that Joe Biden's November Georgia win wasn't an aberration.
"People didn't allow themselves to hope," said Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project constituency. “Ultimately, you have to imagine it before we can build it. People have to believe that it is possible. "
– Ella Nilsen
Winner: Ketanji Brown Jackson (or Leondra Kruger)
The last time a Democrat was president and the Republicans controlled the Senate, Mitch McConnell closed almost all confirmations to the federal appeal bank in 2015 and 2016. And of course there was this whole matter with Judge Merrick Garland, the Obama Supreme Court candidate, who hadn't even received a hearing for approval by a Republican Senate.
Had the Republicans retained control of the Senate, McConnell would likely have repeated that feat. Biden would have found it difficult to validate a judge, let alone a candidate for a powerful appeals court. And a Biden Supreme Court candidate could not even have been considered.
But with Democrats in control of the Senate, McConnell won't be able to block the judiciary. This means, among other things, Judge Stephen Breyer, the 82-year-old Clinton Supreme Court appointee, can retire knowing that his waiting replacement will not suffer Garland's fate.
Biden has since promised to name a black woman in the Supreme Court. If there is a vacancy in the High Court after Biden has appointed many judges in the lower courts, Biden will likely be able to choose from his own candidates. However, if there is an immediate vacancy, the two most likely candidates are Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal district judge in DC, and Judge Leondra Kruger, who sits in the California Supreme Court.
Leondra Kruger will be sworn in as Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court on January 5, 2015 by Governor Jerry Brown in Sacramento, California.
Rich Pedroncelli / AP
It's worth noting that President Obama interviewed Jackson for the nomination that eventually went to Garland, and Jackson worked for Justice Breyer. Kruger worked for the late Judge John Paul Stevens.
Regardless of who Biden might choose for an eventual Supreme Court vacancy, one of the major consequences of Warnock and Ossoff's victories is that such a vacancy will now be filled with an overwhelming probability. That wouldn't be the case if McConnell were in charge.
Winner: More suggestion
President-elect Biden made additional coronavirus relief an explicit part of his stance on Georgia voters earlier this week – and now that the Democrats have won the Senate, more monetary aid is far more likely to become a reality.
"By choosing Jon and the Reverend … (those $ 2,000 checks), people who are in real trouble will walk out the door immediately," Biden said as he stumbled on Tuesday on behalf of Ossoff and Warnock . It probably won't be quite that simple, but it's true that additional incentives have a much better chance of getting approved by Senate Democrats who are in control.
So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has kept the $ 2,000 payments from progressing by tying them to tech company debits and repeatedly blocking a standalone vote on them. With Republicans out of the majority on January 20 (when Kamala Harris can act as a tie-breaker and elect Chuck Schumer as majority leader), McConnell can no longer set the Senate legislative agenda.
This change could pave the way for another stimulus package: the Democrats, for example, have emphasized their support for greater controls and more state and local aid. And while they still need Republican support if they go down the typical poll route, they don't have to deal with McConnell picking the bill before it even goes down.
– Li Zhou
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