You will have to get used to that in Washington. He’ll have to get used to it himself. Mitch McConnell, the head of the Republicans in the Senate and the most powerful man in Congress for years, will probably soon have a new title: minority leader.
If what is emerging after a long election night is confirmed, the Democrats can celebrate a triumph they did not expect – not in Georgia, in the conservative southern United States. If not everything is wrong, it is the last and the pretty complete defeat of Donald Trump. The presidency has already lost his party under him, as has the House of Representatives. And now the Senate too.
If the Democrats win the two seats in the Georgia by-election, they will break Republican hegemony in the Senate. You’re breaking the power of Mitch McConnell.
It’s not official yet, the margins are tight, a recount is possible at one of the races. But everything points to a double victory for the Democrats, a slide to the left – and thus a new era in the USA.
Warnock would be the first black for Georgia in the Senate
On the one hand, the party owed this victory to its candidates. The 51-year-old Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock, who preaches in the parish of the civil rights activist Martin Luther King, would be the first black person to represent the former Confederate state of Georgia in the Senate. Warnock has never held any political office but is well known as a pastor in Georgia. He belongs to the left wing of the Democrats. His lead over Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler is so great that a recount seems impossible.
When Warnock’s historic election was all but certain, he took a video message to voters talking about his 82-year-old mother, who used to pick other people’s cotton in the field. Now, with her vote, she has helped her youngest son to become a United States Senator. “This is America,” said Warnock.
In the other by-election, filmmaker Jon Ossoff apparently managed to get more votes than David Perdue, the second Republican incumbent. Ossoff’s lead is much narrower, but Republican observers also assume that nothing will change in the interim result. Ossoff positions himself more in the center of the party. At 33, he would become the youngest senator since 1973 – the year a certain Joe Biden was sworn in for the first time.
Loeffler and Perdue, two very wealthy investors, had called their challengers in an aggressively led election campaign as left-wing extremists who would help Biden turn the US into a socialist hell. In previous elections this might even have worked. Probably not this time. Loeffler and Perdue weren’t good candidates. They have been under pressure since the pandemic started because they had sold large blocks of shares before the population realized how dangerous Covid-19 actually is. Their democratic challengers never missed an opportunity to exploit these stock deals.
Trump and his talk of electoral fraud has cost votes
The Republicans’ own weakness was only one factor. The more important one was called Donald Trump. In the minds of Republican strategists, the Georgia by-election should have been a referendum on whether Biden and his Democrats can rule Washington in the future or whether they are controlled by a Republican-ruled Senate.
But Trump ruined this plan. By making demonstrably bogus, increasingly bizarre allegations of electoral fraud and attacking the Georgia Republican electoral authorities for weeks, the out-of-town president kept the debate open. He also urged the two senators of his party to adopt at least parts of his plot theories, which they willingly did.
It is not yet possible to say precisely whether Trump’s talk of fraud is the reason that significantly fewer of his party supporters went to the polls on Tuesday than two months ago. But in Republican circles, Trump is already blamed for this. In return, the Democrats were much better able to mobilize their own voters – especially black Americans and voters in the suburbs.
For the Republicans, the foreseeable loss of the two seats would be a disaster. The Senate, as the Conservatives had stressed over and over again in recent weeks, was their last line of defense against Biden’s future government – their bastion from which they would block everything that came from the White House into Congress. Now this bastion has fallen. Joe Biden will benefit from this. His party now presumably has 50 seats in the Chamber, as many as the Republicans. With the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, the Democrats can break a stalemate if they keep their own faction together.
However, 51 votes are not enough for the very large projects
That would mean that Biden will have no problem getting his cabinet and his candidates for the federal courts confirmed by the Senate – which makes his government work much easier. It will also allow him to implement at least parts of his agenda. To spend more money fighting the economic consequences of the pandemic or raising taxes, a simple majority in the Senate is enough.
On the other hand, the future president will still need the 60 votes in the Senate that are necessary to pass most of the laws for big throws like an infrastructure package or a climate protection program. So it will depend on the cooperation of the Republicans, which, however, will not exist for many of the preferred projects of the Democrats.
Smaller compromises, on the other hand, would certainly be possible again after years of stagnation. From the Democratic perspective, that would have done something like a miracle in Georgia – at least.