I’m exhausted, as I know you must be. So I’ll be brief.
Like me, I’m sure you are glued to the news, waiting for the moment that Joe Biden secures enough votes to be declared the President-elect. I’m very confident that this will happen soon.
And yet, among many long-suffering Democrats, there is no ecstasy, no euphoria. This is so for at least a couple of reasons. First, the race is relatively close, not the rout many hoped for. Second, expectations of turning the Senate blue are largely dashed. On top of that, Democrats somehow managed to lose seats in the House. Trust me, I feel a bit glum about that too, given how much work and effort my boys put into #housework2020.
These setbacks will limit President Biden’s ambitions, actions, and appointments. And the departure of Trump, as Garry Kasparov reminded us, does not mean the end of Trumpism. But these are thoughts for another day. (Question Presented, below, addresses some of the implications of not flipping the Senate.)
Today, I want to stress how unconditionally thrilling a Biden victory will be. Though the election won’t represent a humiliating repudiation of Trump, it won’t be a ringing validation either. And that is a cause for joy.
It is hard to overstate the harm a second Trump term would have caused America and its status in the world. Under Trump, we were a nation in decline, and Joe Biden will arrest that decline.
In 76 days, we will have a better man as President. More decent. More honest. More transparent.
In 76 days, we will have the first woman Vice President. The first Black and Asian-American woman.
In 76 days, when you see the tweet of a narcissistic lunatic, it won’t be coming from the White House residence.
In 76 days, we will have a President who believes in science and who will have a national plan for fighting the pandemic, rather than fighting Dr. Fauci. He will restore the credibility and function of the CDC, the NIH, and the FDA. With any luck, Ron Klain – who managed the country’s successful response to Ebola – will be chief of staff.
In 76 days, we will have a President who will protect the Affordable Care Act, not try to gut it in the courts.
In 76 days, we will have a President who will undo a racist and xenophobic Muslim ban.
In 76 days, we will have a President who will protect Dreamers.
In 76 days, the United States will rejoin the World Health Organization.
In 76 days, the United States will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.
In 76 days, the United States will begin rebuilding its alliances and snubbing dictators, rather than the vice-versa.
It is thrilling to think that, in just 76 days, we will no longer be paying the salaries of people like Mike Pompeo and John Ratcliffe and Ben Carson and Mark Meadows and Stephen Miller and all the other hacks Donald Trump imposed upon us.
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop at just one more.
In 76 days, at the noon hour, Donald J. Trump will once again be an ordinary citizen, once again subject to investigation and prosecution in any and all jurisdictions.
Even as ballots continue to be counted in the presidential election, and Joe Biden’s path to victory becomes clearer, Democrats across the country are attempting to make sense of a slew of down-ballot disappointments.
That is especially true in the Senate, where Democrats had polling leads in several key races heading into Election Day, and every major political forecasting site predicted that the chamber would flip to Democratic control.
That ended up not happening. With four Senate races yet to be called, Democrats have so far netted only one seat. As expected, the party picked up seats in Arizona and Colorado and lost Doug Jones’ seat in deep-red Alabama. But they failed to win even one of the Cook Political Report’s “toss-up” races.
As of Thursday morning, the Senate is locked in a 48-48 tie. But of the four races still on the map, Republicans are on pace to win at least two — in Alaska and North Carolina. Ballot counting has been slow going, but Sen. Dan Sullivan is expected win handily in Alaska, and Sen. Thom Tillis is on track to eek out a hotly-contested North Carolina race where Democrat Cal Cunningham was favored heading into Election Day.
The remaining two contests are in the state of Georgia. After the retirement of Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson at the end of last year, and the appointment of Kelly Loeffler as his replacement, Georgia found itself in the unusual position of having two contested Senate races in the same year. At least one of those, Reverend Raphael Warnock’s challenge to Loeffler, will now be decided by a run-off election on Jan. 5th.
That’s because in Georgia, in the event that no candidate exceeds 50% of the vote, the top two leading vote-getters (regardless of party) advance to a run-off. As ballots continue to be counted, there remains a possibility that the Peach State’s other Senate race, Democrat Jon Ossoff’s challenge to incumbent Sen. David Perdue, could also trigger a run-off. As of this writing, Perdue has just over 50% of the vote, and with ballots yet to be counted from Democrat-leaning counties in Atlanta, that lead could slip below 50%.
The Democrats’ failure to capture the Senate will have massive implications for a Biden presidency. In the short term, Biden’s cabinet nominees will face significant scrutiny. Already, Biden’s team is reportedly trimming its sails. According to Axios, two targets for Biden’s cabinet, Ambassador Susan Rice and former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, may be unconfirmable.
In the longer term, any proposed legislation would have to pass muster with at least a few Senate Republicans. That makes the kinds of sweeping plans Biden outlined on the campaign trail — expanding access to healthcare, aggressive action on climate change, raising the minimum wage, increasing taxes on the wealthy — the stuff of fantasy. And Mitch McConnell would retain his death grip on the process of confirming federal judges, theoretically able to block whoever Biden nominates to the bench.
As Democrats shift their focus to the Georgia run-off for what promises to be one (or two) of the most expensive and closely-watched Senate races in history, they are also in need of some soul searching about what went wrong on Election Day.
With Biden closing in on victory, what do you think went wrong for the Democrats down-ballot? What lessons can be taken from the surprising Senate losses?
Write to us at [email protected] with your thoughts or reply to this email.
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and one of the most trusted authorities on politics in the state of Georgia. As the country closely watches the Senate races unfolding in that state, he is an essential resource. Follow him: @bluestein.
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— Listen to this week’s special episode of Stay Tuned, “Election Debrief,” where Preet is joined by the CAFE hosting team — Anne Milgram, John Carlin, Ken Wainstein, and Elie Honig — to make sense of the results and what comes next.
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