Friday, November 13, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Friday, November 13, 2020.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
A Battle for Majority in the U.S. Senate: What’s at Stake in the Two Senate Run-Off Elections in Georgia?
Understandably, most of the attention has been directed towards the presidential election in the United States, but we need to look very carefully at the future of the United States Senate, and that is going to come down to two runoff elections to be held on January the 5th, both of them having to do with Senate seats from the state of Georgia. We need to ask the question, how did it happen? We also need to ask the question, why does it matter? Well, it matters tremendously.
When you look at the United States Senate, our founders in the constitutional order created in the legislature, two different chambers, a lower chamber known as the House of Representatives and a higher or upper chamber known as the United States Senate. Now, as you think of the word Senate, remember that it goes all the way back to classical antiquity. It goes back to the Roman Republic.
The Senate was always and remains a very elite legislative body that has often been referred to as the most exclusive club in the world, with right now by the constitution, with 50 states, only 100 members out of a country of 330 million people, that makes the Senate a very rarefied chamber indeed. The 435 seats currently apportioned in the United States House of Representatives create the lower chamber, and by our constitutional order, that is where budgetary and financial initiatives must begin, but nothing can happen in legislation without passage in both of the chambers.
And our founders understood something very, very important as they were considering the two chamber system. After all, as you look to Britain, there are two different houses. There's a House of Commons and the House of Lords, and learning from that, although not exactly replicating that, the American founders understood that the commons or the House of Representatives could be where political passions could run most high.
There needed to be something like the Senate, described by one of our founders, as the cooling saucer. Just think about pouring hot coffee into a saucer in order for it to cool. The deliberative, very tradition-bound Senate and elite body of legislators was intended to be a break on what could be out of control democratic instincts, democratic here with a little "d". But now that there is a democratic majority in the house of representatives, that little "d" also becomes a capital "D."
But the future of the United States Senate, when it comes down to party control, and we're going to talk about why that is so important, now comes down to two runoff elections, both of them in the state of Georgia. Now that raises a question, how in the world, given our system, did the state of Georgia have two senatorial elections in one general election year? Well, it has to do with the fact that one incumbent United States Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican, had resigned from office due to health reasons.
Then the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to that post, but she could only hold the seat until this special election. But the general election also brought the normal Senate election cycle for Georgia into question with the necessity of incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue running for re-election. He was running against Democrat, Jon Ossoff, who had narrowly lost a congressional seat just two years previous.
But the fact is that the Georgia constitution requires not only that the winning candidate win a plurality, that is more votes than any other candidate, but in order to win the seats in Georgia, the victor must win not only a plurality, but a majority, at least 50% plus one vote.
The fact is that in the special election, there was really no question that this was going to go into a runoff because as you're looking at the special election, there were 13 candidates on the ballot and two were prominent Republicans, Republican Congressman Doug Collins ran against Kelly Loeffler, And the two Republicans were also facing a major Democratic candidate in Pastor Raphael Warnock, Dr. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist church in Atlanta. The fact is that Warnock won the plurality, he won over 30% of the vote.
But when it comes to the other two Republican candidates, they split much of the rest of the vote which meant that Raphael Warnock did not win the Senate seat. He just won the opportunity to face the Republican who gained the higher number of votes and that was Kelly Loeffler. And because David Perdue won a plurality, but not a majority for reelection, he's going to once again, have to face the very same Democratic candidate, John Ossoff on the very same day in another runoff election.
So the voters in Georgia are going to have to do this all over again. First of all, they're going to look forward to nearly endless political advertisements all the way through Christmas and the beginning of the new year, Merry Christmas and happy new year Georgians. And they're also going to face a temporary immigration pattern, which is going to mean celebrities, politicians, political leaders, consultants, and all the rest flooding into Georgia for what will be a most consequential number of weeks leading up to that special election on January 5th.
Now, that's how we arrived at this point, because even as the Republicans had a majority of 53 going into the election, the Republicans lost two seats but picked up one other seat, meaning that right now Republicans have 50 seats, but that means that they can hold the majority only if they get one more of those seats. But that leads to another very interesting aspect of this special election with two Senate seats on the line. The reality is that the turnout is likely to be a very partisan vote, which means that one party or the other is likely to win both seats.
It is unlikely that voters are going to be motivated to go to the polls and pick a Democrat for one of the seats and a Republican for another of the seats. It's of course possible, but it isn't likely. So if the Republicans win those two seats, they will have a 52 seat majority in the United States Senate. That's going to be pretty remarkable in itself, but if the Democrats win those two seats, then the deciding majority will be the identity of the Vice President of the United States, who by the constitution is also the presiding officer of the Senate. The Democrats are counting on that being Kamala Harris.
