Monday, January 4, 2021

Georgia On All Our Minds

In a New Year's Day tweet, President Trump proclaimed tomorrow's Georgia Senate runoff election both “illegal and invalid.” Might that dissuade some of his supporters from voting in the election, which is already on its way to set a record for participation in a runoff election? If so, then the Democrats' chances of capturing control of the Senate from the lamentable Mitch McConnell might increase. It was a long time ago when all politics was local. This election is almost entirely about the U.S. Senate and whether or not any meaningful legislation will be passed in the next two years! 

Given the party polarization of the electorate, it seems unlikely that one seat will go one way and the other another way. So the outcome will almost certainly be a Senate with a majority of 52 Republicans or a 50-50 division with the Democrats having the controlling "majority" because of Vice President Harris's role as tie-breaker. If this were a "persuasion" election, then the two Republican incumbents' experience as rich businesspeople and the allegations regarding their stock-sales in the early days of the pandemic should certainly count against them. But fewer and fewer elections are "persuasion" elections anymore. Most likely, this will be a "turnout" election. Whichever party can get the most of its supporters to bother to vote will be the party most likely to win. The Democrats seem to have their base energized and voting. It remains to be seen whether Republicans will turn out in sufficient numbers on Election Day to overcome that. Under normal conditions in Georgia, a Republican win would be the more likely outcome. The wild card in this case, of course, is the President's own erratic attack on the electoral process and the apparent schism he may be creating among Georgia Republicans - unlikely to keep too many Republican voters away but maybe sufficient to keep just enough of them away!

“Republicans in Georgia must be careful of the political corruption in Fulton County, which is rampant,” Trump tweeted yesterday. “The Governor, @BrianKempGA, and his puppet Lt. Governor, @GeoffDuncanGA, have done less than nothing. They are a disgrace to the great people of Georgia!” And then came the infamous phone call, which ought to disgust all Americans and which could well be grounds for yet another (highly unlikely) impeachment.

If the Democrats can successfully win these two Senate seats, they will have Stacey Abrams to thank, for sure, but they may also have President Trump to thank. Trump only became a Republican when it suited his purposes, and he has never shown that much concern for that party's long-term well being. Four years ago, there was the thought that maybe Trump might steer the party in a more economically "populist" direction, but the only "populism" the party has produced is opposition to scientific and medical expertise and a rejection of traditional constitutional and democratic norms. The former is vividly on display every time you encounter someone without a mask. The latter will be on display when Congress meets to count the electoral votes on Wednesday.

The GOP's obituary has already been written too many times in my lifetime to warrant confidence in the party's imminent demise. But the divisions within the party, which will likely be on view on Wednesday, the schism between its "populist" base and whatever is left of traditional Republican conservatism may yet portend a further breakup of the party.

But for now all the country can do is wait for whatever Georgia decides to do!

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