[Opinion] The Georgia Senate races prove that appealing to the left is a winning strategy for Democrats



Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff, right, and Raphael Warnock, left, of Georgia tap elbows during a rally for supporters on Nov. 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Both become senators Wednesday. (Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Ryan Servaites, Politics & Activism Editor

On Jan. 5, the state of Georgia elected Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the state’s two available seats in the United States Senate through run-off elections.

The moment marks a monumental shift in the politics of the state that awarded the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris 16 electoral votes during the 2020 presidential election, as it would be the first time since 2005 that the state has had two Democratic senators. 

Yet this election isn’t just historical for its outcome, but rather, these favorable results for the Democratic Party shine a light on something that the party was desperately in need of during the 2020 election: strategy.

Despite maintaining control of the House of Representatives and winning the Presidential election, the Democratic Party lost a net of 10 seats in the house, despite polls indicating that the party would likely gain seats.

In a similar vein, the Democrats were likely to win the Senate, a feat they accomplished, yet only after the two Georgia run-off elections that Warnock and Ossoff ended up winning. Maintaining a 50-50 tie in the Senate, the Democrats now have a slim majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote for what would otherwise be an equal partisan split. 

With the disappointing Senate results on Nov. 3, when the party failed to win enough seats for a clear majority, the importance of this race was clear, as a Republican-majority Senate would have spelled disaster for the beginning of the Biden presidency. 

With the future of the Democratic Party and more significantly the country on the line, fixing the mistakes of the Nov. 3 election, while revamping Democratic strategy was essential to winning this consequential race. 

The Presidential election made clear that the previous strategy of appealing to the middle, exemplified by pushes from groups like the Lincoln Project, and Biden’s insistence that misguided Republicans would find their way, while offering them a space in his administration, seemed to set the Democratic Party dangerously close to electoral failure. 

The Georgia wins were both demonstrations of the promise of a new electoral strategy: appealing to the left, and mobilizing underrepresented groups, as opposed to appealing to the middle. 

This strategy is one that seems like an almost logical next step, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez points out, every single cosponsor of Medicare-For-All in a swing district retained their seat. 

Nothing captures this better than a key component of the platform of both the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns: the promise of $2,000 stimulus checks. 

Originally proposed by former President Donald Trump and House Democrats, the $2,000 checks were weaponized by figures like Stacey Abrams and organizers on the ground for both campaigns as means of putting pressure on a flailing Republican Senate. 

On the one hand, the incumbent Republican Senators at the time, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, wanted to show their allegiance to Trump and material support for their constituents, whereas on the other, they were bound by both allegiance to the Republican Party and austerity politics, making their positions on the issue all but cryptic and unclear.

This gave the Democratic organizers on the ground the easy task of making the clear left-wing case that should Warnock and Ossoff win their respective races, Georgians would receive $2,000 and maybe even more from future Biden stimulus legislation. 

It is this direct appeal to material support that drove both campaigns to victory, and it is one that left-wing organizers have been consistently advocating for. 

This is the strategy that should be at the forefront of Democratic organizing. Rather than appealing to vague center political convictions, it is clear that the primary focus of Democratic strategy should not be trying to flip Republicans, but rather, give voters who don’t usually participate in the democratic process a reason to turn out.

Material support can come in many different forms, from stimulus checks to Medicare-For-All, however, it is up to the Democratic Party to make the most of what they can offer, and show average people why voting for them is in their best interest. 

While values matter, Georgia shows that revealing to average people what the Democratic Party can do for them will propel the party to victory.