Democrats need to win the two Georgia Senate seats so Biden can ‘reverse the Trump assault’ on climate

President Elect Joe Biden hopes to gain Senate backing in the Georgia election runoff.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The Biden Harris team has big plans to correct the US course on issues like climate change, healthcare, and racial justice. But in order to do the work, they will need Democratic victories in both of the Georgia election runoffs.

Two democratic wins in Georgia would bring the number of Democratic senators to fifty. The Senate races in North Carolina and Alaska are likely to go to Republicans, which brings the Republican total to fifty. While Democrats did work to win a majority in the Senate, becoming at least equal in power to the GOP is crucial; if Democrats stay stuck in the minority, that will make it nearly impossible for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to enact the policies that Americans elected them for.

The Georgia election is a chance for the state to break its own barriers: to elect two Democrats in runoffs forced by an antiquated Jim Crow rule and to continue the trend toward Democratic leadership that delivered the state for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

And as Georgians endure droughts, storms, and rising seas, voters in the runoff have a chance to deliver two Democratic senators who will help deliver climate action and environmental justice for the nation.

What can Biden do for the environment with a majority Republican Senate?

hand with glove holding globe

Unsplash / Fateme Alaie

Joe Biden plans to use all of the executive authority at his disposal, but that will not be enough to initiate his sweeping plans to combat climate change. Plans that include directing 40% of environmental recovery spending to “historically disadvantaged communities,” and creating a division at the Justice Department to prosecute polluters.

Through executive order, Biden will be able to bring the US back into the Paris Climate Accord and meet with world leaders on the climate emergency. Biden will be able to rescind Trump’s 2017 directive that federal agencies scrap their climate policies (policies developed under Barrack Obama, of course). He may direct that these newly reinstated policies go further in fighting greenhouse gas emissions. Biden could also reverse Trump policies like the expedited review for oil pipelines, and reinstate protections that bar the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil exploration. Biden’s promise, “to reverse the Trump assault on America’s national treasures” includes conserving “30 percent of United States land and waters by 2030.”

But that’s not enough

descriptive image of earth


All of these are important, hopeful steps to reverse environmental damage and address the climate emergency. But the fact remains that presidents do not make laws. Congress passes bills that are signed into law by the president.

Harris’s duties as Vice President include presiding over the Senate. She will have the deciding vote in any tie, but if there are not enough Democratic senators to get to a tie, that power will be meaningless. This is where the Georgia election runoff comes in. Without at least half of the seats in the Senate, Democrats will not be able to back Biden’s play on environmental justice and climate change.

Why is there a runoff in the Georgia election?

Georgia voters sharing "I voted" stickers on social media

Screenshot / YouTube

Both of these runoffs have been forced by a Georgia election law that requires a winning candidate to receive over fifty percent of the vote. The law was originally passed to give white candidates an advantage, by keeping Black candidates from winning even if they got the most votes, provided that was less than half.

In fact, one of the runoffs exactly mimics this racist scheme; the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat who is African American, won by a plurality. But with several candidates in the field, Dr. Warnock was not able to pass fifty percent, and will now enter a runoff in January against white Republican Kelly Loeffler.

The Georgia election runoff: Democrat Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock vs. recently appointed (never elected) Republican Loeffler

The Reverend Dr Raphael Warnock gets ready for the Georgia election runoff.

Dr. Raphael Warnock was once best known as the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was once led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Warnock focuses on stewardship when it comes to linking environmental action with environmental justice, addressing these emergencies in ways that prioritize impoverished communities. He has already helped organize meetings with former Vice President Al Gore on climate change, and Warnock shares Joe Biden’s priority on climate and environment. Warnock also echoes Biden’s call for “a clean economy that will create jobs, reduce pollution, and produce a world that our children can inherit.”

Dr. Warnock is the kind of backer Joe Biden and Kamala Harris need in the Senate; one endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, former President Barrack Obama, and the League of Conservation Voters.

Running against Dr. Warnock in the Georgia election runoff is Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed last year to replace a retiring Georgia senator. Loeffler dumped old Democratic pals like Stacey Abrams as if they were hot potatoes, and ran off to her new gig as a short term senator. Highlights of her short career at the national level include dumping millions in stock when Congress received notifications about the coronavirus crisis, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement as “Marxist,” and backing Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon conspiracy theorist who makes offensive remarks about Black people, Jews, and Muslims.

Even with that sort of ground game, Loeffler has struggled for the affections of the current president since leaving her gated mansion for Washington D.C. Trump would have preferred that her seat go to Doug Collins, who defended him vehemently during his impeachment. Loeffler managed to fight off a challenge by Collins in the regular election, though. Now that she will have to defend her seat in the Georgia election runoff, Loeffler is making the most of Trump’s time left in office. Like by using what looks like a badly photoshopped pic to tweet mixed messages about a fair vote count and prayers for Donald Trump’s re-election.

