January 6, 2021
Author: Chilton Williamson
The year 2020, it seems, is miraculously to embrace more than its meteorologically allotted twelve months; how many more we have yet to see. Perhaps twenty-four; perhaps five times twenty-four. Whatever the number turns out to be, the Georgian senatorial elections ensured that, for the foreseeable future, public life in America will continue to be defined by, and relentlessly limited to, politics and the Covid virus (so far as these are separate matters)–just as it has been for the past eleven months. It is remarkable, considering the extent of the existential political and social issues facing this country today, how intolerably boring a purely political existence has nevertheless become.
The responsibility for the results of the elections in Georgia, which were entirely predictable, lies heavily on President Trump—not on account of his insistence on challenging the results of the presidential election two months ago (which was indeed almost certainly a stolen election, as many more sober investigators believe), but rather his behavior generally since November 3: his intemperate language, his attacks on his Republican colleagues, and his insistence that they unquestioningly support his every demand as a simple matter of “loyalty.” Beyond a doubt, the President’s lack of personal dignity and his want of self-control cost Senators Loeffler and Perdue thousands of votes in the runoffs, as numerous commentators (including myself) had warned they would. More, they may well have compromised his future effectiveness as head of his party after leaves office and caused him to forfeit his position as the GOP’s front-running candidate for the presidential nomination in 2024. Massive demonstrations around the country demonstrate that Donald Trump has not sacrificed his popularity with his base; but will that base be sufficient to maintain him as a credible figure in presidential politics for the next four years? The question, of course, is impossible to answer at this point; even, perhaps, not worth guessing at.
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. concluded in a column this morning in the Wall Street Journal that, by his behavior in the national elections and since, Trump “threw it all away.” I, for one, find no reason to challenge this assessment. The great issues now are, Will the Democratic Party, from hubris, do the same thing over the next two years? And: How will the Republican congressional delegations respond? The historical record suggests that they will misread the electoral results of 2020 and accommodate their Democratic colleagues (if that is what they really are—there is good reason to doubt it) by conveniently moving left, as they have done so often in the past.
A further question is : How will moderate Democrats in Congress react to the radicalization of their own party once it has the White House and both Houses of Congress? Some weeks ago, I read speculation that Senator Joe Manchin might switch parties—an event which, were it in fact to happen, would restore control of the Senate to the Republicans. Alternatively—and perhaps more likely—Manchin would simply vote with the Republican Senators against the Democratic majority’s more outrageous and unconstitutional bills. It is certainly conceivable that he could be joined, either way, by other responsible Democratic colleagues. I assume there still are a few.
The future of American politics, and the American political system, has not been as uncertain as it is at this moment since 1861. Absolutely anything is possible now, as the riot at the Capitol this afternoon and some Democrats’ call for the President’s impeachment suggest. The instant the Biden administration is installed, the battle royal for the future of the United States will formally commence. When—and how—it might end is a matter that will probably not be settled for years.