Democrats are rightly applauding the good news out of Georgia: the re-election of Raphael Warnock to the Senate. His victory gives the Senate Democrats control not just of the Senate, but also of the committees. Now Democrats will have a majority plus one, so that there will not be equal representation of Republicans on committees. In addition to making judicial confirmations easier and quicker, these committee majorities provide the Democrats with investigatory and subpoena power that Republicans cannot stymie. Plus, it makes life more difficult for shenanigan-wielders like Democratic Senator Manchin and newly declared Independent Sinema.
So…what’s not to like? Well, with respect to the Senate, there is everything for Democrats to like. But the results in Georgia should give Democrats and all sensible Americans pause, because the news out of Georgia is not all good.
Warnock won by 97,000 votes. Nevertheless, over 1.7 million Georgians voted for Herschel Walker. By any measure, Walker was totally unfit and unqualified for the office. Even those trapped in a cult, who love Georgia football, or who swoon when a star athlete enters a room could see that Walker was ill informed, seemingly uninterested in governmental work, and quite possibly suffering from neurological and psychological damage. He is, to put it mildly, troubled.
Why would people vote for someone so obviously impaired and ill-prepared? The short answer: Because he had an “R” after his name. Voting for any Republican sticks it to the libs, smacks down the elites, and thwarts the plans of the crafty and demonic Democrats. Walker’s Heisman Trophy and collegiate and professional gridiron exploits brought him statewide name recognition. Apparently, that is all that he brought to the election. Oh, yes, and a guaranteed thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote whenever Senate Republican leadership needed it.
Walker won the Republican primary, and that might have been because he was handpicked by Trump. But Trump’s endorsement alone didn’t bring out 1.7 million Georgians to vote for Walker. In fact, that endorsement might have hurt, given that Georgia’s Republican governor stuck his own thumb in Trump’s eye by certifying the 2020 election results in Georgia for Biden.
What brought out those voters was more their animus toward Democrats and less their admiration for a candidate who exhibited little but deep flaws and that talismanic “R” after his name. That animus is built of manufactured crises and conspiracies involving such fictions as teachers are groomers, drag queens and those in the LGBTQ+ community are dangers to our children, and Democrats and Hollywood stars engage in child kidnappings, Satanic rituals, and blood sacrifices.
The sorry news out of Georgia is that the turnout of Walker voters not only shows the cavernous cultural divide separating Americans, but also shows that that divide separates two different realities. There is no bridge that I can see that can traverse that gap and connect the two sides.
Georgia was central to the Confederacy and was a hotbed of Jim-Crow laws. Even in those days, no one disputed what reality looked like. Southern states might have pretended that they resisted Union interference as a way to protect states’ rights, but only a little probing reveals that the states’ rights that they wanted to protect and perpetuate underscored the system of slavery that their way of life depended on.
But even then, even at a time of American fracture so deep that we fought a Civil War to preserve the Union, Americans shared a single reality. We recognized what we were fighting for and against. The same was true during the Jim-Crow era. Although the sides were sharply drawn, we understood what the stakes were that divided us. Now? Not so much.
With Republicans willing to read the violent January 6th attempt to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power as “a normal tourist visit” to the Capitol; with Republican candidates and supporters decrying the 2020 election as rife with fraud without any corroborating evidence; with Republican Congressional Representatives calling Hunter Biden, a private citizen, a “national security threat” who must be investigated; with numerous Republicans calling for the impeachment of President Biden and of members of his Cabinet over policy differences; with Republican governors and state legislatures banning books and demonizing teachers; and with the Supreme Court stripping Americans of voting protections and of their individual rights, we have stark evidence of a political party that is not serious about governing, that is devoid of ideas, and that has elevated imaginary grievances as they portray themselves as victims.
It cannot be that Republicans have no policy positions; they must offer their voters something tangible. They do. Here is a partial list of what the Texas Republicans included as planks in their 2022 party platform:
• Joe Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election.
• Homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice.”
• All abortions should be abolished.
• All Texas students must “learn about the humanity of the pre-born child” and that life begins at fertilization.
• The 16th Amendment (federal income tax) must be abolished.
• The number of Supreme Court Justices must remain at nine.
• The 1965 Voting Rights Act must be abolished.
• The Federal Reserve must be abolished.
• The Equal Rights Amendment must be rejected.
• All gun-safety measures must be abolished.
• Public education should be defunded in favor of vouchers and charters.
• Protect students by arming teachers.
• Require colleges to teach the principles of “free-market liberty.”
• Abolish the Department of Education.
• Maintain the death penalty.
• Reject legalization of marijuana.
• Withdraw from the United Nations and from the WHO.
• Declare that carbon emissions are not pollutants.
• Return Christian prayers to our schools, courthouses, and other government buildings.
• Same-sex marriage need not be recognized.
• Recognize the ongoing right of Texas to secede.
Add to this platform the desire, as expressed by GOP Senators Rick Scott and Mike Lee, to cut if not eliminate Social Security and Medicare and to increase taxes on working families, and the Texas positions could well become the platform for the national Republican Party heading toward 2024.
The Republican reality is one where white males are under attack, where elections are fair when Republicans win and are rigged when they lose, where trans kids threaten cultural values, where America is now and always has been a “Christian nation,” where zygotes are babies, and where blue-state cities have crime levels that make them unlivable. There is little evidence and therefore few arguments for any of this. Indeed, as only one example, the facts about murder rates and about crime in rural areas run counter to Republican assertions. With the exception of Utah, the 10 safest states in the US are all blue states.
So, is there any issue or crisis that might bring Americans together? Not a pandemic. Not climate change. Not Russian aggression in Ukraine. Not neo-Nazi marches. Not anti-Semitism. Not the attempt to overturn elections. But maybe this:
In an address in the fall of 1987, Ronald Reagan said to the United Nations General Assembly:
“Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”
Of course, Reagan was talking about extraterrestrials, not those crossing our Southern border. Reagan’s view was that the countries of the world would pull together and fight to save humanity and our planet from an extraterrestrial invasion. Such an invasion would showcase humanity’s common bond, revealing how much we humans have in common.
Yet today we must ask whether Americans themselves, not all earthlings, can recognize our human bond and have enough in common to join together to fight off an invasion from outer space. Would even that be enough to overcome our polarized politics, deep cultural divisions, and separate realities?
Perhaps, instead, Tucker Carlson would ask his viewers to wait before taking action to see what Putin wanted to do. Or would Republican leaders in Congress and the Freedom Caucus simply shrug and say with a scowl, “Yes, but what about Hunter Biden’s laptop?”