Will Jon Ossoff deliver?
A congressional special election in spring's sultry last days would usually generate little excitement. Folks want to head to the beach, not worry about exercising their constitutional duty.
With national political passions raging beyond fever pitch, the Sixth District race between Democratic hopeful Ossoff and GOP warhorse Karen Handel has generated streams of money and media attention. Early voting turnout has been huge, and the final vote totals could surpass that of presidential or governor's elections.
The young Ossoff has come out of nowhere to excite the national Democratic Party, notorious for lax support of state elections. He has raised a record $23 million, allowing him to counter crazed attacks from national GOP groups. On election day, Donald Trump has engaged his Twitter finger against the Democratic contender.
When the frenzy over the race to replace Trump cabinet member and sycophant Tom Price dies down, whoever wins will have limited power in Congress.
If she ekes out a win, Handel will join the company of nearly anonymous GOP representatives following the party's program to comfort the rich and afflict the poor and middle class. In today's Republican Party, she might look like a moderate, following the direction of House Speaker Paul Ryan rather than the more extreme Tea Party members. Ryan's draconian plans to abolish Obamacare and slash taxes on the wealthy would be considered extreme except in the eyes of the most bloodthirsty GOP representatives.
Handel shows the potential to join the Tea Party crew, which counts several Georgia representatives as members. Her record shows that as Georgia's secretary of state under Gov. Tom Perdue - now Trump's agricultural secretary - she pioneered the party's voter suppression tactics, aimed mainly at black Democratic voters.
In this race, she's not tempered her virulent opposition to gay marriage. She's promised to support Trumpcare, with its severe cuts to Medicare. In a nationally noted gaffe in the race's first of two debates, Handel said she's against a "livable wage." Showing a streak of Southern chivalry, Ossoff with all of his millions never produced an ad to exploit this flub, telling a New Yorker writer it spoke for itself.
If the 30-year-old photogenic Ossoff wins, he's destined for high national visibility, appearing on Sunday morning talk shows and Rachel Maddow's MSNBC bellwether. It's doubtful whether he'll have the clout to convert his campaign promises into substantial legislation. But that won't matter; the Democratic Party is desperate for young talent. The congressional record won't make much difference.
As customary with Georgia Democratic candidates, Ossoff has run a "centrist" campaign, emphasizing government waste and willingness to work with Republicans. That strategy backfired in the disastrous U.S. Senate campaign of Michelle Nunn, who tried to avoid the Democratic label. While Bernie Sanders discounted Ossoff, liberals such as the Nation's Joan Walsh have justified Ossoff's "moderate" views.
While excusing Ossoff's opposition to tax increases and a single-payer health plan, Walsh in a revealing piece for the Nation on the women activists who have boosted the Democrat's race detailed how the district has grown more diverse, and Democratic.
For some insightful background on Ossoff's supporters, here is a link to Walsh's Nation article.
Even if Ossoff loses, his campaign gives Democrats long-term hope, on the state and national levels. The suburban district, one of the best educated in the country, is the type in which Democrats have made gains in recent years, especially with women professionals.
While Democratic supporters hope an Ossoff victory will be the harbinger for a Democratic surge in the 2018 midterm elections, that could fizzle. To regain control of the House, the Democrats will need to do well in a variety of districts, most of them with different makeups than Georgia's wealthy, mostly white Sixth.
On the Georgia level, Democratic strength in the Sixth, which has gone Republican since 1979 and once was represented by incendiary former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, shows that the Democrats really are making gains in the state. During last November's presidential race, Hillary Clinton barely lost to Trump in the district. If the Georgia Democratic Party can add more white suburban votes to their urban black base, perhaps they can again win governor's and U.S. Senate elections.
Polls show a tight race. Weary district voters hope it ends today, and that a recount or other complications don't arise. The worst case scenario would involve lawsuits and a Supreme Court decision.
The national political pundits and insiders are in a frenzy over what in normal times would be an obscure election. For political junkies, the Super Bowl has arrived in June.