Six Lessons From The Georgia Runoff
Authored by Carl Cannon via RealClearPolitics.com,
This week’s Georgia election was the fourth time that the Rev. Warnock has run for his Senate seat since 2020, so let’s take a moment to congratulate the good pastor. Welcome back to Washington, sir.
But what are the larger lessons here?
Here are six takeaways, starting with Georgia’s election procedures.
1. Déjà vu All Over Again.
The anomaly of having to run four times in two years was caused by two factors: the fact that Warnock was running for a vacant seat in 2020, and the odd feature of Georgia election law that necessitates a runoff if a candidate doesn’t get 50% of the vote. In other words, yesterday’s reprise of Nov. 8 was necessitated by a Libertarian candidate named Chase Oliver who got 2.1% of the vote. Considering the tens of millions of dollars spent on advertising, most of it negative, that polluted Georgia’s airwaves during the past month, the state might consider adopting a new system. If Georgians are wedded to that 50% threshold, they could look at ranked-choice voting as an option.
2. Go Georgia Bulldogs!
While we’re on the subject of Georgia’s election procedures, let’s celebrate the high turnout in the Peach State. It ticked upwards from the 2018 midterms and demolished the Democrats’ narrative that Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s Republican-controlled legislature had systematically set out to “suppress” the voice of the black community by erecting onerous barriers to voting. Insurmountable hurdles like, you know, showing some identification.
Now that the election returns are in, literally, it seems that what Kemp and his fellow Republicans did in Georgia was to make it easier to vote, and harder to cheat. It’s what every state should do. For their troubles, they were called racists, fascists, and white supremacists. It was an organized campaign of slander and libel led by the nation’s second most prominent election denier, and cheerfully joined by the media and several of America’s most prominent CEOs and corporations, among them Delta Airlines, the Coca-Cola Co., and Major League Baseball.
The most historically illiterate analogy came from President Biden, who memorably (and ill-advisedly) termed the Georgia legislation “Jim Crow 2.0.” All these people owe an apology to Gov. Kemp. It won’t be forthcoming because, well, that’s not where we are as a country right now. But who figured it out correctly? The answer is Georgia voters, who on the same day they chose Warnock over Walker, reelected Kemp by a 7.6% margin. Which leads us to …
3. Candidates Matter.
Herschel Walker is not just an actual Georgia Bulldog, he is probably the most iconic and accomplished University of Georgia football player in the Bulldogs’ team history. At a time when this year’s UGA team is undefeated and top-ranked, loyal Georgia alums of a certain age remember how Walker led the school to a national championship his freshman year, won the Heisman Trophy as a junior, and was a three-time All-American. He’s widely considered one of the best college football players of all time. He was a hero off the field as well. Here’s the opening paragraph in a 1982 wire story:
ATHENS, Ga. -- While Herschel Walker is not quite as fast as a speeding bullet, and has yet to leap tall buildings, his rescue of an elderly woman from her wrecked and smoking car will confirm the belief of Georgia football fans that he is no mere mortal.
But here’s the rub. None of this necessarily qualified Walker to be a U.S. senator.
In politics, he is destined to be remembered as one of the Donald Trump-endorsed candidates who struggled to articulate a coherent rationale for their candidacies and who prevented Republicans from re-capturing the Senate.
In Walker’s case, he sometimes struggled to even make himself understood. And the Trump political machine, which seems to consist of The Donald’s passing whims, didn’t do a good job of vetting candidates. Running as a pro-life family man, Walker was buffeted by allegations that he was a distant father and a man who pressured women to get abortions.
4. Georgia Wasn’t an Isolated Case -- and Someone Is To Blame.
Tuesday was a bad night for Donald Trump, as was the entire 2022 midterm election season. The former president also handpicked Trump loyalists and fellow election deniers in other states, most notably Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada. All of them lost, with far-reaching implications for the next two years, particularly in Washington. One obvious implication is that Trump has become what he most despises -- “a loser.” On the eve of the Georgia runoff, former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said as much in an interview with SiriusXM host Steve Scully.
“We’re recording this on the evening of the Herschel Walker election with Warnock,” Ryan said. “We’ll see what happens there. But my guess is more strings of defeat delivered to us clearly by Donald Trump is enough for our party to realize we've got to move on if we want to win.”
Knowing he was talking about a man who has already announced his 2024 presidential campaign, Ryan continued:
“I think he’s unfit for the job. I don't think he's going to get the nomination in my party. It’s crystal, crystal, crystal clear: We lose with Trump if we stick with Trump. If we dump Trump, we start winning elections.”
5. Chuck Schumer’s Job Just Got Easier.
Warnock’s reelection gives Democrats an actual Senate majority of 51-49, instead of the tenuous 50-50 roster with Kamala Harris waiting in the wings as a tiebreaker. The implications of that one extra seat include smoother approval of Biden’s judicial appointments, better ratios on Senate committees, and an easier path to holding the majority in 2024. Mostly, it means that the Democratic Party leadership on Capitol Hill and at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. won’t have to spend as much time romancing a certain West Virginia Democrat. In other words, the de facto co-presidency between the two Joes -- Biden and Manchin -- may be winding to a close.
If there’s a silver lining for congressional Republicans, it could be that the five Trumpy renegades holding Kevin McCarthy’s speakership hostage will now realize that they aren’t holding winning cards. Or maybe they’ll just overplay their hand and take the GOP down with them in flames. We shall see.
Take 6: 2022 Was a Status Quo Election.
With almost all the votes counted, the Democrats picked up a single Senate seat, and two governorships, while losing a net nine seats in the House. Based on past election history, these results are widely viewed as a victory for the Democratic Party and a setback for the Republican Party.
That’s a fair interpretation, but the results were enough to cost the Democrats their majority in the lower chamber and will result in all kinds of machinations among House Republicans, possibly including impeachment proceedings against Biden cabinet officials, blocking Biden administration budget priorities, and investigations into the Biden family finances -- including taking money from China.
But the message the voters sent this year, writ large, is that they don’t want radical change. Amen to that, says one centrist independent (me), and now we can get serious about Christmas shopping.