Can we all get along?
In a stunning upset, Georgia voters have sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate and given that party control of the Senate by the narrowest of margins. The Rev. Raphael Warnock became the first Southern Black Democrat to be voted into the U.S. Senate by defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff appears to have eked out a narrow win over first-term Republican David Purdue. The wins for the two Democrats would be a significant and welcome development, ensuring that President-elect Joe Biden won’t have to deal with a Republican-controlled Senate as he seeks to enact his agenda.
Warnock’s win and Ossoff’s are good news for Biden and for the country. Based on past performance, a Senate majority led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could have made it difficult for Biden and his administration to deliver on their promise of a federal government that is both more competent and better attuned to the nation’s needs than was the Trump administration.
It was also essential to remove from leadership a party that has all too readily embraced alternative realities and conspiracy theories, and that slavishly followed President Trump in undermining basic American institutions. The reckless pandering by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and others to Trump’s followers bore fruit Wednesday as a mob of pro-Trump zealots broke into the Capitol and chased lawmakers from the chambers.
In addition, a country struggling to overcome a pandemic and restart its economy cannot afford the partisan gridlock that would have ensued if Republicans had retained control of the Senate. Washington has spent four years avoiding major problems that only the federal government can tackle, including the existential threat of climate change, failed immigration policies and crumbling infrastructure. Democrats now have a chance to address them.
Still, it’s important not to exaggerate how much freedom of action Biden will have with a Senate divided 50-50, with two independents caucusing with Democrats and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Even with Democratic control, an evenly divided Senate means that Biden will have to compromise with Republicans. That’s his preference in any case.
Biden, who promised to be a president even for those who didn’t vote for him, should press Democrats in Congress to be similarly open to legislating in the interests of all Americans. Democratic control of an evenly divided Senate, welcome as it is, doesn’t make such an approach any less important. But it does make it more achievable.
* Guest editorial is from the Los Angeles Times in Los Angeles, Calif.