The Georgia election runoff: Democrat Ossoff vs. one-term incumbent Republican Perdue

Screenshot from News coverage of GA Senate race

Scrneenshot / Fox Atlanta

The Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, trailed incumbent Republican David Perdue by a razor’s edge. A one-time investigative journalist, Ossoff was a national security staffer for Georgia Representative Henry Calvin Johnson Jr. Ossoff prioritizes health care, clean energy and infrastructure, and an economy that protects working families and small businesses.

The Republican Perdue has claimed to support Health care for Americans with pre-existing conditions but repeatedly voted to repeal the ACA. He also co-sponsored one of the failed Republican “replacement” plans for Obamacare, one which did not offer equal protections for pre-existing conditions.

With his six (6) percent yes vote on environmental protection, Perdue’s voting record is not promising on any sort of climate or environmental action. He can say yes though; Perdue has voted to back big business one hundred percent.

The Republican’s play has been to make the race a national issue, calling a vote for Ossoff “a vote to hand power to Chuck Schumer and the radical Democrats in Washington.” But Perdue has not faired well in the national spotlight. As early as July, Perdue’s campaign was criticized for enlarging his Jewish opponent’s nose in Facebook advertisements to play into cartoonish anti-semitic tropes.

During their televised debate, the Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff didn’t just call his opponent a “crook,” he had the facts to back it up — and the moment went viral.

No one was surprised when Perdue backed out of the last debate; who wants another helping of that much shame?

But Perdue can’t seem to win when all eyes are on him. More recently he riled up his crowd by mocking the name of US Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. “Kah-MAH-lah or KAH-mah-lah or Kamamboamamla, I don’t know.” Perdue later claimed he just mispronounced it. Over and over. After working in the senate with Ms. Harris for four years. Which leaves his voters to choose whether they support a bigot or an idiot.

You can help — even if you don’t live in Georgia

The Georgia election for both Senate seats will be decided in a runoff on January 5. Run-offs are notoriously difficult to win because of poor voter turnout. But the Georgia election runoff will decide where power lies in America.

These two Democrats need all the help they can get. And Joe Biden needs them in the Senate to pass climate and environmental legislation.

Georgians will do the voting, but we can all help decide the fate of the nation.

  1. Support a voter protection group like Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight or download a voter support community app like Blue Squad (iOS or Android). Georgia is notorious for voter suppression, and you can be part of the solution even if you are not in Georgia.
  2. Get involved with the campaigns to elect Jon Ossoff or Dr. Raphael Warnock.
  3. Reach out to friends. Reaching out to friends is 300% more effective than any other form of voter contact! People trust their families, friends, and social networks. Modern technology means we are all a click away from our friends in Georgia. If you have friends in Georgia, remind them to vote, every day until January 5. Ask them to spread the word about the issues and the election dates.

If the Senate remains Republican and Mitch McConnell stays in charge, Joe Biden’s efforts will be blocked in every way they can. With just two months to go, traditional voter outreach will not be enough.

McConnell’s misuse of the Senate

Trump and McConnell at a function

White House/ Shealah Craighead

Joe Biden has already called for a return to unity and civility. “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” Biden said in his first speech as President-Elect, but Republican senators’ track record call that possibility into question.

Republicans won a Senate majority during Barrack Obama’s administration. From the moment Mitch McConnell took power as Senate Majority Leader, he has worked with laser focus toward two ends: to remake the courts in favor of conservative rulings, and to thwart the efforts of Democrats. And like his now-defeated Orange Master, McConnell has found it easy to lead his quiescent Republican senate colleagues in his quest.

The Senate and the courts

Side by side photos of Barrett and McConnell


McConnell has forced the Senate to spend most of their time in the Trump administration confirming conservative judges. By appointing young conservatives to lifetime appointments on the federal bench, McConnell has moved the entire federal court system to the Right, thus entrenching conservative rule despite the fact that they represent a minority of Americans. Conservatives will now be able to use the court to strike down laws by issuing legal challenges which will be argued in these Conservative arenas.

Where decisions that affect climate justice and environmental protection are concerned, judges and justices described as “conservative” are ironically the most liberal when it comes to gutting environmental protections. Harsh challenges to Biden’s environmental plan are already built into the system our new administration will inherit.

The Senate as a roadblock

A line of elephants block the road.

Three-shots / Pixabay

The Senate’s ability to paralyze Congress is as powerful as its ability to act in Congressional responsibilities. The Democratic majority House of Representatives has passed hundreds of bills that McConnell refuses to bring to the Senate floor for discussion. This includes the Heroes Act, an aid package that could help Americans who are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, but which McConnell has left to gather dust.

It is improbable that Mitch McConnell would suddenly take up House Democrats’ legislation unless the Georgia election pushes him out of the driver’s seat.

The bottom line

An incorrect equation on a chalkboard


Congress also holds the “power of the purse.” Without at least half of the seats in the Senate, Democrats will take a back seat role in the determination of the nation’s budget.

“A Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate would be the biggest difference maker to help President-elect Biden deliver for working families across the country and in Georgia,” said Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer. “For too long, they have been denied the help they need by President Trump, Mitch McConnell and a Republican-led Senate.”

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