Given all of the tumultuous, turbulent and treasonable events in Washington on Wednesday, you could easily be forgiven for forgetting that the Democrats won both Georgia Senate seats — serving President Donald Trump another stinging election rebuke in his last days in office. And whether his term is to end with retirement, removal through the 25th Amendment or impeachment — any option seems possible now in the cold light of a dramatic dawn on the US Capitol — both the Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff find themselves now elected to the Senate at an unprecedented juncture in American history.
The last time the precincts of the Capitol were breached, British redcoats with muskets stormed the unfinished complex in the War of 1812; on Wednesday it was Trump supporters armed with smartphones who acted on the intent if not direct orders of their commander-in-chief. Such are the deep divisions in America now between right against righteous, Trump Republicans against Democrats and democracy, and the confederates of collusion and confusion against the US Constitution, Warnock and Ossoff will take their seats on the Senate floor where the image of a camouflaged goon taking a selfie there hours before spoke volumes about the state of the union now. Their run-off victories now place them in the corridors of power where a seditious mob roamed as the elected representatives of Americans sheltered in their offices. And they will swear to uphold the Constitution in a building where days before four people were killed, armed security staff held handguns on the unruly to keep them from taking fully over, and where tear gas and flash grenades failed to turn back the rabble from the steps where Joe Biden will be inaugurated.
Tumultuous times indeed, historic too. The Rev Warnock, who defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler, made history as the first Black senator from Georgia, a state shaped by the legacy of the civil war, the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement. Ossoff unseated the Republican incumbent David Perdue and becomes the youngest member of the Senate at 33.
The resulting 50/50 party split in the Senate gives the incoming vice-president, Kamala Harris, the tiebreaker vote and makes Democrat Chuck Schumer majority leader. That gives Democrats an unlikely clean sweep of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives in the lengthy aftermath of the November presidential election. The election of the pair helps Biden implement what could be the most progressive legislative agenda in generations. In order to facilitate everything from confirming his cabinet nominees to raising taxes and enacting a sweeping climate plan, Biden will need Senate approval. Senate committees will be chaired by Democrats rather than Republicans.
Even before the events in Washington unfolded on Wednesday, it would not be plain sailing. The Senate’s closure rule — which requires 60 votes to cut off debate on most measures — enables Republicans to filibuster significant parts of the Democrats’ agenda. But the budget reconciliation process will allow Biden to circumvent the filibuster for some of his spending plans.
It is all vastly preferable to what had seemed the probable alternative: the Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell as majority leader, ruthlessly blocking the incoming Democratic president’s legislative goals and judicial nominees. Haggling in what used to be called smoke-filled rooms would have been the order of the day.
Trump will in all probability be remembered as the man who lost the presidency after one term and was impeached along the way, then lost the House and — after two months — lost the Senate to boot. The events of the coming days may indeed hold more. As it was, the pair’s election is political validation for a party in a state that has been challenging for Democrats for most of the last two decades.
The outcome prompted some Republicans to blame President Trump for dissuading the party’s voters from turning out in force with his false assertions that Georgia’s elections were rigged — and that was before the Capitol was breached.
Warnock is one of only 11 Black men and women to be elected senator — a group that includes former president Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Harris. He is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church — the same church that was led by Martin Luther King Jr. — and had served as senior pastor since 2005. He said Wednesday he will still preach on Sunday to keep the connection with his community.
“I intend to return to my pulpit and preach on Sunday mornings and to talk to the people,” he told CNN on Wednesday. “Listen, one of the things that I’ve learnt from being a pastor is that it is really the people who teach you how to be a good pastor and an effective pastor, and I think it’s the people who teach you how to be an effective senator. And so the last thing I want to do is to become disconnected from the community and just spend all of my time talking to the politicians. I might accidentally become one and I have no intention of becoming a politician. I intend to become a public servant.”
Ossoff is a native of Georgia and both he and his wife, Alisha Kramer, grew up in Atlanta.
According to his official biography, the 33-year-old is investigative journalist who exposed sexual slavery of women and girls by Daesh, crooked judges, foreign officials who steal US-funded food and medical aid, contract killers, human traffickers, war crimes and bribery.
He is the CEO of a media and movie production company that includes as its projects Cry Freetown, an Emmy-winning documentary focusing on Sierra Leone’s civil war.
Certainly, in the coming days and months, both men enter elected office at a time when America seems teetering on the edge of political divisions unprecedented since its Civil War. Then, the US Capitol shook as General Robert E. Lee commanded his Confederate army to the south of the River Potomac that divides the city. The citadel of liberty saw reverberations on Wednesday.