Georgia Senate Runoff Is Key to Biden Presidency
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Senate Runoff Is Key to Biden Presidency
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Call it what it is: Donald Trump has been trying to stage a coup d’etat, in multiple ways working to get courts and state officials to overturn a free election and keep him in power.

So far, he’s failed at every level, including the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, which on Tuesday denied, without dissent, a Trump ally’s attempt to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.

But Trump is not giving up. He is joining a lawsuit filed by Texas’s attorney general -- and backed by 17 other Republican AGs -- challenging the results in five battleground states Biden won.

“This is the big one,” Trump tweeted. He has long predicted that the 2020 election outcome would be decided by the Supreme Court, not the voters, implying that he believed a Trump-friendly majority would disqualify mailed-in ballots and keep him in the White House.

Most legal scholars think the high court will dismiss this case, too, on the grounds that all other courts have: because Trump’s side can offer no proof of election fraud anywhere. (If his final Supreme Court ploy fails, Trump reportedly is working on Republican members of Congress to disapprove the decision of the Electoral College. The GOP Senate conceivably could, but the Democratic House surely won’t.) 

So it’s likely democracy will survive. But it’s wrong to conclude that “the system works” and that democracy is secure. This depends heavily upon Biden’s having a chance to be a successful president and to some extent heal the nation’s deep divisions, which have been systematically widened by Trump.

And that, in turn, depends on Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock winning the two runoff elections Jan. 5 in Georgia, giving Democrats narrow control of the U.S. Senate.

Why? Because Trump will remain boss of the Republican Party and will continue doing all he can to ensure that Biden fails so that Trump or his designee wins the 2024 presidential election. If Trump runs and wins four years from now, America’s slide toward authoritarian rule resumes.

Since losing election, Trump has raised more than $200 million -- ostensibly to pay legal expenses related to his court challenges. But the fine print in his solicitations stipulates the money can also be used to fund a “leadership” political action committee – the dodge which often pays for politicians’ travel and political entertaining.

As part of his effort to cripple Biden’s presidency, Trump has already delayed the transition process and still has hirelings denying Biden designees access to Defense Department officials, potentially endangering national security.

If Republicans win either of the Georgia races and retain control of the Senate, they will continue to do Trump’s bidding, terrified as they are that his rabid base will make their lives miserable and vote them out of office in the next primary.

Counterpoint: Carl Cannon on why divided government is better for Biden. 

Trump has said he will relinquish power if (now, likely when) the Electoral College declares Biden won, but that he will never concede that he lost. Based on his past and present conduct, he almost certainly will continue to declare that the election was stolen from him and that Biden therefore is not legitimately president. Some polls indicate that nearly 70% of Republicans believe him.

As part of Trump’s strategy to ensure GOP politicians’ loyalty, an ally, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has written all GOP House members asking them to sign an amicus brief in the Texas case. “The president is anxiously awaiting the final list,” Johnson wrote. We can expect Trump to spend the next four years stoking the rage of his base not only against Biden and the Democrats, but also any Republicans who deign to cooperate with them.

Worse, almost all Republican members of Congress still refuse to recognize Biden as president-elect, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell may be doing this to support the two incumbent Republican senators in Georgia, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who announced Wednesday that they “fully support” the Texas lawsuit.

But if either wins, Majority Leader McConnell -- although supposedly a personal friend of  Biden’s -- will do all he can to thwart the new president’s ambitious legislative agenda, much as he did Barack Obama’s.

Partly, that’s because McConnell habitually puts party ahead of country and partly it’s to enhance the GOP’s hold on the Senate in the 2022 midterms and capture the House, too. There is a chance that McConnell and Biden can agree on an ambitious infrastructure program and a new COVID relief package, but that’s about all.

Even getting adequate funds to fight COVID may be hard. Despite a raging pandemic now killing 3,000 people a day, overwhelming hospitals and causing economic hardship to millions, McConnell has yet to agree even to a trimmed-down, bipartisan $908 billion COVID relief package.

Unless Biden can do as Ronald Reagan did in 1981-- “go to the country” and bring down an avalanche of mail and telephone calls on Congress -- there’s no chance the Senate will pass his proposed job-creating climate legislation, immigration reform, paid family and sick leave or tax increases on the rich and corporations to pay for an enlarged Obamacare, student debt relief, education improvements, “Buy American” investments in U.S. manufacturing and research and development, and special help for minority-owned businesses.

Those programs are designed to help the working class and, if implemented, might steal a portion of the Trump base fooled into supporting a Republican Party still dedicated to the welfare of the rich and corporations by crass appeals based on race, antipathy toward elites, distrust of “experts,” xenophobia and conspiracies, plus modest trickle-down economic benefits.

A Republican Senate could refuse confirmation of Biden-appointed officials and judges, and some GOP committee chairs will initiate or continue investigations of Biden’s son Hunter, alleged vote fraud, and their hobby horse of Obama-era “spying” on Trump and his allies.

So, even though Biden says he wants to serve those who voted against him as well as his supporters -- and has resisted any direct attacks on Trump or Republicans since the election -- Republicans are unlikely to join his efforts to unify America and “build back better.”

