Donald Trump promised—or perhaps warned—Republican voters in 2016 that if he was elected president, they would become "so sick and tired of winning."
In Georgia, at least, that appears to be true.
Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff appear to have narrowly won the pair of high-stakes Senate runoff elections held in Georgia on Tuesday night. If those results are confirmed, it would leave the Senate evenly divided between the two parties and allow incoming Vice President Kamala Harris to be a tie-breaking vote for Democrats. Combined with the results of November's elections, Tuesday's outcomes mean that when Trump leaves office in less than two weeks, Democrats will have full control of the executive and legislative branches of government.
That means that in a span of two months Trump has presided over three losses in a state that hadn't gone to Democrats in a presidential contest since 1992 and hadn't elected a Democratic senator since 2000. It's too soon to say whether this is evidence of a realignment in Georgia that Democrats have been hoping for years would materialize, versus a one-off rejection of Trump and his party. Either way, these results are a big deal.
This is the outcome that Republicans deserve after four years of not merely tolerating but largely embracing Trump's authoritarian, spendy, and uninformed ways. It is the outcome the party deserves for rallying around a man who was impeached and defeated at the ballot box. It is what they should get for following Trump down an insane rabbit hole of conspiracy theories instead of rejecting him as the failed president that he is and moving in a different direction.
Republicans need to realize that "this is happening the way it is happening because you've allowed it to happen," Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said on Tuesday night during an appearance on MSNBC. Like other anti-Trump voices within and around the GOP warning that Trumpism was a dead end, he's been proven right.
The best thing that could come out of Tuesday's results is a long-overdue reckoning for Trumpism. Already, the recriminations are starting—CNN's Jake Tapper says some Republican strategists are blaming Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), one of Trump's most loyal advocates in the Senate, for the losses in Georgia.
Knives out! Another GOP strategist says that NRSC polling looked good until last week when Hawley announced his challenge, and the focus turned to overturning the election instead of being a check on the Dems
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 6, 2021
More of that would be welcome.
But easily the worst thing to come out of Tuesday's runoffs is the unified control of government Democrats will now enjoy. When one party controls both Congress and the White House, the result is never a reduction in the size or cost of government. America will pay the price for Republicans' failures.
In the short-term, a slim Democratic majority in the Senate means President-elect Joe Biden will be able to get more aggressive about his executive branch appointments. Biden was reportedly waiting to announce some of his cabinet picks, including his attorney general, until after the Georgia elections were finished, which could indicate that the nominee would have been different if Republicans had emerged victorious in the state. (Or it could be nothing more than strategic maneuver to avoid giving Republicans a new issue to campaign on in Georgia, the opposite of how Trump and Hawley likely helped Democrats with their post-election shenanigans.)
The same is true for judicial appointments, which are not subject to the filibuster anymore. Republicans who justified Trump's bad behavior because they liked that he was packing the federal courts with conservative jurists will now have to watch Biden and Harris steer the judiciary in a different direction.
And it means we'll likely see another major COVID-19 relief bill passed in the early days of the Biden administration. It could be loaded up with billions of dollars for states and local governments—an unnecessary bailout that Senate Republicans successfully and repeatedly blocked in 2020. Such a package will be Democrats' top priority if they take the majority, likely Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said during a Wednesday morning press conference.
In the longer term, a slim Democratic majority in the Senate has murky implications for policy making. On one hand, the combination of the filibuster, the presence of conservative-ish Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.), and the fact that Democrats will have to defend seats in places like Arizona and New Hampshire in 2022 might limit some Biden aspirations.
On the other hand, however, the Senate rules allow a lot of flexibility if the majority is willing to play ball. Democrats could use the reconciliation procedure, which allows for certain tax- and budget-related bills to pass without a supermajority, to implement some stripped-down versions of their policy agenda. This is the same procedure that Republicans used to pass the tax reform bill in 2017, so it's certainly possible to deliver big legislative accomplishments without a 60-vote majority.
A few major things that would be on the table via reconciliation:
-Another relief bill with 2k checks, UI, and aid for states.
-Green energy spending
-Supersizing the ACA and doubling community health center spending https://t.co/jL6MeE9ejN
— Jordan Weissmann (@JHWeissmann) January 6, 2021
Simply controlling committees and determining what gets to the floor of the Senate is a big deal too. With Schumer looking over his shoulder at a possible primary challenge from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), there will be added pressure to find ways to squeeze through a few of the items on the progressives' wish list.
More spending, bigger government, and more liberal appointees to the executive branch and the federal courts—that's where Trumpism has led. (In fairness, Republicans were already doing a lot of the first two things.)
The results of Tuesday's runoff mean that those of us who care about limited government are going to face (at least) two difficult years ahead. For today, though, we can enjoy a little bit of schadenfreude.