By Kabir Singh
New York City, New York
A series of nail-biting elections has finally concluded as Georgian Democratic Senators-elect Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) defeated their respective Republican incumbent opponents, Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in runoff elections. As a result, the two major parties have split seats 50-50 in the Senate with the Democratic Party regaining majority status due to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote.
The Georgia runoffs sparked both hope and anxiety in the Democratic party. The victories are historic: Ossoff will become Georgia’s first Jewish senator and Warnock, Georgia’s first Black senator. These landmarks, however, were not without their challenges. The incumbent senators attacked their Democratic opponents based on their religious and racial identities. Perdue ran campaign ads in which he elongated Ossoff's nose in a blatantly “anti-Semitic trope,” as Ossoff referred to it. Loeffler attempted something similar, as she ran an ad in which she darkened Warnock’s skin tone. Despite these aggressions, Ossoff and Warnock won their elections, becoming the first Democratic senators from Georgia since 2005.
Along with President-elect Joe Biden's, the senators’ victories signify a shift in Georgian politics, which has historically leaned Republican. This is, in large part, thanks to the sustained work of many, most prominently Stacey Abrams, and to the Black womxn's vote. Black womxn turned out in record numbers and voted overwhelmingly Democrat. They deserve significant credit for regaining control of the Senate for the Democratic Party.
While Black womxn were instrumental in the Georgia senatorial victories, President Donald Trump definitely helped, too. In the aftermath of losing the election, the president refused to concede. Instead, he ignited anger among his base, refused the peaceful transition of power and continually repeated unfounded accusations of voter fraud, attempting anything in his power to overturn the will of the people. Both Perdue and Loeffler were staunch supporters of Trump—their support of his post-loss behavior was a likely factor in both the sub-par turnout of Republican voters in rural and suburban areas and the massive margins in Georgia’s cities.
There are many things for the Democratic Party to rejoice about: majority control will provide Democrats control of the committees, nominations and legislations brought to the congressional and senatorial floors and, as a result, Biden will be afforded some leeway to get his agenda items across the finish line. The Democrats, however, cannot afford to get comfortable. While they have regained control of the presidency and the senate, Democrats lost many key seats in the House to Republicans, and their agenda has lost tremendous support in the Supreme Court. Even their majority control of the Senate could be rendered ineffective as the Senate Cloture Rule—the only way to end a filibuster—requires a vote of 60 or more senators to reach a final decision. Senate Republicans could make this term extremely difficult for Biden. Democratic leaders have been tasked with cleaning up a country left in tatters by the Trump administration. The damage was in full display on Wednesday when, directly after the victories of Ossoff and Warnock, thousands of apparent Trump supporters seemingly instigated by a speech given by the president himself, stormed the Capitol in an unprecedented attack on our democracy. The Democratic Party cannot afford to relax: they must fight tooth and nail to repudiate not only the effects of a presidency that emboldened the dangerous and discriminatory ideologies that have always lurked in the center of American history, but those ideologies themselves.