In the days following the US presidential election in November, political centrists reached a hasty verdict. Never mind all the squabbling about voter fraud — they had won. The extremes had lost. Donald Trump, the maniac, was out; Joe Biden, the moderate, was in.
Yes, the increasingly radical Democratic party still controlled the House of Representatives, but as long as the Republicans won one of two Senate run-off races in Georgia in January, the crazies would be checked by a Republican majority in the Senate. The markets rallied. All was well in establishment la-la land, despite the pandemic.
Well, guess what? On Wednesday morning, it became clear that the Democrats had won both those Georgia races. Rev Raphael Warnock, a Baptist pastor, defeated the Grand Old Party’s Kelly Loeffler and will become Georgia’s first black Senator. And Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old former documentary filmmaker, appeared to have unseated right-wing businessman David Perdue. Both races were extraordinarily close, and will be disputed — that’s American democracy these days. Yet the almost inevitable result, assuming Trump doesn’t magically undo the Electoral College process in the coming days, is that the Senate will now be split 50-50. All hail Kamala Harris, the incoming vice-president, who will also serve as Senate president and therefore cast the decisive vote on all the most controversial legislation.
The Democrats will control the executive and the legislative branches of government. All that stands in the way of a left-wing takeover of the most powerful country in the world is a doddery 78-year-old president who never had any firm convictions. Oh, there’s the conservative-majority Supreme Court, but the Democrats can now vote to ‘pack’ that venerable institution, appointing enough justices to make sure the judiciary supports its agenda.
Perdue accused his opponent of being endorsed by the Communist party, which was right-wing hyperbole. Yet the dreaded triumph of socialism in the land of the free, which American conservatives have been banging on about since the 19th century, suddenly looks dangerously real. Expect the new Democratic majority to use their power, and the excuse of the pandemic and/or climate change, to push through enormous spending projects, which will plunge America into ever deeper debt. Expect more government shutdowns, higher taxes, more open borders — all issues on which the Democrats are far to the left of the American public. Yet somehow, they find themselves in charge.
It’s all Trump’s fault, of course. At least that’s what most pundits will say. His last days in office have been a disgrace. The President’s monstrous tantrum about the election result either embarrassed or depressed Republican voters — why bother voting if it is all rigged? It also further energised the anti-Trump majority and swung Georgia towards the Democrats.
That’s only partly true. The reality is much weirder. Exit polls suggest Perdue and Loeffler outperformed Trump in the affluent, more conservative suburbs and dramatically underperformed him in poor areas and among black voters. That points towards certain death for any post-Trump, non-populist Republican party. Georgia, with its expanding African-American and Hispanic votes, and an increasingly more left-liberal urban vote in and around the city of Atlanta, is slightly ahead of Texas in terms of demographic trends. Without Trump’s gonzo appeal to socially conservative minorities and the poor, the Republicans are destined to lose the south for a long time to come. Without Georgia and Texas, it’s hard to see how any Republican can win back America.
Then again, in this age of rage against the elite, the Grand Old Party didn’t help themselves by having two multi-millionaire candidates in hotly contested seats. Loeffler is the wife of finance tycoon Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, which didn’t endear her to less affluent Georgians. She sat on the Senate Health Committee despite never having won an election. Last year it emerged that she had sold off much of her massive stock portfolio from January to March, before the mass Covid-panic kicked in. She insisted that decision was not made using insider knowledge, but the stench around her wouldn’t go away.
Perdue was arguably more of a rock-ribbed conservative, but he’s also one of the richest senators in America, and all of his public expressions of enthusiasm for President Trump were not enough to overcome the resentment which many Trump voters feel towards the Republican party. The ‘America First’ movement believes the party has betrayed the President by not unanimously backing his bid to challenge the November election. It’s possible that quite a few conservative Georgians even voted Democrat out of spite. ‘What does a Trump-Ossoff voter look like?’ asked baffled Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini on Tuesday night. The answer could be the future of right-wing politics in America.
It isn’t all good news for the Democrats. Their party is also hopelessly split between its old establishment, represented by Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a younger progressive wing demanding social, racial, environmental and transgendered justice now. For decades, party bigwigs have kept the radicals at bay by blaming the Republicans for their failure to, as Biden would put it, ‘transform the soul’ of America. That excuse is now vanishing. Either the party will have a civil war as it tries to stop the woke revolution, or it could face a massive middle America backlash in 2022, and perhaps the return of Trump in 2024.
Kamala Harris, now the most powerful woman in America, will become the focal point of all the rancour. As somebody with her eyes fixed on the White House prize, that might not be what she wants.