The balance of power in the Senate, along with how much Joe Biden can accomplish during his first term as president, will be determined solely by a two-race election in Georgia held on Jan. 5. Ironically, the Georgia law requiring a runoff race when no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the general election was specifically designed by racist lawmakers to disenfranchise the Black vote. The conventional thinking has always been that high turnout benefits Democrats while lower-turnout elections, like a runoff, help Republicans. While the GOP is a smaller group, its constituents are more likely to vote.
This ploy has worked in years past. In 1992, the last time a Democratic presidential candidate won Georgia, Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler Jr. ran six points ahead of Bill Clinton on Election Day. However, during the runoff, not enough Democratic voters showed up. Fowler Jr. wound up losing to his Republican opponent. For the runoff this January, however, this ridiculous law may benefit the Democrats for the first time. There is a real possibility that Democrats will win both seats—odds we simply didn’t have on Election Day. Besides the massive demographic shift and intense energy on our side, the GOP has devolved into a civil war between the pragmatists and the cultists. Their interests were aligned on Election Day, but no longer.
Donald Trump, intentionally or not, seems to be doing everything he can to sabotage the runoff election at a time when Republicans can ill afford to lose any voters. With the right-wing cult leader off the ballot, Democrats can and should exploit the civil war—and they are. Ironically, the bigots who designed the runoff just might have given Democrats the ability to elect Georgia’s first African American and Jewish senators.
Over 100 years ago, segregationists in Georgia feared that African American voters would vote as a bloc and potentially split the vote amongst the white candidates. A second election, however, could give fearful white voters another chance to unite behind the strongest white candidate. This was the thinking of segregationist Denmark Groover, who cooked up the scheme. Georgia House by Rep. James Mackay even quoted Groover on the statehouse floor, summarizing the reasoning behind the ploy: “the Negroes and the pressure groups and special interests are going to manipulate this State and take charge.”
It is fitting that a Black civil rights activist, Rev. Raphael Warnock, and a Jewish documentary filmmaker, Jon Ossoff, may become Georgia’s senators as a result. It is even more fitting that the white supremacist-in-chief, Donald Trump, is helping make this happen.
According to his conspiracy fever dream, Trump did not lose the 2020 election. Instead, his hand-picked judges, his attorney general, sycophant governors, dozens of conservative election officials, and hundreds of Republican poll workers all conspired with the Democratic presidential candidate to orchestrate the greatest election theft in world history. That’s extremely impressive given that believers in this theory simultaneously argue that Biden has lost all his mental faculties.
Trump and his allies have tried to get states to invalidate millions of African American votes by complaining of false corruption in cities with large Black populations, such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit. Their hateful bigotry, however, is having the opposite effect. Not only have they been unsuccessful in every attempt to throw out legal votes, their narrative for justifying this disgraceful activity requires getting Republican voters to believe that elections across the nation are illegitimate. This poses a real problem in Georgia, but Trump would rather lose Senate seats than have his followers believe he’s a loser. Trump’s narrative that the election in Georgia was rigged takes precedence over everything to his supporters—even if it means sacrificing the Republican runoff candidates.
"Where is Kelly Loeffler here? Where is David Perdue?" said [Lin] Wood, who unsuccessfully sued Georgia seeking to stop the presidential election's certification. "He ought to be standing right here.
"Do not be fooled twice," he added. "This is Georgia. We ain't dumb. We're not going to vote on Jan. 5 on another machine made by China. You're not going to fool Georgians again. If Kelly Loeffler wants your vote, if David Perdue wants your vote, they've got to earn it."
This rhetoric poses an obvious problem for Republicans who want to support Trump, and it conflicts with reality. The GOP can’t have it both ways, although Stephen Colbert certainly tried.
Trump’s recent visit to Georgia, which was supposed to help quell the exodus, appears to have actually made things worse. For nearly two hours, Trump spewed made-up stories to the crowd. There was the one about tons of imaginary votes in suitcases, the lie that he won every single battleground state, and the fantasy that he would somehow still be president after Jan. 20. If that last part was true, of course, then Republicans wouldn’t be arguing that they need the Peach State’s Senate seats to block the Biden administration. That approach only works if you accept that Biden is the incoming president—something both David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler accidentally acknowledged. Trump ranted nonstop to his followers at his rally about how corrupt he believed the Georgia election was, and criticized all of the GOP officials that are in charge of the January election.
Trump listed his many grievances, and only gave Loeffler and Perdue a combined total of two minutes to speak—even though the rally was supposed to be for them. When the candidates spoke, the audience didn’t even listen; instead, they chanted “Stop the Steal” and “Fight for Trump.” Trump also told his supporters to “never forget” how Georgia Republican politicians didn’t help him overturn the election results like the ones he was supposed to be supporting.
