While Trump’s actions as president have been anything but consistent, one characteristic throughout his term that remains the same is that rarely a week goes by without unexpected twists and turns. President-elect Joe Biden has promised a “return to normalcy” but before we can see what that will look like, Americans must endure another turbulent week in politics that will have lasting implications. Divisions in the Republican party will be put on display when Congress meets to confirm the electoral college results (Biden’s win). Democrats will snipe at each other in the press over Biden’s cabinet appointments as they try to put their ideological allies into key positions. All this while Americans await the results of two Senate races in Georgia that will determine which party controls the chamber.
Divided politics, a prominent feature of the Trump presidency, is not going away just because a new president has been elected.
Georgia on my mind
Today, voters in Georgia will decide two Senate seats and potentially the trajectory of Biden’s presidency. Despite Biden’s win there, Georgia remains a conservative state and winning will be tough for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The pair have been effective in running as a joint ticket, hoping to harness each other’s respective strengths with young and Black voters. Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have been battling a Republican civil war in their re-election campaigns as President Donald Trump attacks the state’s Republican leaders over his loss in the state. The president’s lawyers have cast doubt on the validity of the Senate vote, potentially dampening Republican turnout in rural parts of Georgia that tend to trust the president and his allies. A reported 75,000 additional voters registered ahead of the run-offs and early voting turnout saw high numbers, but as with the General Election, a close race will take a few days to resolve.
On Wednesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate will object to the certification of State electoral college counts. In order to overturn the certification, both chambers would be required to reach a majority. The objectors will fail to reach this threshold in both the House and the Senate, making their objections pure theatre. Senator Josh Hawley, who fired the gun for Republican Senators on objecting, has presidential ambitions, so too does his fellow objector Senator Ted Cruz. Others are wary of losing Trump’s endorsement and alienating their voters in Trump’s loyal base of supporters. Trump has dominated the Republican party like no other president has, and his influence will extend beyond his departure from office. The fault line will be between the allies of Trump, and the supporters of Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell who will lead the opposition to the Biden administration in Congress.
Worth noting is that on Sunday, Nancy Pelosi was re-elected Speaker of the House by a thin margin; her team was so nervous that a Democratic representative who contracted COVID-19 six days before the vote travelled to Washington to meet the numbers. The 216-209 vote throws into sharp relief the challenges Pelosi will face to collect support from both moderate and progressive Democrats to reach a majority in the House, which is already the slimmest in modern history with only a 220-213 hold over Republicans. Six members of Pelosi’s caucus, all moderates, didn’t vote for her, dissatisfied by her leadership in the 2020 House elections that saw the Democrats lose seats.
By the end of the week, Joe Biden will have been confirmed as president-elect, control of the Senate will have been decided and the battle lines for the first half of the Biden presidency will have been drawn. With his final avenue to staying in office closed, what will Trump do with his remaining time in office? A self-pardon is on the cards and conflict with Iran is heating up; there has never been a dull week in Trump’s Washington and his final two weeks will offer more of the same.