At around this time last year, Bernie Sanders was surging in the Democratic primary polls, causing panic amongst his centrist rivals and their media mouthpieces. Op-eds abounded, sounding the alarms about Sanders’ vulnerability in the general election, largely due to his calling himself a democratic socialist. Despite winning the first three states, Sanders suffered crushing losses on Super Tuesday to Joe Biden, who Democratic voters were convinced was more “electable” due to his rejection of the socialist label.
Throughout the general election campaign, Biden took every opportunity to remind voters that he wasn’t a socialist, going as far as to boast that he “beat the socialist” in the primaries. After his narrow victory against Trump in November, pundits ascribed his win to his embrace of moderation, and urged him to govern from the center.
Fast forward to December of 2020. Two Georgia Senate runoff elections coincided with a second round of coronavirus relief negotiations. A bill was set to pass with no stimulus checks to struggling Americans, until Bernie Sanders and Josh Hawley worked across the aisle with one another to negotiate direct payments into the arrangement. Their initial goal as $1,200 per person; ultimately, the amount agreed upon was $600.
Outgoing President Trump balked at the deal, criticizing it for being too paltry, and insisted that Americans be given $2,000 each. He sounded as though he was prepared to veto the bill, throwing the process into complete chaos.
In the subsequent days, however, something changed. The polling in Georgia switched from slightly favoring the Republicans, to slightly favoring the Democrats. Enough voters realized that, because House Democrats backed Trump’s $2,000 proposal and Mitch McConnell didn’t, that they would need to elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock if they hoped to see more stimulus money, or perhaps any at all were Trump to kill this initial deal.
Recognizing that he may have singlehandedly turned the tide of the Senate runoffs against the Republican incumbents, Trump signed the $900 billion bill he threatened to veto, and the $600 direct payments were authorized for release to the American people. Still, the prospect of a $2,000 check lingered in the air. This proposal was so overwhelmingly popular that Republican candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both announced their support for it after learning of depressed turnout in Republican counties.
Then, as election day drew nearer, Democrats made their promise of $2,000 payments central to their closing argument. President-Elect Biden made the case as explicitly as possible, pledging to Georgia voters that if they elected Ossoff and Warnock, “those $2,000 checks will go out the door.”
At this writing, the day after the special election, Warnock has been declared the winner against Loeffler, and Ossoff looks on track to eke out a victory as well against Perdue.
Any objective analysis of polling trends, political maneuvering, and the messaging of the candidates themselves, clearly shows that the turning point of this runoff race was the introduction of direct payments into the coronavirus relief negotiations. The GOP incumbents held a small but steady lead until it was made entirely clear to Georgians that they would receive more government assistance if they voted blue.
So to recap, after an entire year of running as far and as fast from “socialism” as they possibly could, Democrats ultimately flipped the Senate by making an eleventh hour promise to redistribute funds directly into the hands of ordinary people. This past November, their moderate, mealy mouthed platitudes about “restoring the soul of the nation,” and “unity,” and “healing,” lost House seats and state legislatures, and yielded just two Senate pickups, putting their prospects of retaking the upper chamber on life support. They were on track to lose these runoffs as well, until, with just days to go in the campaign, they turned to - yes, you guessed it - socialism. And they won.
Now, with Democrats in control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate, we will undoubtedly hear ad nauseam, from the same corporate media stooges who tanked Bernie’s presidential campaign, about how Democrats secured their position by tacking to the middle, and that they must remain there if they hope to keep their majorities intact. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this Georgia race proves it.
Photo: Senate Democrats