As we know from the presidential race, the Georgia electorate that will select two new senators on Jan. 5 is about equally divided in terms of party support. Sometimes, when faced with this situation, politicians behave as if every voter is torn between the Democratic and Republican positions on every issue, even where there are some questions—like whether the federal government should pass a generous COVID-19 relief bill—on which the “liberal” position is the consensus one. The national Democratic Party is, moreover, busy with left-center squabbling over Cabinet appointments and “defund the police” discourse.
Georgia candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, however, are rising above the swamp of factionalism and, uh, chopping down the peach tree of timidity:
Here’s an ad Ossoff released Friday about his opponent, David Perdue, which plays up the issue:
Earlier this week, both Democrats took part in debates: Warnock with Loeffler, and Ossoff with himself because Perdue refused to participate. Warnock brought up the subject of COVID relief six times and emphasized that “whatever we do, workers are at the center of that relief”; Ossoff said his first priority in Washington would be “stimulus checks directly for the people.”
Polls say this should be an appealing message. A recent Vox/Data for Progress survey found that 81 percent (!) of voters nationwide would like Congress to pass another stimulus bill, and that 75 percent believe direct stimulus checks should be the top priority therein. Loeffler and Perdue each make efforts to blame House Democrats for Congress’ failure to pass a relief bill since the spring, a talking point that probably has some currency with partisans. But neither has stated their support for making direct stimulus checks part of the package that’s being negotiated in the Senate, where they are both incumbents.
So … is it working? Ha ha ha, who knows! A SurveyUSA poll released Dec. 2 found Ossoff “leading” his race by 2 points (within the margin of error) and Warnock leading by 7, while an AARP poll (of voters of all ages) released Friday finds Warnock leading by 1 and Ossoff leading by 2 (both within the margin of error). The AARP poll, for what it’s worth, was conducted before this week’s debates. All we can really conclude is that neither party seems to be running away with it.
In any case, the election on Jan. 5 in Georgia will determine not just whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate, but whether “economic populism” backed by offering direct benefits to people is a more effective political strategy than trying to starve them until they support anti-government nihilism. There’s a lot riding on this!