by Frank Schnittger
Wed Jan 6th, 2021 at 02:13:31 PM EST
As a long haired student radical in the early 1970's I did a spot of hitch-hiking around the eastern USA following a summer working making motel beds and selling hot-dogs on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey and working construction in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
I ventured as far as N. Carolina but was warned not to go further south as the southern states of South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and especially Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia where injun country as far as long haired students were concerned. You could get beaten up or worse.
I remember being amazed at a military High School in Charlotte where young teenagers were being drilled to within an inch of their lives in the merciless heat wearing 19th. century buttoned up military uniforms that made no concessions to comfort, utility, or the heat. This was no place for anarchist idealists.
Fortunately I also met some progressive student types who put me up in an attic and introduced me to the joy's of Neil Young and sundry progressive rock artists. Some drink and dope might also have been involved but generally the atmosphere was laid back and chilled. But the images of white privilege and black poverty in Carolina have stayed with me to this day.
All of which is a long way of saying that Georgia is one of the last places I would have expected to see a renaissance of even mildly progressive politics in the USA. Clearly the deep south is changing rapidly whereas parts of the rust belt and mid-west are travelling in the opposite direction. Joe Biden may have won the Presidential election by over 7 Million votes (4.5%), but he still lost former swing states like Ohio, Iowa, and Florida, and struggled to win former Democratic strongholds like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
But of all the wins that Biden pulled off, none was more surprising that Georgia. True, it had been trending purple for a long time, but Democrats rarely won statewide races there, and almost never in a run-off election where turnout tended to be half that of a general election. Instead, the turnout of 4.4 Million voters was almost at the level of the 2020 general election, and higher than the 2016 general election.
As I write this it is looking increasingly certain that both Georgia's Senate run-off elections will result in wins for Democratic Party candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (Martin Luther King's old church), and Jon Ossoff, former staff member for veteran civil rights leaders John Lewis and Hank Johnson. Both look to be beating Biden's 12,000 vote margin of victory by some distance, making Trump's claim to have won the state look even more ridiculous.
It is worth bearing in mind that, as I noted in Georgia on my mind, Democrat candidates generally underperformed Biden in the General, resulting in a failure to win the Senate, and actually losing seats in Congress. So what has changed in the intervening two months? Clearly, Trump's failure to accept his defeat and his extraordinary hour long phone call with Georgia Republican Secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, whom he threatened and urged to "find" the 12,000 votes needed to overturn the election, was a factor.
The Senate Republicans failure to follow Trump's and Democrats lead in supporting a $2,000 pandemic payment to support an ailing economy and populace may also have been a factor. Ironically, on this occasion, Mitch McConnell's obduracy will have helped secure his downfall as Senate Majority Leader, and with that the power to set the Senate Agenda and block even bills a majority of senators support.
Democrats will now have a Trifecta of power, controlling the Presidency, Senate and Congress, and will have no excuses for not undoing some of the worst excesses of Republican rule over the last 4 years. At the very least, Biden should have much less difficulty in getting his nominees for office confirmed, and should be in a position to appoint more progressive Judges in due course.
To be sure, any Senate majority dependent on Joe Manchin (D), Senator for arch conservative West Virginia, will not be a progressive one, and the House majority is exceedingly thin. But it should be possible for a congressional insider like Biden to do deals to get most of his more moderate agenda passed.
The Supreme Court 6:3 Conservative majority could continue to be a problem, and there must be a temptation to appoint additional Justices to compensate for the Senate's failure to even consider Obama's nominee while appointing a conservative nominee just weeks before the election. But somehow I don't think an institutional conservative Like Joe Biden will break with precedent and appoint more than the traditional 9 judges, even at the cost of some of his agenda.
Neither does it seem likely that the Senate will end the filibuster rule: If Radical conservatives like Trump and Mitch McConnell didn't change it, it seems even less likely that institutionally conservative Democrats will do so. What they might do, however, is grant the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico full state status and thus the right to elect two additional senators each. Puerto Rico is the 31st. most populous US territory or state, and DC has a greater population than either Wyoming and Vermont. So there is little justification (other than racism) for denying either state proper representation in Congress.
It cannot, of course, be assumed that Puerto Rico would vote to become a fully incorporated US state, or that its elected Senators would vote Democratic if they did so. But DC is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, and giving it full representation would help correct a gross imbalance whereby by 2040, two-thirds of Americans will be represented by 30 percent of the Senate and whereby Republicans have a grossly unrepresentative share of the seats because of their domination of states with smaller populations.
But anyone who thinks a Joe Biden administration will be a radical one is likely to be disappointed, and it may suit him that his small majorities and the SCOTUS will put a break on the ambitions of some of his more progressive supporters. A return to minimal levels of competence may be the best we can hope for, and hopefully we will not see a resurgence of neo-con ideologues to the reins of US foreign policy.
The one good think about Trump's short attention span and general incompetence is that he rarely had the perseverance to do a lot of harm to global relations. Re-entry into the Paris Climate accords, and a new relationship with the EU, China, Russia and Iran could do a lot to ease existing tensions in the world, and pave the way for a more cooperative modus vivendi for all in the years to come.
A restoration of Obamacare and some extensions to Medicare may be the best we can hope for in the domestic sphere, but Biden will have to do something to address the huge divide in US society between the winners and losers of globalisation, between urban and rural voters, between the rust belt unemployed and coastal elites, between young and old, and between whites and minorities throughout the country. If it can be done in Georgia it should be possible everywhere.