As I’m writing this, it’s Tuesday night and the outcome of the Georgia elections is still in doubt, but it’s looking like one or both Democrats may eke out a victory. If this situation holds, there will a temptation among Democrats to assume that Georgia is now a reliably blue Democratic state. This would be a mistake. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, Georgia is only a blue state if they can keep it.
Like Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama, the Democratic wins in Georgia may prove temporary. A great deal of the Democrats’ good fortune in this election cycle is due to the Republicans shooting themselves in the foot rather than a great surge in the number of Georgia progressives.
The most obvious problem that Republicans faced was President Trump’s ill-timed call to Secretary of State Raffensperger, but that news broke after early voting had closed. It may have depressed some Republican Election Day turnout, but a large number of votes were already cast by that point.
Many Republican voters that I talked to were angry about President Trump’s post-election behavior and many others may have stayed home because they believed Republican claims that the election was rigged. Why vote if a voting machine is going to register your vote incorrectly?
Trump’s antics probably also fired up the Democratic base. Democrats were excited after Biden won the state in November. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Trump’s attempts to disenfranchise Georgia voters drove many Democrats back to the polls who might have stayed home otherwise.As Steve wrote earlier, Donald Trump killed the Georgia Republican Party.
The big question now is whether Georgia Democrats can win when Donald Trump is not around to sabotage Republican candidates. We’ll likely find out in 2022 when Raphael Warnock has to defend his seat.
The answer will depend a lot on what both parties do in the meantime. Georgia is still a conservative state and if Democrats move too far left then the Peach State will revert to the mean in coming years. This is the same scenario that allowed Donald Trump to win the Rust Belt in 2016 and then lose it four years later.
On the other hand, Republicans need to break their Trump addiction. If the GOP keeps doubling down on unpopular policies -like trying to disenfranchise their own constituents - and Trump worship, then Democrats might expand their beachhead.
One thing that Republicans need to learn from 2020 is that they cannot win by simply pointing at their Democratic opponents a la “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and yelling, “Socialism!” They need to have a positive platform that goes beyond humping Trump’s leg.
If the Democrats are smart, they will allow their new Southern senators to be independent and reflect the conservative character of their state. No gun bans, no expansion of abortion, and no culture war. They should stick to relatively popular policies such as raising the minimum wage, police reform (not defunding), and above all, getting the nation vaccinated and ending the pandemic.
Democrats won tonight (or so it seems at this point), but their victories were largely due to Republican errors. That doesn’t mean Democrats shouldn’t celebrate, but they should tread very carefully if they want to maintain their current momentum in Georgia.