The Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff owe a debt of gratitude to one man who probably did more than anyone else to help the two Democrats be elected Tuesday to the U.S. Senate from Georgia. That man? Donald J. Trump.
And in the same way, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. can thank President Trump for a big job promotion. With the election of Warnock and Ossoff, Schumer will advance from Senate minority leader to majority leader. The Senate will now have 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, enabling soon-to-be Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote to put Democrats in charge.
The new Democratic majority in the Senate will help incoming President Joe Biden deal with the coronavirus pandemic, economic crisis, and other major problems left for him by Trump. That’s good news not just for Biden but for our nation.
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Had Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remained as Senate majority leader you can be sure he would have dedicated all his energy to obstructing Biden’s initiatives to hurt the Democratic president — ignoring the fact that this would have also hurt the American people. Now McConnell will soon get a demotion to minority leader.
Until November, Georgia was considered a deep red state that President Trump was expected to carry in the presidential election. But Trump managed to narrowly lose the state to former Vice President Biden, probably due to Trump’s abysmal handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has now killed over 361,000 Americans, filled our hospitals beyond capacity, crippled our economy and sent unemployment soaring.
Since his well-deserved election loss in Georgia and in the nation, Trump’s singular obsession with overturning his defeat with baseless claims of voter fraud has clearly disturbed many voters outside his hard-core base, further eroding his support.
A majority of voters in the Georgia runoff elections showed that they are fed up with Trump by sending Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — who spared no effort to show their devotion to Trump — into political retirement.
And now Warnock has become the first African American and Ossoff has become the first Jewish person ever elected to represent Georgia in the Senate. And no, contrary to claims by Perdue, Loeffler and Trump, the two newly elected Democrats are not wild-eye socialists eager to destroy capitalism and the American way of life. They are mainstream Democrats dedicated to improving the lives of all their constituents.
Warnock grew up in a family of modest means, the son of a mother who picked cotton. He went on to serve as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the same church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once preached and used as his launching pad to mount his history-making nonviolent assault against American racism.
Ossoff, who once worked with the late great Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., will be the Senate’s youngest member at 33 years old. He will be the youngest Democrat to serve in the Senate since a young newcomer named Joe Biden took office in 1973 at age 30.
Of course, Trump doesn’t deserve all the credit for electing Warnock and Ossoff. The two Democrats waged an incredible ground game in their campaigns and raised huge sums of money, aided by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who battled GOP voter suppression efforts.
Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who represented Georgia in the U.S. House as a Republican, acknowledge in an op-ed for Fox News on Wednesday that Abrams did an outstanding job for Warnock and Ossoff. And Gingrich credited the two Democrats for waging positive campaigns, in contrast to Perdue and Loeffler who focused on waging negative campaigns attacking their Democratic opponents.
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Changing demographics also helped Warnock, Ossoff and Biden win in Georgia. Some 25% more African Americans and 18% more Latinos were registered to vote in Georgia than in 2016. Most of this new voting group turned 18 since Trump’s first election victory.
But there were other factors at play as well: messaging and the messenger.
Trump showed he was not just a loser but an extraordinarily sore loser with his wild claims that he actually won in Georgia by hundreds of thousands of votes, despite recounts that show there was no truth to his fantasy. On top of this, the president started a Republican civil war with his ridiculous claim that Georgia’s Republican governor and Republican secretary of state ignored voter fraud so he could be defeated.
This sent a strong message to some Trump loyalists: if Georgia elections were rigged against Republicans, why bother to vote in the Senate runoff?
As a Washington Post headline said Wednesday on a column by conservative writer Marc Thiessen: “If Trump was trying to lose Georgia, he couldn’t have done a better job”
Honorable mention in the category of helping Warnock and Ossoff get elected should go to Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. He launched a hopeless effort to have Congress overturn Trump’s election loss by refusing to accept the Biden victory in the Electoral College. Hawley was joined by other Senate and House Republicans in what could be called the Don Quixote caucus.
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This ill-fated campaign to take away the right of the American people to elect their president sparked lots of outrage, particularly among Black voters, who were denied voting rights in Georgia for generations and who are still targeted for voter suppression by Republicans.
Internal Republican polling showed Perdue and Loeffler had a good chance of winning their seats prior to Hawley’s announcement of his effort, which split Republicans in Congress between supporters and opponents of democracy.
Loeffler and Perdue were also hurt when Trump suddenly made a last-minute demand that most Americans receive $2,000 stimulus checks to help them deal with the coronavirus pandemic. McConnell refused to go along with the demand and blocked the Senate from considering it, but Warnock and Ossoff joined Democrats in the House and Senate in supporting it.
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This set up a clear choice for voters: Keep the Senate in Republican hands and settle for a $600 coronavirus payment, or flip the Senate to the Democrats and see those payments boosted by $1,400 to hit $2,000. In other words, voting for the Democrats could put another $2,800 in the pockets of most couples. This certainly boosted support for the Democratic candidates.
So at the end of the day, Trump — who loves to boast about his incredible ability to always win — can rightfully claim a good deal of credit for the Warnock and Ossoff wins. His only problem is that he won for the opposing political party.
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