It’s safe to say that election night 2020 did not go as planned for Democrats.
They came into the night expecting to see a massive blue wave — a sweep where they took the presidency and both houses of Congress, giving them a mandate and the ability to pass their agenda for the next 2 years.
However, as we settled in to see the results, said blue wave did not materialize. They lost seats in the House, flopped in local and state elections across the country, and came up short in many key Senate races.
There was some hope, however. They still held onto the House — albeit with a slimmer majority — and Joe Biden took the presidency, denying Trump a second term. And despite many failures on the Senate end, there remained a chance for them to take a majority in the chamber.
With the election results in, Republicans held on to 50 seats in the Senate to Democrats’ 48, however there were 2 seats still in contention, those being runoff elections in Georgia. While most states work on a plurality system, where the candidate who receives the most votes wins, Georgia requires that a candidate receive a majority. If they don’t, the top two candidates in the first round move to a runoff election to determine the winner.
If Democrats won both runoffs, they’d pull into a 50–50 tie with Republicans. In that case Vice President Kamala Harris would get to cast tie breaking votes, meaning Democrats would have the majority.
Right now, the situation looks good for Democrats in Georgia. Biden’s victory in the state revitalized their morale to win in the state, and the results with polling and early voting have provided good news.
Results will begin trickling in tonight, and while anything is possible, Democrats are hopeful they can win and regain a Senate majority.
However, one question stands out: how much will it really matter?
The Democrats’ treatment of these elections has been that once they win, all of their problems will go away. They’ll have full control of the federal government, meaning now they can pass climate legislation and healthcare reform like they always wanted, and it will all be kumbaya.
Except, of course, it won’t. While these seats are without a doubt important, and the country will benefit from a Democratic Senate majority, we’re still ignoring that the mandate of Democrats in the event of a victory will be incredibly slim.
Even if they control a government trifecta in 2021, think about what it represents. It represents a party that folded on the local level, fell short in many elections they should’ve won, lost seats in the House, barely won the presidency against the least popular President in modern American history, and won control of the Senate by the skin of their teeth.
It’s a win, but one so hollow that it hardly represents anything.
With the current look of things, Democrats won’t be able to really get much done, even with a Senate majority. Any ambitious proposals are off of the table, because just a few defections from the House and any in the Senate will mean it fails.
Democrats will continue to face pressure from state legislatures and local governments for moderation as, and the 6–3 conservative Supreme Court will be present to check anything Democrats manage to pass.
Not to mention, the lack of unity of the party will immediately begin to show. Being in power has historically been shown to sow division in a party, and it will be on full display here where there will be no margin for error.
We saw how Republicans in 2017 failed to repeal Obamacare, something that seemed to be a shared goal across the entire party. Or how Democrats, despite a comfortable House majority and Senate supermajority, barely passed Obamacare and failed to pass Obama’s cap-and-trade policy or any meaningful gun control.
With Democrats in the majority this time, there will be very clear divisions once again. We saw in the 2020 presidential primary how much the party splintered between progressives and moderates, and while they were tabled for the 2020 election, they will quickly recur here.
Progressives will try to pursue their agenda, moderates will try to pursue theirs, and any legislation we try to pass will inevitably face enough resistance inside of the party that it won’t get through.
So, I will settle in tonight and pray we end up with Senator John Ossoff and Senator Raphael Warnock coming out of Georgia. However, Democrats need to remember that even if they win, they still have a lot of work to do.
They will have to compromise and negotiate for every small policy initiative they want to pass, settle for halfway agreements, and in 2022 they’ll have to return to the American people with a more compelling message, in hopes to receive their true mandate.