A Rich Race for Symbols

Terry H. Schwadron

Jan. 5, 2020

We’ve given these four U.S Senate run-off candidates in the single state of Georgia a combined $550 million dollars to spend on today’s contest that is more symbolic than practical.

You might ask what exactly we’re getting for it, other than the delicious prospect of removing Mitch McConnell of his imperialist status in dictating to the Senate.

Whatever we thought the Georgia races might mean is overshadowed by the emergence of the tape, now public, of Donald Trump trying to shake down the state’s secretary of state who oversees elections, to “find” votes that show he won in Georgia. Trump arrived last night ostensibly to campaign for the two Republican incumbents — even while trashing the state election operates. Instead, of course, he talked about himself.

It’s an enormous amount of money — and they keep asking for more — as if this is about an election between television ad campaigns, not people supposedly of ideas and positions. Every news report says there is constant radio and television advertising — likely without changing a single vote.
One cannot wonder about the alternative effects of having spent that money on food for those going without, or to hire more intensive care staff at overwhelmed hospitals, or on appropriate housing arrangements for the millions facing eviction.

What we’ve gotten for that, so far as I can tell, are two extremely close elections that depend not on what the candidates, who each has a bit of flaw to overcome, say or the issues that they represent. As the election passes, it is increasingly clear that there is widespread desire to see this either as evidence of Donald Trump’s ability to control followers or Joe Biden’s ability to function with a too-close Senate.

It was close enough and weird enough that Trump was campaigning yesterday in more rural Republican areas — though he may be campaigning most for a loud, post-election voice; and Biden was flying into Atlanta to stand with his side in a parking lot. Truly hypocritical Trump was calling out and even threatening his own Republican state officials for running fraudulent election procedures, with his minions attacking the very same mail ballots, registrations and voting procedures that Republicans are using as well as Democrats. It’s unclear whether Trump wants these two to win as he primps for a continuing spotlight for himself.

Biden was simply trying to get to those 80,000 voters who voted for him and not Ossoff in November.

It is a race almost solely of turnout, and specifically Black voter and young voter turnout before the realities of a resulting split government then, again, ignores the specific needs of both.

The candidates

Can we please remember that these are two votes that, at best for Democrats, would bring the Senate to a 50–50 split — in a. body that generally requires 60 votes to approve any of the more expansive government programs that Biden seeks for public health, health insurance access, climate and environment or approval of national security and arrangements with foreign governments,

What a Democratic win in both races would provide is a real change in the Majority Leader’s office, allowing those issues to at least get to the floor of the Senate.

So, rather than try to explain away their repeated records of trading stock on information for which they had early access, both Republican senators David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler rail at amorphous “radical liberals” and “socialists” in their opponents, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, as well as attacking them for disagreeing with Trump.

And they do so while supporting an increase in coronavirus aid packages to $2,000 after having opposed them just because Trump backed the increase at the last minute — something that their Republican leader Mitch McConnell sees as a socialist give-away.

And Ossoff and Warnock find themselves having to defend themselves trying to explain away perceived glitches in their backgrounds that include Ossoff overblowing his experience and not disclosing a contract his film company had with a Chinese firm and Warnock refusing to discuss a domestic issue in his past and past remarks supporting Rev. Jeremiah White, who has been controversial in the past about racial politics.

The race is a gold mine of hypocrisy. It has left Loeffler in the position of supporting rights of the religious right, but attacking the religious left. It has left Purdue in blind support of America First-ism when he made his money by advising companies about off-shoring their manufacturing.

These are candidates who can only talk of the flaws of opponents.

Purdue and Loeffler deserve to be sent home on personal ethics issues alone, in my opinion, to say nothing of unthinking puppetry of Trumpism, and, from listening to them, Ossoff and Warnock need to step up their understanding of complexities. Warnock acknowledged this week that foreign policy had not really occurred to him as a substantial issue.

Personally, I think we’d be talking a different campaign outcome had Stacey Abrams, architect of a huge increase in voter registration, agreed to be the Democratic candidate.

The Divide Rules

Of course, the reason it is close is because as a nation we seem to revel in divide — divide over ideologies, over race, over ethnicity or recognizing the value of diversity, over voting for our personal fortunes over the common good.

Insanely, after 200 years of democracy, we’re still fighting over which and how Americans can vote, and if you lose all the political talk about tactics and strategies to subvert the vote through voter suppression, gerrymandering and the rest, you’d likely have the grace of silence on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN on the most stupid aspects of our vote.

We seem repeatedly to prefer electing a split government that always grinds away in gridlock.

This Georgia vote seems to come as a chore rather than a celebration of democracy.

The Trump message is hugely mixed. He doesn’t want a vibrant Senate, he wants a compliant Senate that does whatever he wants, in or out of office. He is so obsessed with his own flailing revolt against democracy that he sees no issue at calling out the state election officials while asking for public support for his candidates.

For him, this election is all symbolism, since nothing it achieves will help him keep his office after Jan. 20.

The Biden message is relatively clear. He needs the two votes — and the symbolism of taking the majority — with the vote of the vice president-elect — to set the agenda and make legislation more possible.

It’s an enormous amount of time, effort and money for symbols.



Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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