It’s not often I agree with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer – so when it happens, it’s worth remarking upon.
Speaking to a crowd of Brooklyn liberals the Saturday after the election about the importance of the two contested races for U.S. Senate seats representing Georgia, Schumer didn’t pussyfoot around as he laid out the stakes: “Now we take Georgia, and then we change America,” he declared, pumping his fist for emphasis.
Well. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then, and even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and all that.
And in this instance, Schumer is right. The balance of power in the Senate for the 117th Congress that will be inaugurated in January will be 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats, with two open seats in Georgia waiting to be filled. Consequently, the outcome of the Georgia races is crucial: If we, for the sake of argument, assume that Joe Biden will be declared the victor of the presidential contest, then, with a victory in both Georgia races, Schumer – by dint of would-be Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote – would be empowered to act effectively as the majority leader.
That would make possible the enactment of the radical agenda his party has been promoting all year – “defunding the police;" a multi-trillion-dollar spending spree and regulatory regime labeled “the Green New Deal” that would throw hundreds of thousands, if not millions, out of work, at a time when many are still struggling to deal with job losses resulting from pandemic-related lockdowns; the institution of an even more expensive and more restrictive government-run healthcare regime; a repeal of the 2017 Tax Cut & Jobs Act, and the imposition of massive tax hikes; efforts to restrict free speech and impose stricter gun control; the addition of the District of Columbia and, possibly, Puerto Rico as new states, along with the two or four new Democrat senators they would bring with them; a massive amnesty for the 15-20 million illegal immigrants currently present in the U.S., with the prospect of citizenship for them just down the road; the imposition of a $15 minimum wage, and the further job loss it would generate; and other assorted items.
If, on the other hand, Schumer’s Georgia candidates were to lose either race, he would spend another two years in the minority, frustrated again in his inability to implement his and his party’s grandiose plans to “change America" and "change the world."
Some may be tempted to think that the runoff contests will be relatively easy for the two Republican candidates to win. These armchair quarterbacks point out, correctly, that of the eight statewide general or special election runoff elections that have taken place in Georgia since 1988, Republicans have won all but one of them. They further point out, correctly, that the two runoff contests for seats in the U.S. Senate that took place during that three-decade window – the 1992 election, and the 2008 election – both saw Republicans win the runoff even following a strong showing by the Democrat candidate for president in the general election (Bill Clinton in 1992, who won the state’s electoral votes, and Barack Obama in 2008, who won a larger percentage of the statewide vote than any Democrat since favorite son Jimmy Carter in 1980). If Republicans could win in those situations, they might think, surely they could win both races in January, too.
But none of those contests took place in a political environment like the one that exists in Georgia right now.
For one thing, Joe Biden may have just become the first Democrat since 1992 to win the Peach State’s electoral votes. Even if he is not, he has likely won a greater percentage of the statewide vote than any Democrat presidential candidate since Carter in 1980.
More importantly, Biden and the Democrats have momentum. Assuming Biden is certified the winner of the presidential contest, he will likely have won because he successfully flipped five different states that Trump won in 2016 – including Georgia, which no Democrat candidate for president has carried since 1992. Republicans, on the other hand, are depressed at both the national level (where they have likely lost the White House) and the state level (where they would have lost at the presidential level for the first time since 1992).
Finally – and most importantly – unlike the situations in both 1992 and 2008, Democrats would have to have both seats, or a Biden Administration would be stymied by its inability to move anything through the Senate that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t agree to. In neither 1992 nor 2008 did Democrats need to win the outstanding U.S. Senate contests in Georgia to be able to enact a governing agenda – in both cases, Democrats already held the majority in the U.S. Senate, and would hold onto it regardless of whether or not they won the contested seat in the Georgia runoff. In neither case would the loss of the contest have prevented Clinton or Obama from enacting his agenda; this time, exactly the opposite would be true – if Democrats do not win both seats, a President Biden would be blocked.
Schumer was, indeed, correct. The stakes in Georgia are as high as they could possibly be.
Bill Pascoe, a political consultant, has been working to defend and extend individual liberty for 40 years.