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A Big Winner in Georgia: Joe Biden

Fewer obstacles and more momentum for the president-elect after tonight’s results.
January 6, 2021
A Big Winner in Georgia: Joe Biden
Democratic candidates for Senate Jon Ossoff (L), Raphael Warnock (C) and US President-elect Joe Biden (R) bump elbows on stage during a rally outside Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 4, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s obvious, but true: The big winners tonight are Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. They deserve congratulations for their victorious campaigns, and best wishes as they join the United States Senate. Congratulations also to Stacey Abrams, without whom it wouldn’t have happened. And one thinks, too, of the late John Lewis, surely smiling somewhere tonight.

Another winner is Sen. Chuck Schumer. It’s a lot better to be majority leader than minority leader.

There’s another winner. Insofar as the Democrats’ margin of victory may have been provided by voters pushed over the edge by the recent behavior of President Trump and many congressional Republicans, one winner is the American people.

Matt Gaetz tweeted this morning that “Georgia stands between America and socialism today.” Ludicrous. But it is less of an exaggeration (though still perhaps something of one) to say, au contraire, that Georgia stood between America and authoritarianism today—and that Georgia voted for America.

And there’s one other obvious winner we shouldn’t neglect: Joe Biden.

Now it’s not, as some have assumed, that he’d have been utterly thwarted in his plans and appointments and legislation by Mitch McConnell and a Republican majority in the Senate. Nor is it the case that President Biden will have an easy time with a 50-50 Senate and a tiny margin in the House.

Still. It’s a big difference.

As a newly inaugurated president, as the man who not only defeated Donald Trump but brought the Democratic party back to power (albeit very narrowly), Biden will enter office with real momentum. Even Democrats, a notoriously unruly lot, will feel some obligation to go along with the new president.

And some Republicans will, too. Some congressional Republicans would like to be in the game and be able to play some role, even if a minor one, in legislation in return for their support. This will be the case especially if Biden begins mostly with legislative proposals—especially on the pandemic, and also some economic relief—that are reasonably easy for some Republicans to support.

Who knows how long any honeymoon will last? And God knows  that honeymoons in a post-Trump and hyperpolarized political environment won’t be what presidential honeymoons once were. But the odds tonight got quite a bit better that President Biden will have, and will be seen to have, a reasonably successful first few months in office.

And that in turn will have knock-on implications—for the Biden administration, for the GOP, for American politics as a whole—that will be worth considering in the coming days and weeks.

Meanwhile, a word about Joe Biden: He made a bet on America. He never wavered from the promise to unite the country and actually get things done. People to his left scoffed. Trump supporters disdained him. But Biden never gave in. Tonight’s result in Georgia will at least give him a fighting chance to do what he promised—and to focus not just on the very real threats we face, but also on the opportunities before us.

William Kristol

William Kristol is editor-at-large of The Bulwark.