Today is the last day of voting in the Georgia Senate runoff elections which among other things proves that Jim Crow hasn’t completely died in the American South. There is much more at stake here and along with two aspects I haven’t heard discussed I’ll try to cover it in the following paragraphs. Let’s explore.
In one race Democrat Jon Ossoff is matched up with incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue; in the other Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock (who I’ve often misidentified as Ralph) takes on incumbent but never elected Republican Kelly Loeffler. If the Democrats take both races they gain control of the Senate on January 20th by virtue of then- Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie breaking vote as President of the Senate. If you are a political junkie you knew all that already. If you are not a political junkie why are you here?
In any scenario the Republicans retain control of the Senate until the afternoon of January 20th.
Accurate polling in a runoff is all but impossible and all I’m willing to accept from the polling I’ve seen is that both races are too close to call. (I didn’t need polling to reach that conclusion.) My political experience tells me that (no surprise here!) they will hinge on turnout. The early turnout looks good for Democrats but we are still in the fifth inning. (Warning: My first of many sports metaphors for 2021.) In politics, as in sports, it is difficult to go two-for-two when the game hinges in it.
The only prediction I will hazard is that I doubt we will know the results by the end of the evening despite early polls closings typical of the South. In the event that either race is even remotely close with the Democrat apparently the winner (but especially if it is both) I expect challenges including legal challenges regardless of their merit. This fits with Republican behavior of late. Additionally it is fueled by two “outside interests”: lawyers and fund raisers.
Election lawyers have made a bonanza of contested elections. Success is irrelevant for the most part; generating revue and publicity are the names of the game. Much of that revenue comes from the efforts of professional fund raisers who get a piece of the action. Under this system the candidates don’t have any of their own money in the game. There is an entire cottage industry of political fundraisers who blast out appeals in the wake of every court decision, race or piece of proposed legislation. While their sucker lists are partisan; their true aims are agnostic – they are simply forced to operate in one camp or the other. The Georgia runoffs were a bonus for them and they aren’t ready to take a spring vacation just yet.
I’m among the many who are anxiously awaiting Joe Biden’s nominee for Attorney General. I made no secret that I wanted Amy Klobuchar in that position as soon as Kamala Harris got the Veep nod. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards. My guess is that her Senate seat is deemed too risky if a lesser known Democrat has to defend it in 2022. Do you really think it is just a coincidence that as of this writing Biden can’t decide on a nominee? Looking at the current rumored candidates I think Sally Yates is his favorite (she is mine) and Biden fears that she cannot be confirmed if the Republicans retain control of the Senate. If Ossoff and Warnock are seated shortly after tonight’s elections I expect Yates to be the nominee in a matter of days if not hours. What’s that saying about a woman scorned?
There is a fly in the ointment even if the Democrats get a clean sweep tonight and that is the Senate. Under Article I, Section 5, clause 1 of the Constitution each chamber of Congress makes its own rules. That means that the Senate is the final arbiter of whether a person is seated and until and unless both Ossoff and Warnock are seated the Mitch McConnell led Republicans control the Senate. Therefore if the results are in dispute, regardless of how legitimate that dispute is; do you really think Mitch will seat either if that seat determines control of the chamber? Remember Mitch was the mastermind (and he is smart!) of both the Merrick Garland and Amy Coney Barret affairs.
The calendar may well read 2021 but today is basically the sudden death, no time limit overtime of 2020 in American politics. January of 2021 may well be the month that we find out if we are a nation of laws or a few corrupt men (and since they are Republicans women are for the most part politically insignificant). If you are a registered voter in Georgia it is all up to you.
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