Since his defeat at the polls in November, U.S. President Donald Trump has been unable to decide at whom he has been madder: the Democrats who made him a loser, or the few Republicans who have refused to indulge his sick fantasy of a stolen election.
As a result, the soon-to-be-former President has lashed out at anyone who dares defend the basic tenets of American democracy, sabotaging his own party’s chances of winning two runoff elections in Georgia that determined control of the U.S. Senate.
By endlessly repeating his baseless claims of voter fraud in Georgia, a once solidly red state that Democratic nominee Joe Biden narrowly won in the Nov. 3 presidential race, Mr. Trump discouraged his own supporters from turning out to vote in Tuesday’s runoffs. His behaviour also alienated moderate Republicans in Georgia, who decided they had enough of Mr. Trump’s antics by voting against the GOP Senate candidates who refused to denounce him.
That alone does not explain the historic breakthrough that will see Georgia send two Democrats to the senate. The victory of Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black senator, had much to do with Georgia’s extraordinary demographic transformation in the past decade and the tireless efforts of the state’s Democratic superstar Stacey Abrams to mobilize previously disengaged minority voters in the Atlanta region.
The weekend leaking of a phone call in which Mr. Trump is heard telling Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to “find” the 12,000 additional votes he needed to overturn the election result in the state provided Democrats with even more incentive to turn out to vote on Tuesday.
Aided by the miserable campaign performance of Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed in 2019 by Georgia’s governor to fill the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson, Democrats were able to make history on Tuesday.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, The Associated Press called the other Georgia senate race – between GOP incumbent David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff – for Mr. Ossoff. At only 33 years of age, he has become not only the youngest member of the Senate, but the first Jewish senator from Georgia, further cementing the historic nature of the runoffs.
Most important of all, the wins give the Democrats effective control of the Senate, which will oust Republican Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. Few observers expected such an outcome in November, when several Republican Senate incumbents managed to hold off Democratic challengers who had been hurt by calls from their party’s rising progressive voices for a major left-wing policy shift in Washington. I jumped the gun then in predicting that Republican control of the Senate would make Mr. McConnell the most powerful person in Washington for the next two years. But I underestimated the dilemma Mr. Trump had created for his own party’s candidates by refusing to concede his own defeat by Mr. Biden.
Too many Republicans in Congress have been cowardly in going along with Mr. Trump’s delusions, fearful that he would sic his supporters on them if they did not. Even as their cynical charade backfired on the GOP in Georgia, a dozen Republican senators and more than 100 GOP members of the House of Representatives were preparing on Wednesday to object to Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote confirming Mr. Biden’s election as the 46th U.S. president. Most of them would privately admit the jig is up for Mr. Trump, but believe there is no harm in indulging him until Mr. Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. They are wrong. Mr. Trump’s incitement of his own supporters, who stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday, makes this clear.
“Senators know that the president’s social-media rantings are bunk. In our conversations, no one argues that the election was actually stolen,” Nebraska GOP Senator Ben Sasse, a staunch Trump critic, wrote in a Wednesday op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “If voting against the Electoral College is an easy new way to signal disappointment, politicians will make it a quadrennial habit. Basic trust in our elections will evaporate and, down the road, a congressional majority may succeed in changing an outcome.”
The Republicans in Congress who are unwilling to disavow Mr. Trump have taken their party down a dangerous path toward an intra-party civil war in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections and 2024 presidential race. Unless their party makes a clean break with Mr. Trump’s interregnum and its debasement of the conservative principles the GOP purports to stand for, they will likely face more outcomes such as Tuesday’s results in Georgia.
Democrats have their own issues, as the party’s progressive wing flirts with the extremes. But they won Georgia fair and square – proving American democracy still works.
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