Therefore, it’s essential, if the Biden administration is to have a chance of getting anything done, that Ossoff and Warnock beat Perdue and Loeffler on Jan. 5 -- and it’s possible they might.

Biden carried Georgia this year (albeit by a razor-thin margin), with a coalition of African Americans, college-educated suburban women, young  people, independents and first-time voters. That’s the formula for Ossoff and Warnock, and Perdue and Loeffler are vulnerable. Both were involved in the Senate insider-trading scandal, allegedly buying or selling stocks based on information gained in a closed Senate hearing on the coronavirus pandemic’s likely effects on the markets. Trump’s Justice Department (naturally) declined to take action against either, but scrutiny of Perdue has intensified over other trades he’s made.

And, while Trump held a rally for the two GOP candidates last Saturday -- but spent most of it claiming victory for himself -- Republican turnout may be diminished because, as part of his effort to overturn his loss to Biden, Trump has charged that the Georgia runoff has been  “rigged” in favor of Democrats.  

(One discordant element of Republicans’ case for Trump’s being robbed of victory by massive fraud on Nov. 3 is that Republicans simultaneously lost only two Senate seats, gained House seats and held serve at the state level. In a rigged election, presumably, Democrats would have done better.)

Trump created further trouble for his party when he accused top state GOP officials of conspiring against him. “Enemies of the state,” he called them. Some Trump supporters also have accused Perdue and Loeffler of not backing Trump.

Moreover, Loeffler turned in a distinctly robotic performance in a debate with Warnock -- and Perdue failed to show up for a debate with Ossoff, allowing the Democrat to make his case on TV across from an empty podium.

Warnock, senior pastor at Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, finished first in a field of 20 candidates running in a special election to fill out the term of retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson. Eight Democrats in the field netted 48.3% of the vote to Loeffler and five other GOP candidates’ 50.3%. Ossoff came 1.8 percentage points shy of winning outright and avoiding the runoff.

Trump and his party have provided Democrats a wealth of ammunition to use in maximizing turnout of their supporters — and possibly turning some of the minority of Republicans who think Biden won fair and square.

Eleven to 12% of Georgia blacks voted Republican in the Nov. 3 Senate races, but some might be persuaded to switch because of Trump’s obsession with alleged fraud (debunked in every case) in predominantly black cities, including Atlanta.

By 51%-44%, Georgia voters told exit pollsters it was more important to contain the COVID pandemic even if it hurts the economy. They ought to be moved by the fact that Trump has rarely, if ever, mentioned the pandemic since the election — even as cases, hospitalizations and deaths reach new heights. Nor has he expressed any empathy for Americans dying at the rate of 3,000 a day.

By contrast, Biden is the soul of empathy and has focused on COVID control, pending availability of a vaccine, as a top task of his administration, his broad (and expensive) approach likely to be blocked by Senate Republicans.

Senate Republicans have suddenly become deficit-conscious when it comes to COVID relief even though Republicans approved as the national debt increased by $6.7 trillion in Trump’s four years — versus $8.5 trillion under Obama in eight years, including the price tag for combating the Great Recession.

Health care policy generally was rated the top issue by 12% of Georgia voters, according to Nov. 3 exit polls. Nearly 80% of that group voted Democratic, but so did 20% of Republicans. If the Supreme Court upholds GOP-initiated efforts to have the program declared unconstitutional, 20 million Americans (many of them Trump supporters) stand to lose their health coverage in the midst of a surging pandemic. And 133 million people will lose protection against denial of coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions.

Most of Biden’s first Cabinet and sub-Cabinet appointees are moderates, not left-wing progressives, which should ease concerns among suburbanites and anti-Trump Republicans that his administration needs to be offset by a GOP Senate.

But most seriously, Senate Republicans either have backed Trump or stood silent as he has undermined American democracy by delegitimizing one of its cornerstones free elections. As Trump flirts with becoming the first president in U.S. history to violate the previously sacred tradition of peacefully transferring power. Perdue and Loeffler fully back him, making them complicit in the attempted coup. That should influence some voters regardless of demography.

The Supreme Court dismissed Trump’s appeal without comment on Tuesday, but before that three judges on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals -- all appointed by Republicans -- dismissed Trump’s case with a stinging 21-page opinion written by a Trump appointee, Stephanos Bibas.

Overturning the results of a “fair, free election, the lifeblood of our democracy,” he wrote, would be “drastic and unprecedented, disenfranchising a huge swath of the electorate. … the [Trump] Campaign cannot win this lawsuit.”

Loeffler and Perdue are siding with a loser and, for more reasons than one, deserve to lose their elections. Out-of-state bystanders should do what they can -- contribute money or participate in long-distance get-out-the-vote campaigns -- to see that they do. GOTV whiz Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight organization, for instance, will use your contribution wisely.      

Morton Kondracke is the retired executive editor of Roll Call, a former "McLaughlin Group" and Fox News commentator and co-author, with Fred Barnes, of “Jack Kemp: The Bleeding Heart Conservative Who Changed America.”

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