In the News
US Politics update: Georgia Senate polls
What is the significance of these contests?
Starting this week to coincide with the delayed return for schools, I will make some blog entries which help recap on what students may have done for British Politics last term as part of their A Level studies. But first, we turn our attention to American Politics...
Voters in Georgia go to the polls tomorrow to vote in elections for the US Senate. These are both run-off elections and it is is highly unusual for two vacancies to be filled in a January election. But that is not what is significant here. Following the November General Election the Senate remains up for grabs. If one of the Republican candidates wins then President elect Joe Biden will face a Republican Senate. If the two Democrats win, then this takes the Senate to 50-50 with the Vice President elect, Kamala Harris, holding the casting vote.
So the stakes are pretty high.
For general context, I would draw your attention to this article from yesterday’s (Sunday’s) Observer: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/03/georgia-runoffs-republicans-democrats-ossoff-warnock
Latest polls (from 538.com) indicate that the two Democrats are just ahead. Raphael Warnock leads the GOP incumbent Kelly Loeffler by 49 to 47 in the Special election, and Jon Ossoff is also ahead by the wafer thin margin of two points on more or less 49 to 47 on his Republican challenger, David Perdue, in the regular election
What is also interesting from an A Level US Politics perspective in the possible influence of campaign finance here. Both contests are record breaking in numbers, with each Democrat candidate managing to outspend their Republican rivals by just over $100 million to approximately $70 million. There’s an old saying (one of my favourite US politics quotes - and there are a lot of them) that “money is the mother's milk of American politics” (Jesse Unruh, a Californian state legislator). And certainly it looks like election success is going to feed off money more than ever.
On the issue of why this is so important for Joe Biden, we have to consider that no newly elected Democrat President has faced a Republican Congress since 1885. We should know by now that the US Constitution separates legislative and executive power, but this is compounded when each branch (or even when one half of Congress is controlled by a different party from the White House incumbent).
For a quick backgrounder on the importance of divided government, have a look at this short piece by Anthony Bennett, a key author on A Level US Politics.
The Economist podcast Checks and Balance has an excellent backgrounder on changing voting patterns in the New South here. https://www.economist.com/podcasts/2020/12/11/on-my-mind-will-georgia-tip-the-balance-of-american-politics
Well worth a listen.