In some sense, the fate of politics in the coming years relies on Georgia. And no, that doesn’t refer to the presidential election, where, at the time of this writing, Democratic nominee Joe Biden holds a mere 1,544 vote lead over President Donald Trump. It refers to the state’s two Senate elections. One is heading to a definite January runoff and the other appears ready to follow suit in the coming hours or days.
Should Republicans win one or both of those elections, the government will likely be in gridlock, with a GOP Senate majority and what’s looking more and more like a Biden presidency. If the GOP fails in both races and Biden wins, the Senate would have 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any ties.
In the three-way race between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R–Ga.), Democrat Raphael Warnock, and Rep. Doug Collins (R–Ga.), no candidate received the necessary majority to claim victory on election night, eliminating Collins and sending the former two to a direct contest in the new year. And Sen. David Perdue (R–Ga.), who held out above 50 percent as the initial results came in, recently dipped below the requisite majority; he now boasts 49.8 percent of the vote to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s 47.8 percent. If the remaining mail-in ballots cannot save Perdue, the two will likewise fight for a majority come 2021.
The implications can’t really be overstated. A double-loss for the GOP would send Biden riding into the Oval Office on a blue wave, with the House and Senate in tow, writing the party a blank check for their $11 trillion in policy prescriptions. At least one win in Georgia would ensure, to some degree, that that doesn’t happen.
Is the latter the best outcome? Probably.
Of course, there are downsides to every combination; no option was all that desirable, as per usual. For her part, Loeffler has been a loud and steady voice for the nationalist, Trumpian approach that voters may have wanted to send packing right along with Trump himself. What’s more, a divided government comes with possible stagnation, and while the art of compromise might sound ideal, the politics of such compromise often yield lopsided results—something with which Joe Biden is deeply familiar.
But considering the alternatives, forcing a measure of restraint on a party that continues its lurch leftward might put federal governance in a healthier place than it’s been in some time. No packing on the Supreme Court? Check. A return to some semblance of free trade, or at least the pre-Trump status quo? Likely. A pivot back to immigration liberalization, the likes of which reside primarily with the executive? Almost certainly.
Gridlock can be a mixed bag, but—contrary to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) says—it looks like neither party will be able to claim a mandate, and that’s good news.