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Impact of Ginsburg’s death is felt quickly in Georgia Senate race

Tom Baxter

By Tom Baxter

Thou shalt not play politics with the death of thine enemies.

No, that isn’t one of the official commandments, but there’s little doubt those old friends, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, would have agreed with the sentiment.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ studied transgression of that precept after the announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court justice’s death Friday night was a sign of how quickly Ginsburg’s passing has shaken politics on the ground in Georgia.

Georgia’s jungle primary and Arizona’s Mark Kelly-Martha McSally race are both special elections involving candidates who were appointed to the U.S. Senate, so that the winners conceivably could be sworn in immediately and vote on the confirmation of Ginsburg’s successor, if that were to happen after the election but before next year. This assumes that a winner emerges from the first round of the jungle primary on Nov. 3, which is highly unlikely. But in tweeting about the millions of innocent babies lost during the years Ginsburg sat on the court, Collins assured that the Supreme Court issue would be front and center in his campaign.

In a poll conducted last year, 70 percent of the Georgians surveyed opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, so Collins’ provocative tweet might not seem to make much political sense. But for Collins and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, it’s been all about that base. Neither of the Republicans worries as much about Raphael Warnock, or any other candidate in the race, as they do about each other. They are locked in a battle for the most conservative elements of their party which takes precedence over anything else.

Early voting had already begun in four states states before Ginsburg’s death, so we should say that she died during the election, not before it. Her death will have an impact on the election, perhaps a huge one if a disputed outcome gets resolved in the Supreme Court. But so much is already baked in to this presidential election that it is unlikely for even this big a late development to be decisive.

It may draw some pro-life voters back into the fold for Trump, but it might also lure the Susan Sarandon left back into voting again. And Trump’s “Latino strategy” could get supercharged if he appoints Florida judge Barbara Lagoa to fill Ginsburg’s seat.

It could have a bigger impact on several Senate races, including Georgia’s twin bill. Barring some other blockbuster news, this sets up the Senate chamber as center stage for the climactic days of this campaign.

Ginsburg’s precariously timed death does bring the wide differences between the opposite sides of the American electorate out into even sharper relief. At this stage of torque, we didn’t need that.

There were enormous lines Friday in Northern Virginia — Biden country. The next day, several dozen Trump supporters turned out at a polling place in Fairfax, waving flags and shouting “four more years!” There are differences about whether this was harassment or a peaceful exercise, but an official said some polling workers and voters felt intimidated, and steps were taken to distance them from the demonstrators.

It won’t take much of this before it becomes something more serious. The crowd in Fairfax looked organized, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was organized by the Trump campaign. There are a lot of shadowy players hanging around this election, and this is when they’re going to start showing up.

If, however, the Trump campaign did organize that Virginia campaign, they’re in trouble. Haranguing people standing in line to vote for the other candidate is a sign of desperation, not strength, and a gigantic waste of energy.

Ginsburg joins John Lewis and Elijah Cummings as one whose name will be a rallying cry for Democrats this fall. She endured successive bouts with cancer over decades, at the end hanging on in the unrewarded hope that she could outlast at least one Trump term. Throughout that long struggle she was a force on the court, even in dissent, and was transformed into a cultural icon, the Notorious RBG. She will be long remembered.

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Tom Baxter
Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Kay E. Stephenson September 22, 2020 9:46 am

    Thanks once again for your insight.Report

    Reply

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