The battle for Georgia and Trump's legacy
Photo: AP Images
If you thought the elections were over, think again. A number of critical run-off elections are still pending. These happen when no candidate reaches 50% in the initial vote; no winner is declared, and the top two finishers head to a run-off.
While voter turnout in such special elections is traditionally low, that is not expected to be the case with the two upcoming Senate run-offs in Georgia on January 5, 2021. Interest is high because the outcomes could decide which party controls the Senate after Joe Biden is sworn in. In one race, the Republican incumbent David Perdue is facing Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. In the second, Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler is facing Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.
As it stands, the Republicans control 50 Senate seats to the Democrats’ 48. If Democrats manage to win both races, then the tie-breaking vote would be held by vice president–elect Kamala Harris.
This would enable the Democrats to push ahead with their legislative agenda without obstacles, as they also control the House. But if they lose even one of those two races, the first half of Biden’s term — until the midterm elections — will be marked by legislative gridlock. He’ll only be able to act with bipartisan consensus. First and foremost, this means that the progressives’ dreams of a Green New Deal or Supreme Court packing will have to be scotched.
I had occasion to speak with Georgia activists from both parties this week. Democrats are trying to persuade voters that after Biden’s victory, it’s time to finish the job and give Democrats majorities in both chambers of Congress so they can move forward with their agenda. Republicans for their part are telling their base that if they stay home, Democrats will have a blank check to do whatever they want. You have to turn out and vote to put brakes on the Biden administration.
As of now, both parties report that the voters are full of energy and understand perfectly what’s at stake. The Republican Jewish Coalition raised $300,000 in a matter of days, and intends to continue fundraising. The Jewish Democratic Council of America intends to invest $500,000 in the races. Georgia has about 103,000 Jewish voters, and their votes could be decisive: Biden leads Trump by just 14,000 votes in the presidential race, while Perdue leads Ossoff by 85,000 in the Senate race.
The Democrats are pointing out that David Perdue’s campaign artificially lengthened the Jewish Jon Ossoff’s nose in an attack ad. Ossoff charged that it was an anti-Semitic caricature. Perdue responded that it was done without his knowledge and that he opposed it.
In the other race, meanwhile, Republicans are reminding voters that Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate, has harshly condemned Israel on many occasions. He has accused the IDF of shooting at innocent civilians, and signed a declaration comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa. Since then Warnock has said he opposes BDS and supports American military aid to Israel.
This way or that, two tense months lie ahead for Georgia, for Jews and the general population alike. Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20, but the Georgia Senate races two weeks before that will determine the course of his presidency.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 836)
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