Kamala Harris, as the presiding officer of the Senate, would become the vital 51st vote in setting many issues. But then some people are probably, asking just why does it matter so much which party has the majority in the United States Senate? Well, it matters tremendously, and for reasons that are not necessarily absolutely transparent, most Americans don't watch the Senate too closely, they don't know why it matters, but it matters for this reason.
The majority leader of the Senate effectively determines whether legislation will ever reach the floor of the Senate, whether it even comes for a vote. To put it this way, nothing can come for a vote if the majority leader of the United States Senate does not allow it to be presented for a vote. And that means that many of the initiatives that our President Biden would intend, would never actually reach the floor of the Senate at all.
But on the other hand, if those initiatives do reach before the Senate, if Democrats have control of the Senate, then they will be able to bring about a vote. And then it's more because the majority party can use a process known as reconciliation to effectively get around the filibuster on many bills. All you have to do is find some way to attach it to a spending bill. And if that happens, then they can use reconciliation and only 51 votes to pass what could amount to even radical legislation.
So as it turns out, even as our constitutional founders understood the necessity of the Senate being a cooling chamber or a cooling saucer for the political passions of the House of Representatives, it may turn out that the Senate right now is as important or even more important as a cooling chamber or a break for initiatives that could come from a Democratic administration. And so this explains why in coming weeks, we're going to be watching these two Senate runoff elections in Georgia, very, very closely.
Because it is also important just to look at the races themselves, because especially in the race, in the special election with Kelly Loeffler now running against the Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock, in Raphael Warnock, we are looking at one of the most radically liberal candidates to come close to the American Senate in a very, very long time. And he's doing so in the State of Georgia. So we're going to be looking at the worldview consequences of Raphael Warnock's views. We're going to be looking at the theology behind his views because indeed he is in many ways the absolute representation of liberation theology put into democratic politics.
But it's most important right now to recognize that given what is at stake in the Senate, all this explains why you had the front-page article, such as in yesterday's print edition of the New York Times on the headline, "Biden has plans, but Georgia will have its say." Just a couple of other cleanup issues when it comes to the house and Senate races, it is important to recognize that North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis won his race for reelection even though the polls had indicated that that was nearly mathematically impossible.
Again, it was a failure of polling because it really wasn't all that close. Tillis won by a vote of 49 to 47%, that is an entire 2% clear victory. He ended up winning by a margin of about 100,000 votes out of 5.3 million casts. That actually turns out to be a larger margin than the margin by which President Trump won the State of North Carolina in the presidential election. That's not a small thing.
It might have a lot to do with the fact that his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham was caught in a sex scandal going into election day. But it's also very interesting that at least a majority of North Carolina's Democratic voters said they really didn't care about the sex scandal. Maybe they thought that's what they were supposed to tell the pollster, maybe they just didn't vote in the Senate race, or maybe they weren't telling the truth. In other words, they really did care more about sexual morality and character than they let onto pollsters. In any event, the polling system is broken. Here's another clear indication of that fact.
The Far Left Makes Its Demands for a Potential Biden Administration: Radical Proposals Seem Almost Certain if Democrats Gain Senate Majority
But next, looking at with the kind of legislation that would be coming from a Biden administration if Joe Biden is inaugurated on January the 20th as President of the United States, it's interesting to see that the New York Times is also writing an article, and again, the assumption here is that Joe Biden is the president-elect. The New York Times is clearly writing with that assumption.
But writing with that understanding, the headline is, "Progressive Groups Send a Message in Wish List of Advisors for Biden." Sydney Ember's the reporter in the story. And what we're being told here is that prominent progressive groups are now bringing public pressure upon Joe Biden to push him to the left. Now, that's exactly what was forecast. That's exactly what we saw coming.
As a matter of fact, they didn't wait until after the election, they were issuing that kind of ultimatum even before, but they were quieter about it because what they wanted was democratic solidarity necessary to hold together a coalition that would include more moderate and far more liberal, even radical Democrats in the general election. But all of that is breaking loose as you look at the demands that are now being publicly presented to Joe Biden.
As Ember reports, "Two prominent progressive groups, the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, on Wednesday urged President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to name left-leaning allies including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to top government posts, firing an opening salvo in the left’s campaign to exert influence over Mr. Biden’s agenda." Now, let's just stop here for a moment. The Joe Biden, who ran for the presidency in 2020 was considerably more liberal than the Joe Biden who served for over three decades in the United States Senate.
