Democrats secure Senate with Georgia win

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Protest in front of the US Capitol Tedey Tan

America still America

Last week, our neighbours to the south experienced one of their most important elections in modern history. As the rest of the United States, and much of the world, watched on, voters in Georgia, a southern state that has traditionally voted Republican, went to the polls once again after the state’s Senatorial election on November 3 remained inconclusive, leading to run-off elections for both of its Senate seats. While under normal circumstances a Senate run-off race would likely rank low in terms of importance and national/international interest, the past year has been anything but normal.

In the United States, unlike Canada, every two years at least half of its states undergo elections for congressional representatives, who make up the House and are elected by county, and for senators, two of which are elected to each state regardless of population. Historically, Georgia, a former slave state, economic heartland of the Confederacy, and part namesake of musical abomination Florida-Georgia Line, has voted overwhelmingly conservative, due in large part to the disenfranchisement of its large Black American population, both during and after the Jim Crow era. Following Donald Trump’s rise to power and the alt-right Unite the Right march through Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, a sea change took place amongst voter demographics throughout much of the American South-East.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of civil rights advocates, especially former House Minority leader and Georgian Representative Stacey Abrams, Black Lives Matter, and greater access to information via the internet, Black Americans have steadily occupied a greater portion of the state’s voting pool. Moreover, the state’s youth have become more politically active than ever, with a growing share of this demographic receiving some form of post-secondary education and leaning far more to the left than their parent’s generation. Combined with a string of national incidents regarding police brutality, alt-right and White-nationalist violence, and grass-roots civil rights campaigns for racial equality, the state has evolved into an important political battleground while its voters have grown more polarized. While Georgia’s political trends are a dense topic, there was far more at play during this election.

Since 2010, the American Senate has been under the rule of a slight yet firm Republican majority led by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. For context, McConnell, a hardline conservative, has been the mastermind of Republican political strategy for much of the past decade and has since gained international infamy after refusing to interview, let alone admit, President Obama’s Supreme Court candidate in early 2016, stating it was inappropriate to appoint a Supreme Court Justice during an election year. Aside from systemically sabotaging the Senate as an institution, McConnell has also attracted international ire for orchestrating the speedy appointment of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barret less than a month before the 2020 presidential election, and, most-recently, blocking the House’s attempt to increase COVID-19 financial aide from $600 to $2000. Alongside an array of other acts of ethical degeneracy, his Republican Senate has remained the greatest practical and political obstacle facing Democrats and Progressives alike.

Following the 2020 election, however, Democrats managed to both snag two crucial Senate seats and the Presidency following the largest election in American history. For the first time in half a century, Georgia voted blue in the presidential race while its Senate race resulted in a virtual tie, which in accordance to state law mandated a run-off election to be held the following January. The resulting run-off election became the central focus of both political parties for much of the past two months; a Republican victory in either seat would mean political deadlock for Joe Biden’s administration reminiscent of Obama’s second term, while a full Democrat victory would give the party full control of each branch of government.

The run-off election commenced on the morning of January 6 and followed the same basic narrative as the presidential race in November. Polls conducted by major publications, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, remained inconclusive for most of the day, and while most counties initially leaned Red, as mail-in and absentee votes began to be tallied during the evening, urban centres including Atlanta and Savannah shifted overwhelmingly Blue, a trend consistent outside the state’s north. By 4 a.m., Republican incumbents Kelley Loeffler and David Perdue, both staunch allies of Trump, had been ousted with 98 per cent of votes counted, leaving Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock as senator-elects. Rev. Warnock, himself a popular civil-rights leader and radical leftist, will be the first black senator in Georgia’s entire history. Now, with only two weeks left before Joe Biden is sworn in as the country’s 46th President, the Senate lies 50-50, with future Vice President Kamala Harris to serve as the tie-breaker.

So, why the hell does all this matter? Well, for starters, the Georgia run-off ousts Senator McConnell, arguably the fourth most-hated man on the planet behind ‘Dolan’ Trump, Tsar Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader and part-time ethnic cleanser Xi Jinping, from the Senate’s leadership, depriving Republicans of their greatest and last political bulwark and removing the largest roadblock for reformers to pass legislation. With control of all three branches of government, Democrats will finally be able to enact a mind-boggling amount of bills aimed at everything from infrastructure repair and economic relief, to wide-spread healthcare and Police reform, much of which has been placed on the backburner by McConnell’s Senate.

For non-Americans, however, the most key changes will be America’s refocused efforts on battling the COVID-19 pandemic, a restrengthening of NATO in the face of authoritarian expansionists like Russia and China, and, perhaps most importantly, the U.S.’s return to the International Paris Climate Accord. With climate change steadily worsening across the globe while major powers such as Brazil and the United Kingdom continue to drag their heels, it is more important than ever that the USA, a global leader, finally act. So far, Joe Biden’s central focus seems fixed on climate reform, and his stated environmental policy, while no Green New Deal, will be the most radical undertaken by the federal government since 1972, when Nixon passed the Clean Water Act. Only time will tell whether Democrats will properly address the innumerable failings chipping away at its unofficial Empire; however, for now, thanks to Georgia voters, the future may finally hold some promise for us all.

Matt Thomson

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