Where are all the people who said 2021 would be better than 2020? To be fair, there’s still plenty of time to be right, and I’m optimistic. But with the recent record-setting COVID-19 cases and a right-wing coup attempt at The Capitol just within the first week of January, this year could very well be even worse.
Rewinding to news from before Trump supporters violently invaded the halls of Congress, the results of the recent Georgia Senate runoff election were finalized. Democrat Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are settling in Washington, while Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will be packing their bags and traveling back to Georgia.
The pair of Democrats somewhat unexpectedly ousted the incumbents to shift control of the Senate to the Democrats. Technically two sitting Senators are independent, but they caucus with the Democrats. Therefore, the new 50-50 split will allow Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote on legislation before the Senate.
Last November, I wrote an opinion piece arguing that Republicans could be content even with a Biden victory, and that Democrats in a sense lost the election cycle. This argument cited an increasingly diverse Republican coalition, Republican victories in races where Democrats out-raised Republicans by millions of dollars, and a gain of 12 seats in the House of Representatives as reasons for optimism in the red half of Washington.
But most importantly, the article’s argument relied on Republicans holding the Senate, which they were projected to do at the time but ultimately failed. Consequently, it seemed appropriate to offer an update, as the new results completely change its main premise.
The Georgia runoffs were probably the most-watched Senate races in a long time, due to their potential consequences. Not only do Democrats now control the Senate, but they control the entire federal government. As it did when Trump took office in 2017 with a Republican House and Senate, this has major implications on what has long been the political status quo.
The most prominent issue in question concerns court packing. Nearly every Democrat has refused to commit to maintaining a nine-justice Supreme Court, a nonpartisan tradition that has stood since 1869.
In what would be a shift in congressional procedure, some congressional Democrats have openly called for the end to the filibuster, a move known as the “nuclear option” that essentially silences the minority party. Additionally, top Democrats are considering lowering the vote threshold from 60 to a simple majority, which critics like Bill Hoagland of the Bipartisan Policy Center see as the end of bipartisanship.
Furthermore, the freedom to choose healthcare may be threatened judging by the rhetoric of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who have advocated for eliminating private insurance; even if Biden maintains his claim in support of keeping private insurance, there’s no reason to believe him. The Obama-Biden administration’s promise, “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” was rated the lie of the year by Politifact after four million Americans lost their healthcare plans as a result.
Whatever happens, hopefully, a more civil political discourse will develop in the coming years. President Biden’s call for healing certainly hasn’t been practiced on either side of the aisle yet.
This runoff election arguably brought out the worst in people. For example, several left-wing Hollywood figures including Netflix producer Jake Rossman and “Walking Dead” actor Daniel Newman posed as conservatives and urged Republicans to boycott the Georgia runoff, or to write in invalid candidates such as Kanye West or Donald Trump, presumably so that Democrats would have an advantage. These dirty tactics, which could be considered voter suppression, should be condemned by both sides as an act against democracy.
However, it doesn’t even come close to what some Republicans did to democracy on January 6. After months of Trump falsely claiming the election was stolen, right-wing protestors demonstrating against the loss in November stormed The Capitol on January 6th in what can only be described as an embarrassing and unpatriotic act of sedition. Politicians from both sides of the aisle condemned the riot, and Vice President Mike Pence activated the National Guard to quell the attempted coup. According to the New York Times, an unarmed protestor was shot and killed, and three other people are confirmed dead, including a Capitol Hill police officer who was brutally beaten by the rioters.
This is undoubtedly a dark time in our country’s history. We might have in political science terms a “unified government” with Democrats controlling the presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives until at least the next midterm election, but the nation will likely be anything but unified.
Putting the onus on elected officials, namely those Republicans who fanned the flames of voter fraud conspiracies leading up to the Capitol riots, a step in the right direction would be for the GOP to dump Trump.
I mean this metaphorically, but also literally. On January 13, exactly a week after the Capitol Hill riots, the House voted bipartisanly to impeach the president 232-197. Hopefully a conviction is achieved in the Senate.
With a busy Senate calendar, Trump’s second impeachment trial is expected to begin in the first weeks of the Biden Administration. Even though the removal effect of a conviction would be pointless, Mr. Trump deserves to be impeached and convicted.
Without Trump’s repeated false claims about a “stolen election,” the Capitol riot most likely would never have happened. To make matters worse, while Trump’s right-wing protestors roamed the halls of Congress looking for targets, Trump publicly attacked his own vice president who was hiding for his life inside the same building. It was dangerous and irresponsible. Impeachment and conviction will send a clear message to future presidents: this kind of behavior is not tolerated in government, much less the highest office of the nation.
Additionally, removing Trump could symbolize the end of Trumpism within the Republican Party. A source familiar with now-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that he believes impeachment will help remove the Trump stain from the GOP, effectively purging Trumpism from the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, Trumpism won’t go down without a fight. An ideological divide within the Republican Party similar to the moderate/progressive divide within the Democratic Party appears to be emerging. Since Trump’s second impeachment, Republicans have been split between representatives like Liz Cheney, who voted in favor of impeachment, and representatives like Matt Gaetz who remain fiercely loyal to the former president.
But if the events of January 6th somehow aren’t enough to turn every Republican against Trump and what he stands for, their shortcomings in this election cycle should.
The loss in Georgia should be a wake up call for Republicans, who have historically had success in the peach state. With Democrats sweeping it this election cycle, now is the time for Republicans to take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide where to go from here.
Do Trump’s allies in Congress cling onto his tarnished legacy for dear life while their colleagues attempt to move on? Or do they come to their senses, unify their party, and abandon Trumpism altogether, as they should? Only time will tell.