He was also more liberal than the Joe Biden who had twice run for president before. That became very necessary as we've seen by the leftward movement and dynamism in the Democratic party. But Joe Biden was sold to the American people as a more moderate candidate, and even his vice-presidential choice Democratic Senator Kamala Harris was sold to the American people by the mainstream media as a moderate candidate, even as she had been ranked the most liberal member of the United States Senate by independent political organizations, even championed as such by the left. All of that was basically false advertising, but that's where we are.
By the way, one little footnote here, if Kamala Harris is inaugurated as Vice president of the United States and takes that oath of office, her Senate seat will be open, and that means that California governor Gavin Newsom, the most liberal governor in California history will be appointing a temporary successor to hold that seat in a state in which no Republican has won a statewide race in more than 10 years.
In other words, you're likely to see Kamala Harris replaced by someone considerably to her left. And that means that someone who couldn't have been elected under the circumstances of even recent years in California Democratic politics, but is quite plausible now by Gavin Newsom's appointment. But this article in yesterday's edition of the New York Times points to the open demands that are now being made by liberals and progressives, and they're addressing them all to Joe Biden.
The New York Times describes the liberal demands being made of Joe Biden as "something of a moon shot." But remember, we did actually go to the moon and safely return so moon shots are not impossible. And in this case, we are watching at a fast changing political terrain in which the plausibility could shift considerably to the left. Later in the article, we're told, "Already, some liberal activist groups have warned Mr. Biden about backsliding after the election."
Now what's interesting about that is that that word backsliding has a very clear Christian and theological context. Backsliding in this sense is a word that has historically been used by Christians who go weak in their Christian commitment, and backslide. I can remember as a boy hearing about backsliding Christians, meaning Christians who were no longer as fervent in attending church or attending Sunday school or doing all that is commanded of Christians, and in particular, just being faithful to Christ in public identity of their Christian faith.
But the reality is, that backsliding has now become a term that makes sense in politics as well and the liberal left is very concerned that Joe Biden might be backsliding. Actually, most Americans are probably concerned about exactly the opposite, and that is the concern that Joe Biden actually ran and was marketed to the right of his party, but will be dragged to the left of his party as his party continues its onward movement. It's also interesting to see some of the moon shot proposals as described here. And remember, this is all public.
These groups are demanding for example, that Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Senator of Massachusetts be appointed as Secretary of the Treasury and that Bernie Sanders, Democratic socialist, independent caucusing and Democrat Senator from Vermont, be appointed as Labor Secretary. Now actually for a very interesting reason, it's unlikely that Biden would appoint either of those, but it has really little to do with their liberalism and everything to do with the fact that right now there are Republican governors in both of those States, which would mean that those governors would presumably almost automatically appoint Republicans to those posts.
They might not hold them for long, but they could hold them for a crucial period. But it's also the fact that when you are looking at something like a very contested presidential race, it's very unusual for incoming presidents to appoint leading primary challengers to chief cabinet positions. That simply doesn't happen very often, and when it does happen, it often doesn't work out. It did happen, and it did apparently work out at least for a time when incoming president Barack Obama named his primary challenger, Hillary Clinton, as the incoming Secretary of State.
The groups also have demanded that representative Barbara Lee of California be appointed Secretary of State, not likely. Keith Ellison, the Attorney General of Minnesota. If so, he would become the first Muslim Attorney General of the United States. They've also demanded that at least some members of the so-called squad that is the very liberal cadre of women, Democratic women in the House of Representatives be named to the cabinet or similar Senate-confirmed positions.
They have also issued immediate demands when it comes to issues such as labor law, and of course on the side of the labor unions, we'll be talking more about that by the way in days to come, because that doesn't now mean what it used to mean. But they've also demanded, especially, LGBTQ inclusion in the agenda. And this means they are pressuring a Biden administration to go forward with the passage of the Equality Act as it is known within the first 100 days of the administration. Biden promised that during the campaign. Once again, even many Christians who know that the Equality Act would be forcing a coercive set of legislation through on LGBTQ agendas, even many Christians don't understand just why the Equality Act would be such a dangerous game changer.
