Ossoff does not represent a national trendBy Nicolas Briscoe | 04/24/2017 9:30pm
CW / Kylie Cowden
The decaying of the bridge between politics and representative government has never been more apparent than in this week’s special election in Georgia’s sixth district. Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat running to fill the seat, enjoyed the free national publicity that accompanies a sycophantic media. The DNC was intent on electing Ossoff outright on April 18, a feat that would require 50 percent of the vote in a crowded jungle primary that featured a myriad of Republicans vying for the spotlight. Karen Handel, former Georgia Secretary of State and failed gubernatorial candidate, emerged as Ossoff’s chief opponent.
The Democrats quickly set to work employing their usual electoral tactics that fared so well in 2016—enlisting their celebrity army of unfunny comedians, incapable actors and Amy Schumer, who falls somewhere in the middle. When all was said and done, Ossoff had raised over $8.3 million (80 percent of which came from outside the district), a staggering amount when compared to Handel’s measly $463,744. These figures translate to around $90 spent per vote for Ossoff, and around $12 for Handel. In other words, the Democrats ran a campaign strategy that was entirely unsustainable and inimitable for the 2018 gauntlet.
It is natural to wonder what the strategy was, if not to offer a glimpse into the thematic elements of the broader electoral strategy going forward. Simply put, it was to Astroturf (plant a fake grassroots movement) anti-Trump momentum by flipping a seat held by a Republican (now Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price) in order to prove that the nation has already turned on President Trump, he has no mandate, and that he is essentially a lame duck president before he hits day 100 of his Presidency.
Politically, it was failsafe for the Democrats—if they win, it’s an enormous upset in a district that has not gone blue in decades, and if they lose (presumably narrowly), they continue their slow march toward ubiquity in the anti-trump movement. However, in calling national attention to the race, flashing $8.3 million in donations, $6.6 million of which came from outside the district, and pushing so unequivocally for an outright win rather than risking a runoff, the Democrats managed to paint themselves into a corner and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Jon Ossoff finished the night at 48.1 percent, and Handel at 19.8 percent, poised for a runoff in June. While the spin from the Ossoff campaign and its allies has been admirable, it is painfully obvious that, while not counting for as huge a win as Republicans are making it out to be, it is most certainly a loss for the Democrats.
The condition of representative government is all but critical, as we increasingly see politics being treated as a team sport, to be fought and won at any cost. Samantha Bee, an alleged comedienne and New Yorker by way of Canada, was tweeting to remind the folks of Georgia’s sixth district to go out and vote for her guy. Alyssa Milano, an actress according to some, was doing the same from Los Angeles. Between them, they are removed by over 3,000 miles from the district in question, and yet feel qualified to judge the best candidate to suit its needs.
Increasingly on both sides of the aisle, we find that meaningful qualifications are less important than the team for which candidates play. $6.6 million of outside funding was poured into Ossoff’s campaign. Is anyone able to claim earnestly that the election in Georgia’s sixth district was about meaningful representation? The election was framed as the second real referendum on President Trump (following the narrow GOP victory in KS-04), and the citizens were left out to dry, cast aside in the name of partisan politics that will ultimately prove inconsequential. Alyssa Milano and Samantha Bee did not care about the constituents of the Georgia Sixth as much as they cared about the media-driven narrative that somehow, had Ossoff won, winning 1/435th of one chamber in one branch of government would be a knockout blow to the Trump administration. Their arrogance is matched only by their ignorance.
In truth, this election leaves us with no real insight into the state of politics entering into the 2018 midterms, as many had hoped it would. It provided statistics that should certainly trouble the GOP, as voter turnout was down in significantly greater numbers than for the Democrats. Still, one can only hope that the remaining races will embody true republicanism better than the race for Georgia’s Sixth.
This election will serve as a blueprint for how not to approach House elections in the future. Do not message an election to determine 1/435th of the House of Representatives as an all-out struggle for the fate of the republic and all of humanity. Do not employ a slew of widely disliked celebrities with no vested interest in the outcome of an election to act as if that election is crucial to their own survival. Do not attract $6.6 million in funding from outside the district and dilute the financial capital of actual constituents. The do-or-die presentation of the race for Georgia’s sixth district was a farce from beginning to end.
At the end of it all, we have a disenfranchised electorate, no apparent strategy on either side for 2018, and President Trump. In other words, business as usual.
Nicolas Briscoe is a senior majoring in history. His column runs biweekly.