With Joe Biden now the President-elect, many Penn students will want to breathe a sigh of relief. Not so fast. With both Senate elections in Georgia undecided and going to a runoff, there are two distinct directions this country could go and there is still so much more you can do to impact the trajectory we take these next four years.
As it appears that the North Carolina and Alaska Senate races will go to Republicans, the party already has 50 seats and is very close to retaining the Senate. However, if the two remaining races, both in Georgia, go Democrat, the Democrats will gain a majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. As a result, control of the Senate is still very much up in the air. Who controls the Senate will have significant consequences, not just for Biden's agenda, but also for the nation as a whole.
With either Republican Kelly Loeffler or David Perdue prevailing in January, Republicans gain control of the Senate. In that scenario, it is likely that progressive legislation does not get passed. Biden has historically pushed bipartisanship, and there is no reason to suspect his presidency will be any different. It is very possible that economic legislation could resemble the Grand Bargain of 2011, a failed attempt at bipartisanship that would have resulted in cuts to Social Security in exchange for tax increases. With Biden agreeing with Republicans on economic legislation more often than not, we can expect a neoliberal approach to economics rather than a populist one.
On the other hand, with victories for both Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democrats control both Houses in Congress as well as the presidency. One possible outcome is that the Democrats could try and pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices. However, a less obvious consequence is that with Democrats losing seats in the House, Democratic control in both houses would be incredibly narrow. This gives progressives in Congress enormous leverage, as any legislation Democratic leadership would wish to pass would require progressive support in Congress.
A Democratic Senate also gives progressives a chance to have a seat at the table because current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he will not confirm any progressive nominees for the cabinet. With a Democratic Senate, he would not have the power to make this a reality. Legislation echoing the ideas of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal becomes possible.
So what can us Penn students do if we don’t live in Georgia? We can still phone bank and volunteer for the candidates we support and get the word out to Georgia voters. Name recognition is very important in elections; getting voters familiar with your candidate can mean the difference between victory and defeat. With the pandemic limiting canvassing, phone banking is the most effective way to interact with voters and inform the masses.
On a larger scale, we can also influence the national narrative. Although the candidates in the Georgia Senate races will campaign for the votes of Georgians, the election will also be a referendum on the current state of politics in the US as a whole. There is no doubt that protests in response to the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. here in Philadelphia have impacted the national narrative and motivated people to vote. Through protests, marches, and movements, we can keep the media’s attention on the issues we find important. Whether you support progressive ideas or a more bipartisan approach to policy, you have the ability to influence these elections in Georgia and thus, the direction this country takes for years to come.
MATTHEW LIU is a sophomore in the College studying biochemistry.