Democrats win control of the Senate

Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win their Senate elections in Georgia, securing a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, won their respective runoff Senate elections against Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, securing Democratic control over the Senate with a 50-50 majority. 

Notably, Warnock and Ossoff have become the first Democratic senators to win an election in Georgia since 1998, flipping the Republican stronghold Democratic in both its presidential and Senate elections. They have also made history as Warnock is the first African-American since Reconstruction to represent a southern state, and Ossoff is the first Jewish senator from Georgia.

Image of all four Senate candidates, Warnock, Ossoff, Perdue, and Loeffler.
Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock pictured with the Republican candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Both Ossoff and Warnock were declared the winners of the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia. (Source: AP/Getty)

Although the Democratic candidates are not the most progressive of Democrats, they were able to win by heavily leaning on their support of $2,000 checks for the American public in the weeks leading up to the election and using progressive-esque platitudes like “Healthcare is a human right” instead of explicitly endorsing policies like Medicare for All. Warnock and Ossoff were able to weaponize this support and aired attack ads calling the Republican candidates sellouts who did not want to help the American public as former Georgian Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue did not support the checks until Donald Trump’s endorsement of the stimulus package very late in the primary season.

Warnock’s and Ossoff’s progressive-esque messaging also worked to manage the racism-filled narratives spread by Perdue, Loeffler, and Republican Party PACs that claimed the two were were authoritarian-sympathizing, child-abusers who wanted to destroy the United States as well as an ad which made Ossoff’s nose appear to be lengthened in anti-Semitic trope and racist tropes that were used to refer to Warnock. Instead of being seen as the candidates who the misleading attack ads portrayed them to be, they were to serve up counter messaging that motivated Georgians to come to the polls with a promise of fighting for and guaranteeing the passage of $2,000 stimulus checks in the Senate.

However, Warnock and Ossoff’s wins were not easy to acquire. An increase in minority voter turnout also helped the candidates after organizers and volunteers worked tirelessly in the state to beat out high rates of voter disenfranchisement and turn out high numbers of Black, Latino, Asian, and young voters. Democrats strayed away from their usual strategy that led to catastrophic losses in the House of Representatives and underperforming results in the Senate in November 2020 of airing ads. Instead they used grassroots organizers and went door to door, canvassing, spending time with voters, and registering them to vote. Activists groups like MoveOn, Fair Fight, and New Georgia Project fought against voter fraud allegations in court, canvassed across the state, and led to Georgia breaking records for early voting and absentee turnout in the runoff election.

For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”

— Senator Chuck Schumer, incoming Democratic Senate Majority Leader from New York

Many liberals were pleased with the Democrats’ success in Georgia after the state was held by Republicans for over 15 years in the Senate, seeing their new relationship as being based on working with Republicans complicitly instead of the approach seen as more effective by some of being uncompromising and oppositional, which Republicans normally take when they are in power.

 “I find it fascinating that the entire state of Georgia turned blue,” sophomore Maverick Williams said. “It really shows how much change can be made through activism.” 

Meanwhile, some pro-Israel students criticized Warnock for previously speaking out against Israel shooting unarmed Palestinian protesters near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip that it occupies, a comment which he later had to take back to get an endorsement from a pro-Israel Democratic lobbying group during the runoff election.

 “There was a speech… [when Warnock said] they’re murdering our innocent Palestinian brothers and sisters,” said Sahar Tartak, a junior. “[However, it] wasn’t true because [the Palestinians] were throwing molotov cocktails [at the border].”

Moreover, some conservatives found the results to be a bit unexpected.

“I wasn’t surprised that Loeffler lost…but I was kind of surprised that Perdue lost because he beat Ossoff in the original election by [a small margin]” sophomore Taikary Jiang said. “Warnock would have been the better choice [compared to Loeffler], but all of them are bad…[as in] an American election, you always pick the bad out of the worst.”

Regardless, with a Democratic majority in the Senate, Democrats now have a chance to pass legislation like $2,000 checks even if Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin do not support the measure by partnering with Republicans like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. Also, with Sen. Bernie Sanders as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, progressives now have a chance at acquiring concessions from neoliberal Democrats to advance their populist ideals in Congress. This could help them offset the lack of progressives in Joe Biden’s cabinet and the almost nonexistent number of progressives in the Senate.