During the past four years, perhaps the one slogan Republicans have embraced more than “Make America Great Again”, “America First”, “Build that wall”, “Drain the swamp”, or other Trump rally background noise, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” This mantra came to define them time and time again throughout Trump’s presidency. But this was not something that Trump started, nor is it something that will end on January 20th. After Biden takes office, Republicans will conveniently change their position and rhetoric on key issues and forget the logical twists and turns they took to cheerlead for his predecessor. This is already happening with COVID relief negotiations and the Georgia runoffs that will determine control of the Senate tomorrow, two important events that will shape the new year for the better or worse.
During Obama’s presidency, Republicans frequently brought up the deficit and debt to explain their opposition to his policies, but after Trump’s election, like a miracle, their concerns disappeared. They certainly did not mind passing a massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations that the Congressional Budget Office projected would add $2.3 trillion in debt over the next decade. But when COVID-19 hit and Americans needed economic relief, the deficit and debt magically became talking points again. As several programs in the CARES Act expired over the summer, the House passed the HEROES Act to continue them as cases began to rise again. But in the Senate, self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell refused to even hold a vote on it, instead offering a much smaller bill that drastically reduced unemployment insurance while protecting corporations from liability for putting employees at risk.
Then in October, as Trump himself was hospitalized with COVID-19, he announced via Twitter that he would abruptly end all negotiations until after the election. Apparently 38 days is enough time to confirm a Supreme Court justice, but not to help parents feed their families. Fast forward to December, when the country was now experiencing the worst wave yet. On December 18, Senator Ron Johnson, who is up for re-election in 2022 in Wisconsin, a state Biden won, objected to giving Americans another round of $1200 checks, using the debt as an excuse, despite voting for the 2017 tax cuts projected to add trillions to it. The deal that was eventually reached was far from enough, as it was much smaller than the original HEROES Act or even what Democrats wanted when negotiations started. It still reduced unemployment insurance, gave Americans only $600 rather than $1200, far from what was needed, and left out immigrants, college students, and adult dependents. However, with Republicans refusing to do even the bare minimum, it was a stopgap until President Biden might be able to pass a better deal for the American people. Then suddenly, Trump announced that he would not sign the bill unless the checks were raised to $2000, finally coming around to what Democrats said all along: $600 simply was not enough.
But his change of heart came far too late. He had multiple chances during the past nine months to support $2000 checks, but made his announcement after a deal was already made, and congressional Republicans still opposed the checks. On Christmas Eve, they objected to including them in the bill. When a full vote was held, only a quarter voted for them. As the week ended, unemployment insurance for millions expired, and a government shutdown nearly happened. Trump finally signed the bill, but without the $2000 checks, once again breaking a promise he made to the American people. The ultimately pointless delay cost millions of Americans a week of unemployment insurance. Why did Republicans suddenly become so desperate to pass anything before the year ended? Because with the Georgia runoffs quickly approaching, they had to show that they were doing something, anything, to help anyone besides their wealthy donors during this pandemic. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler tried endlessly to take credit for the CARES Act while their party delayed and diluted additional relief, but did not endorse continuing the $600 weekly unemployment insurance, which Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock support, and only changed their mind on stimulus checks when Trump did. Since they know McConnell would refuse to hold a vote anyways, they could safely pretend to support them until January 5th, after which they could turn around and squeeze the middle class again to pay back their rich friends.
Indeed, “do as I say, not as I do” seems to be the slogan of their campaigns as well. One of their arguments for a Republican Senate is that with a divided government, the two parties will have to compromise. But the last time the country had a divided government with a Democratic president, Republicans refused to compromise on anything. McConnell said that, rather than work with him for the good of the country, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” and during the past two years, he refused to even hold a vote on many of the bills that the House passed. It would be great if both sides actually could negotiate in good faith for the entire country’s benefit, but it is difficult when one refuses. Even if Ossoff and Warnock both won, the Senate would be split 50-50 with Harris breaking ties, meaning that a bill would need the support of every Democratic senator or a few Republicans in order to pass. Furthermore, the Democratic caucus is very diverse. It is home to members from 27 states (28 if Ossoff and/or Warnock win), progressives such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, moderates such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and everyone in between. Getting them all to support a bill will already require significant compromise, even if Democrats have control.
