Georgia, It’s Up to You
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” This expression is associated most with the celebrity artist Andy Warhol, and the attribution feels right even though he probably didn’t originate the quote. If you have never heard of Andy Warhol, well, then, he was probably right.
If you currently live in Georgia, your fifteen minutes has begun and it will last about two months. You’re probably drowning in campaign ads, mailers, and phone calls. Much of the attention will calm down after the Senate races take place on January 5 (unless they go to a runoff again, which is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious). Now you know how lottery winners feel.
Right now, Republicans control the Senate. The situation is this: if both Democrats Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock win their Senate races, the Senate is a 50/50 split. This would change Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from a dictator to a team player, or at least move him in the right direction along that continuum.
Georgia, your fame gives you power, and it’s important that you wield this power by voting. You’re hearing a lot about the candidates right now. They’re all making accusations about each other, and you’re on your own to sort out the truth about whatever they’re saying. That’s not what we’re discussing here.
You might also be hearing about the strategic importance of this election and of those two Senate seats. This is very true, and we’d like to make our case strategically.
Georgia is famous at the moment partly because you all shocked the rest of the country by voting for Joe Biden. Only the nerdiest of pollsters colored your state as a pinkish possible Biden win. You did this. You registered yourselves and your friends. You stood in line at polling stations or sealed the envelopes to perfection.
This presidential outcome matters partly because it will help others understand the state’s politics in the future. For one thing, Georgia is a bit of a mystery to outside observers when it comes to party affiliation. Unlike most other states, Georgia voters don’t have to declare a political party. You only have to specify a preferred ballot to cast a vote in a primary election if there are multiple parties selecting nominees. All those pundits and pollsters have no idea whether there are more Democrats, Republicans, or independents in Georgia.
This means that it’s really difficult to measure party loyalty (that is, the voters that are likely to vote for a particular party’s nominee). So it’s harder to predict outcomes, there’s no “base” that’s easily measured, and there are few turnout models to project. This means that right now, your vote matters as much as it possibly can matter.
Typically, midterm elections, local elections, primaries, and runoffs like this don’t get the turnout of a presidential election. And with Donald Trump on his way out the door, even the momentum that Joe Biden got from people who loathe Trump might not be the motivator it was on November 3rd.
It’s often mentioned that nationally, Democrats tend to vote in larger numbers in presidential elections (that is, only every four years), and they’re outnumbered disproportionately by Republicans in elections that take place at other times (that is, most elections). Maybe that’s why there are so many Republicans in down-ballot positions. When you don’t vote, you’re giving your unused vote to the other side.
This January 5 runoff election is as important as the one we just finished. Without these two Senate seats, Joe Biden will be unable to accomplish the job we just elected him to do.
To be clear, getting only one of the seats is only marginally better than losing them both. To get to a tie, both Democrats need to win.
The present roadblocks in the Senate include both the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate rules themselves.
- Mitch McConnell sat on bills passed by the House, including a needed second stimulus to help people through this economic disaster and another bill to restore certain voter protections. They weren’t even brought up for discussion. Because the Vice President is the Senate tie-breaker, if a bill comes to a stalemate in 2021, Vice President Harris will be able to cast the vote that makes it a law. A tied Senate makes it so much easier.
- The Majority Leader refuses to confirm Supreme Court Justices (and for that matter, many lower court justices), unless there’s a Republican in the White House. He hijacked a Justice from President Obama, and hijacked another Justice from President-elect Joe Biden. The Republican Senate starved the courts during Barack Obama’s presidency, and has packed the empty chairs with arch conservatives since 2017.
- The Senate majority party chairs each committee, and has launched investigations intended to harm political opponents. They’ve promised to continue to do so during the Biden presidency. The same Senate was unwilling to bring in witnesses or review the testimony from the House impeachment inquiry and cleared Donald Trump without viewing any evidence. In a 50/50 Senate, decisions about matters like this are handled jointly by both parties. Elections have consequences.
Mitch McConnell also threatened to prevent President-elect Biden’s Cabinet nominees from confirmation if they are not sufficiently “moderate” along a McConnell-defined scale. This is a largely unprecedented act of defiance in the previously-collegial body that was the Senate. It was once assumed that a President’s Cabinet nominees should be judged only on merit.
Maybe you’d just as soon have a split government. That’s understandable. You’ll have that even in a tied Senate. The filibuster prevents bills that are too extreme from getting a hearing. Once they reach the floor, moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) will keep bills that are far from center from getting passed. This is good news for moderates, though it frustrates progressives. The Senate, when it functions, is a deliberative body.
A 50/50 Senate will give you a split government. A Republican Senate will give you no government.
If you live in Georgia, and you want to get Mitch McConnell out of power, you can do that by voting in this election and getting everyone you know to go the distance with you. Here are the details:
Register now (the deadline is December 7) if you aren’t registered already OR if you will turn 18 by January 5, 2021.
Request an absentee ballot now. You can track your vote after you cast it. You can return your ballot by mail or leave it in a drop box. If you’d like to vote in person, Georgia will hold 16 days of early in-person voting, including early voting in Fulton County at State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There’s a lot of information for you on Georgia’s My Voter Page.
It isn’t often that the votes of a single state change everything. Right now, that single state can be Georgia, and that voter can be you.
Famously kind Georgian Jimmy Carter once said, “All I want is the same thing you want. To have a nation with a government that is as good and honest and decent and competent and compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people.”
We’re working on it, Jimmy.