Unsatisfying Election Could Boomerang On Both Sides
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
What an unsatisfying election. Opponents of President Trump were denied what they had long sought — a resounding rejection of Trump and Trumpism by the American electorate. Hoped-for Democratic gains in congressional contests, high-profile Senate races, and state legislatures largely failed to materialize.
Mr. Trump won roughly 10 million more votes than he received in 2016. The Democratic presidential ticket failed to carry such hotly contested battleground states as Iowa, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, or Texas, where the Democrats had invested substantial resources.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s supporters, barring some unlikely last-minute legal or recount surprise, have also been denied what they hoped for — a second term for President Trump. They feel like the election was stolen. The press gave Biden a free pass. Pre-election polls falsely made the presidential election’s result seem like a foregone conclusion.
Pfizer delayed its vaccine announcement, keeping samples unanalyzed in storage until after the election. Pandemic-related expansion of vote-by-mail altered the composition of the electorate.
Worse, it’s not even really over. A January 5, 2021, runoff election for two Senate seats representing Georgia will determine control of the United States Senate. If Republicans hold the chamber, then a President Biden can forget about doubling the capital gains tax, adding a “public option” to ObamaCare, packing the Supreme Court, banning fossil fuel, appointing Elizabeth Warren Treasury secretary, or other moves that might thrill the Bernie Sanders-Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing of his party.
A Republican Senate could be grim for Republicans, too. Mr. Biden would be able to blame every problem of his presidency not only on the chaos he was left by the preceding administration, but also on Republican Senate obstructionism. For anything good that happens in the Biden administration, Mr. Biden will get credit. For anything bad that happens, Mr. Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will get blamed.
With politics as with the pandemic, though, the secret to happiness is trying to focus on the positive.
With that outlook, from a Republican perspective, the Georgia runoff appears more like a win-win situation. Retaining Senate control would mean the Trump tax rates and the Trump Supreme Court stay in place. Losing Senate control could be a kind of win, too, because when Democrats have full control in Washington, as they did in 1992 and in 2008, they invariably overreach in a way that causes the American electorate to recoil and, at the next possible opportunity, hand at least one chamber of Congress back to the Republicans.
From a Democratic perspective, the Georgia runoff is a win-win situation, too. Winning Senate control would offer Mr. Biden a chance to implement some of the legislative agenda for which he campaigned. For the Democrats, though, failing to win Senate control wouldn’t be so bad, either. It would leave Senator Mitch McConnell around to blame for a slower-than-expected economic recovery.
Mr. McConnell would also be a huge help to Mr. Biden because he would save Mr. Biden from any temptation he might have to nominate far-left cabinet officials or pass far-left legislation. Leader McConnell would protect the Democrats from their own worst tendencies. Without a Republican Senate, Mr. Biden will be constantly tugged leftward by the pressure groups within his party and his administration.
If both Republicans — Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue — win re-election in Georgia, it would be a signal that Georgia voters wanted to be rid of President Trump but do not want to enact a Biden legislative agenda.
If both Democrats — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock—win election, and the Trump-led Republicans lose the Senate as well as the presidency, it will approach the resounding rejection of Mr. Trump that Democrats were hoping for on election day. That would be a pretty clear signal to Republicans that they should consider heading in a different direction.
Then again, Peachtree State voters could well send one Democrat and one Republican to represent them in the Senate. They’d be expressing the sentiments of so many Americans who don’t entirely trust what either political party is selling these days. Let the votes of the two senators cancel each other out. Or let them spend their time investigating each other. At best, it might prevent the politicians from interfering with the functioning of the country.
Drawing by Elliott Banfield, courtesy of the artist.