All Eyes on Georgia - OZY | A Modern Media Company
SourceElijah Nouvelage/Getty

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because President-elect Joe Biden’s true power depends upon a January vote in the Peach State.

Christina Greer

Christina Greer

Christina Greer, Ph.D., an associate professor at Fordham University, is the producer and host of The Aftermath and The Counter on OZY, political editor at The Grio, the author of Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream, and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC. You can find her at @Dr_CMGreer on Twitter.

So many Democrats were hoping to celebrate a Joe Biden presidential victory on the evening of Nov. 3. As several pundits and political scientists predicted, this year’s election, much like 2020 itself, was far from easy, straightforward or surprise-free.

Biden has emerged victorious as the president-elect, but his tenure as president could be much more complicated, and limited, depending on who controls the U.S. Senate. As predicted, the Democrats were able to maintain control of the House of Representatives, but control of the Senate remains unknown. As the nation waits for the runoff for two seats in Georgia, the future of the control of the Senate and Biden’s ability to pass much-needed legislation remains in limbo, and all eyes have turned to the two uncalled Senate races in Georgia.

There are currently 48 Democratic senators and 50 Republican senators set for Biden’s first presidential term. Two on the left of the ledger are actually independents — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maine Sen. Angus King — who caucus with the Democrats.

For Dems, it’s imperative they win both Georgia Senate seats to have a fighting chance of passing substantive legislation in a timely manner, if at all.

Everyone is watching the two Georgia Senate seats due to the outsize role of Mitch McConnell as Senate majority reader. If Republicans win even one of the seats, McConnell will maintain control of the Senate. McConnell has shown time and again his unwillingness to sign legislation that has passed the Democratically controlled House. His remaining at the helm of the Senate will severely limit Biden’s ability to pass in a swift and effective manner legislation pertaining to voting, police brutality, coronavirus relief, stimulus relief and much more.

Democratic Candidates In Georgia Campaign Ahead Of November's Election

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (left) and Rev. Raphael Warnock at a campaign event.

Source Elijah Nouvelage/Getty

If the Democrats are successful in Georgia, this is where things could get interesting: A Senate tie is broken by the president of the Senate, which, according to the Constitution, is the sitting vice president of the United States, none other than former California Sen. Kamala Harris. Therefore, for Dems, it’s imperative they win both Georgia Senate seats to have a fighting chance of passing substantive legislation in a timely manner, if at all.

The two Senate races in Georgia are similar, but not the same. The first seat is a close race between Republican incumbent David Perdue, who received 49.7 percent of the early-November vote, and Democrat Jon Ossoff, who got 48 percent. Due to the small margin, the secretary of state authorized a hand count of the ballots. The special election in Georgia was more complicated, with 21 candidates representing several parties. Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler came in second, with 26 percent of the vote, and her primary Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock received almost 33 percent. Because no candidate received more than 50 percent in either election, runoffs for both Senate seats will take place on Jan. 5.

Senator Kelly Loeffler Campaigns For Re-Election In Georgia

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler with supporters during a campaign event.

Source Justin Sullivan/Getty

Due to the importance of both seats, the two races have attracted national attention. Money from across the country is flowing in for both parties. Republican political operative Karl Rove has been tasked with coordinating funds for his party’s candidates. The Democrats also have party infrastructure in place, but most effective are likely the efforts of grassroots organizations that have been organizing voters in the Peach State for years. Groups like Fair Fight, New Georgia Project, Project South and Black Voters Matter are determined to maintain Democratic Party involvement in what will likely be the most expensive Senate races ever.

Biden’s recent win (without a recount necessary) raises new questions about the possibility of Georgia as a purple or even as a new blue state. It had been almost three decades since a Democratic presidential candidate — Bill Clinton in 1992 — won the state. Georgia has seen an increase in Latinx and Asian American and Pacific Islander populations in the past decade, coupled with the reverse migration of African Americans from northern cities to Atlanta and surrounding suburbs.

GOP Senate Candidate Sen. David Perdue Campaigns In Georgia Ahead Of Election

Sen. David Perdue with his wife, Bonnie, at a campaign event.

Source Justin Sullivan/Getty

As Democrats and Republicans organize for the runoff election, their primary goal will be to maintain enthusiasm among their voters to inspire maximum turnout and participation. Data suggests that turnout declines significantly leading up to a runoff election. Decreased turnout is a nightmare proposition for both Democrats and Republicans — an inability to pass legislation for the former and the loss of majority control and the agenda for the latter.

What we do know is that Georgia is the center of attention right now. Stacey Abrams, the architect of much of the Democrats’ success, will continue to work to deliver not only the Democratic presidential win for her state but two Senate seats as well. As soon as these races conclude, all eyes in Georgia will be turning to the 2022 gubernatorial race. Abrams came incredibly close to winning in 2018, when voter suppression, disenfranchisement and what some would define as downright theft affected the results of the election. The new Georgia playbook has been put in motion, and Jan. 5, 2021, will offer a glimpse at the new direction of the state … and possibly new Democratic strategies for the South.

Christina Greer

Christina Greer

Christina Greer, Ph.D., an associate professor at Fordham University, is the producer and host of The Aftermath and The Counter on OZY, political editor at The Grio, the author of Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream, and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC. You can find her at @Dr_CMGreer on Twitter.

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