In their ads, Perdue and Loeffler cast Ossoff and Warnock as “radicals”, which is ironic coming from someone who brags about being “more conservative than Attila the Hun”. In truth, Ossoff and Warnock’s policies are popular among Georgians. Giving Americans COVID relief, expanding access to healthcare, reforming our criminal justice system, and responding to the threat of climate change are hardly radical. Biden won Georgia in November campaigning on these very policies, yet Perdue and Loeffler continue to oppose them. Instead of giving Americans COVID relief, they traded stock after learning about the severity of the virus in a closed hearing, profiting while over 330,000 Americans died. Instead of expanding access to healthcare, they supported plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Instead of proposing their own climate plan, their websites do not mention it at all, even as Georgia experiences worse extreme weather every year and rising sea levels threaten its coast. In fact, Perdue called for the EPA’s elimination and urged Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017, while his exclusive beachfront community builds walls to keep out rising sea levels. It is clear from all of this that they are trying to distract voters from the fact that their platform is the one that is really “radical” and unpopular.
During Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, Republicans accused Democrats of attacking her Catholic faith, despite the fact that the Democratic president-elect, who Republicans claimed wanted to “hurt God”, and Speaker of the House are both Catholic. But now Loeffler’s campaign is doing exactly that with Warnock’s faith, taking clips of his sermons, often wildly out of context, and using them in attack ads, even though she did not mind attending his church herself for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Her ads use clips of him criticizing the Israeli government’s policies to portray him as anti-Semitic, but she remained silent when Perdue’s campaign digitally enlarged Ossoff’s nose in an ad, a common anti-Semitic trope (Ossoff himself erseis Jewish). She also proudly touts her endorsements from supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which itself has anti-Semitic roots and is classified as a domestic terror threat by the FBI, and took a picture with a KKK member convicted of assaulting a black man in 1993, later claiming she “had no idea” who she was taking a picture with. Her ads also play a clip of Warnock quoting a Bible passage saying that a person cannot serve two masters, which they twist to portray him as anti-military. In reality, Warnock’s father was a veteran, and he talks extensively on the campaign trail about his plans to help veterans and those currently serving, while the Republican president vetoed the annual defense appropriations bill that, among other things, raises troop salaries and provides suicide prevention programs for veterans. It is clear that when Republicans talk about freedom of religion, what they really mean is freedom to use religion to advance their agenda. They view Muslims as a threat who should be kept out of the country and Jews who do not vote for them as “disloyal”. Even Christian leaders like Warnock find their faith questioned. To Republicans, religion is great when they can use it to justify their beliefs, such as anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, but not when their opponent can.
One word that Republicans will be saying often during the next four years is “civility.” After four years of showing deference to a President who constantly attacked and belittled his opponents, they were outraged when incoming Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon dropped an expletive in an offhand remark during an interview. The party of Trump thinks that tweeting too much disqualifies Biden’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget. This might lead one to ask what their idea of civility is. It would be too easy to use Trump as an example for this exercise, so let us look instead at the man they support in the Georgia runoffs, Senator Perdue. Is it praying for Obama’s death? Is it grabbing a student’s phone after being asked a question? Is it blocking a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide at the President’s request? Is it, as mentioned earlier, enlarging his Jewish opponent’s nose in a campaign ad? Is it mocking his colleague and the first female vice president-elect’s name at a rally? “Physician, heal thyself” seems appropriate here, but if this year is any indication, they do not listen to physicians either.
Ossoff and Warnock winning tomorrow would be a victory for Americans and a defeat for Republican hypocrisy. If he remains Senate Majority Leader, McConnell will continue to be the “Grim Reaper”, blocking Biden’s entire agenda to try and sabotage his presidency, but with a Senate majority, Biden and congressional Democrats can pass real economic relief for the American people, or as the President-elect puts it, “build our country back better than it was before”. They can build on the Affordable Care Act to make sure more Americans have access to healthcare. They can make our criminal justice system fairer for all Americans regardless of race. They can create a climate plan investing in clean energy and creating millions of good-paying jobs. They can make sure that Biden’s cabinet, a diverse group of qualified individuals committed to serving the American people, will be confirmed. All of this and much more is possible if Ossoff and Warnock win. Tomorrow, Georgia has a chance to lead the country out of the past four years, ushering in a bright future for America out of this year's shadow. They can shock the world once again, voting not just for Biden, but for two Democratic senators. The race is close, and every single vote could be the difference between victory and defeat. After all, Biden won Georgia by just 11,779 votes in November. If you or someone you know can vote in the runoffs, make sure to vote or tell them to vote tomorrow. Even if you cannot vote, you can still donate or volunteer for the two campaigns. Together, Georgia can send a message to the “do as I say, not as I do” Republicans and start Biden’s presidency off on a high note. The whole country is watching.