This one is kind of complicated to explain. Tuesday, January 5th, held the last election of the 2020 election cycle. Most states use a first past the post, plurality-wins voting system. Georgia, for its own reasons, has a system, where, if no candidate clears a 50% threshold when the rest of the country votes on the Tuesday in the first full week of November, the election than goes to a run-off, which in this case was scheduled for January. In addition, Georgia was in the rare situation of having two senatorial elections in one cycle: one regular one for David Purdue, and another for the appointed Kelly Loeffler. Both of them had won in minor plurality elections in November, although Loeffler's victory came in a crowded field where she got only one quarter of the vote. As the winners of plurality votes in the general election, it was generally considered that they would be the favorites in the two-candidate special election.
Did I explain all of that pretty well? I'm just trying to get down the basic facts, but even the basic facts are pretty complicated.
Both of the incumbent senators were Republicans. Georgia is a fairly conservative and Republican state, or at least it has been for decades. That has been changing slowly, as younger suburban voters become more liberal. This happened about a decade ago in Virginia, and many commentators believe that Georgia was heading down the same path. However, it was still questionable whether Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock could unseat Purdue and Loeffler, respectively. The coalition of minority (mostly African-American) and white, college-educated suburbanites was a key to Georgia's surprise flip in the 2020 presidential election, but there was no way of knowing what that would translate into, in a Run-Off election. Especially since the margin that Biden won Georgia by was narrow: less than 15,000 votes.
Also, the Senate had been at a 50-48 Republican majority with these seats unfilled. If both Purdue and Loeffler won, they would have a clear 52 vote majority. If they both lost, it would go to 50-50, with Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote. So a lot rode on 2 seats that were in a state with a razor-thin margin of victory.
And also: since his loss in the 2020 US Presidential Election, Donald Trump has refused to concede, instead engaging in more far-fetched stories about conspiracy theories about how he lost. This added to the confusion, and also the tension about the race: Trump representatives had gone so far as to encourage Republicans to boycott the election, since the voting machines were rigged (or whatever).
I think that is "everything" as far as the context? Probably! Like I said, there was a lot going on! It is hard to keep track of it all.
So the day of the election itself: the race was tight throughout the night, with early votes and in-person votes reported at different times from different areas of the state, it gave a shifting picture of who was in the lead. But even an early look at the votes showed that while they were running close, Warnock and Ossoff were running ahead of Biden's November performance. Finally, late at night, the race was called for Warnock, and then later for Ossoff. Georgia would be sending two Democratic senators, one African-American, to the Senate. One of the most immediate repercussions with how easily it would be for Biden to move his nominations through the Senate. Despite the very thin margins: 1.6% and 0.8% for Warnoff and Ossoff, respectively, it was still seen as a big shift in US politics: Georgia, one of the most populous states to consistently vote Republican, would not be a safe bet. In addition, it signalled a demographic shift: in Georgia, minorities were more energized, and college-educated whites, who used to be backbone of the Republican Party, were drifting away.
So on any normal day, this would be a big deal.
The next day, a group of protestors that quickly became a violent mob, egged on by Donald Trump
, stormed the US Capitol, where the US electoral vote was being certified. This is normally a ceremonial process, but due to Trump's consistent lies, he had a number of supporters who stormed the Capitol building, trying to stop the process of the Peaceful Transfer of Power
. As I am writing this, I have heard a report of 4 deaths, with injuries and arrests still unknown. There is some talk about what this constitutes: An insurrection? A coup? A riot? And while its not clear just what the endgame
was for the violent groups, it is way closer to a coup
attempt than we should ever have. Although the Run Off election in Georgia is historical and exciting, it was almost immediately overshadowed in importance by the unprecedented events in Washington, D.C.
After the dust has settled, we will be able to see all of these events in context, and how they related to each other. From where I am writing now, though, it seems like it is a very confusing blur.
Oh yeah, and that pandemic that has changed life? That is still going on, and at this point, is killing 4,000 people a day, with hospitals turning away ambulances, and you can't even find mention of this on the news because we are so shocked and overwhelmed by what is going on.
You have inherited quite a job, Senators Warnock and Ossoff.