We're told that on Wednesday, the Human Rights campaign, one of the nation's largest advocacy organizations for LGBTQ people released a 24-page blueprint for administrative action, "The centerpiece of the group's request is a call to apply the Supreme Court's June decision in a case called Bostock versus Clayton County, Georgia, which found that protections on the basis of sex apply to LGBTQ people across the federal government. The blueprint also includes requests that Mr. Biden appoint the nation's first openly LGBTQ cabinet officials; order the collection of data about LGBTQ people in the census; rescind the Trump administration's ban on transgender people in the military; and end conversion therapy and the prohibition on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, among a litany of other requests."
Now, as you've certainly caught on by now, this is a far more radical issue than is described simply with the words, Equality Act. I hold in my hands right here. The printout of the set of demands identified as a Blueprint for Positive Change 2020 by the Human Rights Campaign. And yes, it is a very radical agenda indeed. And the scary thing is, it becomes actually quite plausible under a Biden administration and it becomes not only possible but incredibly likely if not certain, if the Democrats gain control of the United States Senate. And you will also note that these demands come without respect for religious liberty.
Now remember, that even in the Bostock decision, lamentable on its own grounds, the Supreme court's majority opinion went on to state that there would be religious liberty issues that would have to be worked out. The Equality Act would simply violate those religious liberty issues by legislation and attempt to move the country onward. Onward we should note, in the LGBTQ revolution and onward at the clear expense of, and violation of the religious liberty rights of America's Christians, America's Christian institutions and other religious organizations.
Add to this the fact that Joe Biden promised that if elected, he would put back into place the Obama administration's contraception mandate without the religious liberty and conscience protections put in place by the executive order of the Trump administration. Again, we were told all of this right up front.
The Future of Religious Liberty in America in Peril: Elections Have Consequences—Especially the Upcoming Senate Run-Offs in Georgia
And finally on this issue USA Today, yesterday, in the print edition, ran a major article with the headline, "Equality Act Uncertain as Blue Wave Falters." The subhead, "Biden Might Not Be Able to Deliver Without a Democrat-Controlled Senate." Kate Sosin is the reporter. And the point is the same, although this is basically coming from the left, for the left, a wake-up call from USA Today to just remind Democrats that if they do not win those two Democratic seats in Georgia on this special runoff election on January the 5th, then it is at least less likely that the Equality Act is going to be pressed through.
It is a sure thing in the United States House where the Democrats have maintained a majority, although a thinner majority than they were counting on, the issue now turns to the United States Senate. But that headline said, "Equality Act Uncertain as Blue Wave Falters." This gets back to another profound question looking at the 2020 election, where was this blue wave?
Well, pollsters and others that indicated that there was a blue wave coming that would sweep into office not only the Biden-Harris administration, but would take Democratic control of the Senate for granted and would likely increase, indeed the ensured increase the Democratic majority in the house. But the Democratic majority in the house did not increase, it decreased, and at the end of the day, it may well turn out that the Democrats are in a majority of fewer than 10 seats in the house. That turns out also to be extremely crucial. Why? Because some of those Democrats, again, as they are elected district by district, actually have to vote more conservatively than the Biden administration is going to try to press legislation.
And furthermore, it is likely that the Democratic majority is going to lose some of its own votes from its left. And that has to do with the fact that there are some congressional districts in places such as Manhattan and elsewhere also in America, especially urban areas that are so liberal that if the representative there votes with what is understood to be a too moderate proposal, then that individual is likely to be facing a primary from the left in the next election. Isn't politics interesting.
But this article in USA Today gets to a larger issue, which is the fact that as we have often mentioned, over the course of the last several decades, the federal courts have stepped in to push a moral and legal cultural revolution in this country when the left could not accomplish those goals by means of legislation. The Equality Act is legislation, and if it were to be passed, it would fundamentally change American culture.
The same thing is true with the fact that Joe Biden had indicated that if he were elected president, he would press through the Congress, a legislative form of Roe v. Wade. And as I pointed out, it won't even be Roe v. Wade, it will be considerably to the left of Roe v. Wade because his party is, and that again points to the absolute crucial reality of that special election date, January the 5th in the state of Georgia.
So as it turns out, even as tens of millions of Americans went to vote in the general election on November the third, it's going to be the voters in Georgia on January the 5th, who might actually determine. With an influence far outsize the population of Georgia, it is voters in Georgia who may well determine whether or not much of a Biden administration agenda becomes law or not.
And it's even bigger than that, because if Republicans maintain their majority in the Senate, a Biden administration would also have to make different nominations, both to the federal judiciary and to cabinet other Senate-confirmed positions than if the Democrats were in a majority. So yes, it really matters. Voters in Georgia, are you hearing this? It really matters. Don't plan to be out of town on January the 5th.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information about the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information about Boyce college, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.