2020 ended with a historic US election, and 2021began with a similarly historic and sensational election. The traditionally Republican-dominated state of Georgia will send two Democrats to the United States Senate. In the runoff elections on January 5th, 2021, Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff beat the Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The voters of this southern state made history in several ways: Reverend Warnock, Pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church – where the Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. once was Pastor – will be the first African-American senator from a former Confederate State. How remarkable this achievement is, was made clear by Warnock in a victory speech early Wednesday morning as he told the story of his mother casting her ballot: “The 82-year old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator.” At 33 years of age, Jon Ossoff is the youngest elected Democratic Senator since Joe Biden’s Senate victory in 1973.
For the first time in six years, the Senate will once again be in Democratic hands. The narrow but decisive congressional majority should make it possible for President-Elect Joe Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris to seriously combat the Coronavirus Pandemic, to confirm first-rate cabinet members, and to kickoff progressive reform projects that would serve the majority of America workers. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, expressed her great hope for a new start: “In sending these two outstanding Democratic Senators to Washington, Georgians cast their ballots for a fairer, accountable and more compassionate America.”
The political transformation of this southern state to one where Democrats can win has only continued with the Senate runoffs. Yet the current occupant of the White House also played a role. The result of the elections in Georgia was not only a vote for a new start, but also a reckoning for Trump and the Republicans who are supporting him in contesting and sowing doubt on the result of the election, the endless propagation of lies and false information related to voter fraud, and the attempt to dispute the results of the Presidential election through illegal maneuvers to benefit Trump. A decisive factor in the Republican loss of the Georgia Senate seats was the declining support for Loeffler and Perdue among suburban Republicans near Atlanta.
With the loss of the Senate Majority, the outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will pay the first significant political price for his obstruction and his silence in the face of Trump’s attacks on the foundations of American democracy. Yet it is unlikely that this defeat might lead to more ready compromise on the part of the Republicans. Despite the great and justified joy at the election results, the job ahead for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be a difficult one.
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