Democratic groups, of course, are more than happy to support the president on this particular stance. The Really American PAC had the clever idea of crowdfunding billboards placed throughout Georgia’s reddest and rural counties with messages such as "Perdue/Loeffler Didn't Deliver For Trump, Don't Deliver For Them." The clearest indication that the billboards have been effective is the outrage among right-wing outlets, such as Fox News and Breitbart, which have both posted front-page articles attacking the group for “deceiving voters”—something they suddenly seem to mind. The Georgia GOP also sent out their spokeswoman to complain about the group and promise that their tactics wouldn’t work. If that was the case, why bother bringing it up?
Another PAC, MeidasTouch, also decided to get in on the fun.
How dare they quote the president verbatim?
All of these efforts are having an effect. Georgia Republicans, who were all on the same page on Election Day, are now split on whether they will participate in the runoff election.
Democrats, meanwhile, are in the unique position of playing smarter politics than Republicans by running Warnock and Ossoff as a team, which plays to the strengths of each candidate. They are holding joint events and framing campaigns around what they could accomplish together for Georgia, as well as the U.S., if they are both sent to Washington. Pairing the longtime pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church with a young, progressive Jewish activist also helps represent the diversity of the Democratic party.
Republicans are trying the team strategy too, but in their case it’s highlighting the party’s problems and the candidates’ flaws more than anything else. Both Loeffler and Perdue are not only obscenely wealthy, but they are the two of the most corrupt people currently serving in the Senate. Both downplayed the virus and used their positions to quietly move their money so they'd benefit from the crisis. These failings are magnified by running together, as highlighted in this ad by MeidasTouch.
In fact, neither of the Republican candidates has much of a record to run on, so they are leaning on the standard racist GOP playbook. David Perdue ran an ad that digitally enlarged Jon Ossoff’s nose, and Kelly Loeffler went full Trump with racist dog whistles against Raphael Warnock. Georgia can’t turn blue fast enough.
Fortunately, Democrats seem to be making all of the right moves this time. They nationalized the significance of the election by focusing on the benefits of retaking the Senate, which not only ensures a large turnout, but also helps with generating critical out-of-state support. Remember: Even though South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison was a longshot candidate in a red state, thanks to nationwide hatred of Sen. Lindsey Graham, he was able to raise well over $100 million in 2020.
Democrats also seem to be hyperfocused on turnout, which is the key to winning any special election. One million absentee ballots have already been requested, which is good news for the blue team since those historically break heavily for Democrats. The Republicans, meanwhile, have repeatedly and foolishly attacked voting by mail, led by Donald Trump. This means that Republicans have to hope for a large in-person turnout—without their cult leader at the top of the ticket. We did this already with the midterms in 2018, and the results weren’t good—and there was no GOP civil war back then.
Early voting begins Dec. 14, which is the same day that electors from all 50 states meet to place their official votes for Joe Biden from their respective states. Recent polls for the runoff election show Rev. Warnock slightly ahead of Sen. Loeffler, while the Perdue-Ossoff race is a dead heat.
We need all hands on deck, so please pledge to do just one thing to help each Senate candidate win. Fortunately, with all eyes on Georgia, there are myriad ways to help.
A group of 1,000 video editors, graphic designers, writers, and media developers formed a collective called Creatives for Georgia just to create digital content for the special election. Working with both the campaigns and several activist groups, the group is coordinating messaging for voter persuasion, voter turnout, and countering misinformation. Anyone who wants to help needs simply fill out an online form and they’ll be matched to a multitude of projects to choose from. Although this collective model isn’t a new concept, the scale is unprecedented.
If you’re not the creative type, you can still help. Start with the Senate campaigns themselves—they’re full of volunteer opportunities ranging from networking for donations to simply texting.
If you want to donate to both candidates with one link, Daily Kos has you covered.
There are also multiple BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-led organizations helping out in Georgia, and they need volunteers.
If you want to donate to all of these organizations and more with just one link, again, Daily Kos has you covered.
There are also phone banking opportunities, such as Mobilize Us and Together for 2020. You can also sign up to speak with Georgia voters to ensure they understand their voting rights with Fair Fight or The New Georgia Project.
Finally, if you live in Georgia, make sure you vote in this election and bring a friend. If you are able to volunteer to work the polls on Election Day, please do! Unfortunately, a lot of election workers are being threatened, and with few notable exceptions, Georgia’s Republican leaders have been silent about it.
We need to safeguard the election. Nothing we do will matter if we allow Trump supporters to intimidate election workers and sabotage the election.
The Georgia runoff is Jan. 5. Click here to request an absentee ballot. Early in-person voting starts Dec. 14.