Georgia repeats

Yesterday’s postscript to the United States mid-term elections was another good result for the Democrats. In the runoff for Georgia’s Senate election, required under state law because no candidate won more than 50% in November, Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock defeated his Republican challenger, Trumpist Herschel Walker, by almost 100,000 votes, 51.4% to 48.6%.

That compares to a somewhat narrower 49.4% to 48.5% in the first round, and is a bit better than the 51.0% to 49.0% with which Warnock initially won the seat in a by-election almost two years ago. For a while it looked like being closer, but Warnock’s best areas, in the greater Atlanta area, were among the last to report

Less than three percentage points, of course, is still a close election. But not only are close elections now the norm in much of the US, but Georgia still has a Republican lean: Republicans won all the other statewide elections there last month. So the Democrats are justifiably pleased with the result, which gives them a 51-49 Senate majority, and a much-needed extra buffer for what will be a difficult Senate election in 2024.

That means that in total only one state changed hands in the Senate election – Pennsylvania, which the Democrats won on the retirement of its Republican incumbent – and not a single incumbent was defeated. According to FiveThirtyEight, it’s the first time since 1934 that the president’s party has held all its Senate seats in a mid-term election.

With the mid-terms now out of the way, there is no longer anything to hold back the civil war in the Republican Party. Its leaders now have clear evidence of how much damage Donald Trump is doing them: Walker was merely the last of his chosen candidates to fare badly. There seems little doubt that better (that is, non-Trumpy) candidate selection would have produced a Republican Senate majority as well as much improved results in the House and elsewhere.

While the elections were still in progress it made some sense for party elders, like Senate leader Mitch McConnell, not to give voice to these sentiments. Now, however, their focus will be on preventing Trump from gaining the presidential nomination for 2024 – even if they don’t care about the survival of American democracy, they care about their own futures. As I said back in February, “By their single-minded attacks on [democracy], Trump and supporters are forcing Republican leaders into the role of its reluctant defenders.”

The battle won’t be an easy one. Trump still has many fanatical supporters, and for the leadership, having made so many compromises with the Trumpists before, taking a stand will be awkward even if unavoidable. But with Trump regularly giving them more ammunition, their chances are looking ever brighter. It’s going to be a very interesting couple of years.

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