If You Like All The New Progressive Federal Judges, Thank Trump For Sabotaging Georgia

WASHINGTON ― If you like all the progressive judges that President Joe Biden has put on the federal bench since taking office, you can thank the one person without whom it could never have happened: Donald Trump.

The former president’s sabotage of two Georgia Senate runoffs in early January with his endless lies about “massive fraud” having cost him reelection almost certainly cost the two Republican incumbents their seats, giving Democrats control of the chamber and the ability to push through judicial nominations without a single GOP vote.

“Trump handed it to them,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia who studies federal judicial appointments, adding that Biden’s record-tying string of 40 district and appellate court judges in his first year would have been impossible in a Republican-controlled Senate. “They just wouldn’t have had the votes. I don’t know what they would have done.”

Biden has won praise from across the Democratic spectrum for judicial picks that have put Native American and other ethnic and racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ community on the federal bench. Biden has also drawn from a broader range of professional backgrounds ― public defenders and voting rights attorneys, for example, rather than just prosecutors and corporate lawyers ― than previous presidents, even previous Democratic presidents. Of the 40 Biden judges confirmed so far (35 more are already in the pipeline), a full 80% are women.

“I think very few of those people would have been confirmed,” Tobias said. “Biden would have pulled back and … chosen more moderates, picked more people who were less ideologically liberal.”

Among presidents in the last half century, only Republican Ronald Reagan was able to put as many judges on the federal bench in his first year. Trump, for example, was able to get only 18 seated in his first year.

Yet those nominees would have faced a much tougher path in a Senate run by Mitch McConnell with a 52-48 Republican majority, which appeared as if it would be the outcome in November 2020 after the votes were counted in Georgia with no candidate in either of the two Senate races receiving over 50%.

Georgia law requires a runoff in such cases, which in recent years have favored Republicans because of their more dutiful voters and their superior turnout operation. That historical advantage, though, was thrown away last January by the then-president, who was angry that he had lost Georgia and Arizona, two reliable GOP states, on his way to losing to Biden by 7 million votes nationally.

In interview after interview, speech after speech, Trump pushed the falsehood that the Nov. 3 election had been rigged against him, including in Georgia, where the rigging had been done by Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans.

“There’s no way we lost Georgia. There’s no way. That was a rigged election,” Trump said right at the start of a Jan. 4 rally that was ostensibly to support Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Hundreds attend a Dec. 5, 2020, rally in Valdosta, Georgia, led by President Donald Trump in support of Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Both lost their Georgia runoff elections to Democratic challengers a month later.
Hundreds attend a Dec. 5, 2020, rally in Valdosta, Georgia, led by President Donald Trump in support of Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Both lost their Georgia runoff elections to Democratic challengers a month later.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The end result, Trump’s election eve rally notwithstanding: GOP voters stayed home in droves while Democrat Stacey Abrams’ massive turnout effort helped Raphael Warnock defeat Loeffler and Jon Ossoff overtake Perdue.

According to an analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 752,000 Georgians who cast ballots on Nov. 3, 2020, failed to do so on Jan. 5, 2021, with a disproportionate number of those no-shows coming from Republican strongholds, particularly the two areas of the state where Trump had held rallies. Meanwhile, 228,000 residents who had not voted in the general election did so in the runoff, most of whom were from Black and other minority communities, and nearly half of whom were younger than 35.

Warnock and Ossoff both come in second in their November 2020 races. Warnock won his runoff by 93,000 votes, and Ossoff won by 55,000.

Erick Erickson, a conservative radio talk-show host based in Atlanta, said Trump made it a loyalty test to go along with his false claims of a stolen election, and top Georgia Republicans, such as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and state party chairman David Shafer, were happy to comply.

“It wasn’t just Trump. It was him, the state party chair, Marjorie Taylor Greene, etc., all screaming that the election was stolen and they were going to steal it again. Trump was certainly the loudest voice about it,” Erickson said. “Had they shut up, I don’t think you’d have seen 400,000-plus Republicans sit out the runoff.”

Without Trump’s sabotage, McConnell would likely have held a four-seat margin, and Biden would have faced the same roadblocks that Democrat Barack Obama faced in his final two years in the White House after McConnell became the Senate majority leader following the 2014 midterm elections.

“If Biden were able to get a half dozen judges through, most likely only district courts, in a McConnell-led Senate, that would be because Mitch was feeling especially generous,” said Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “And Mitch does not feel generous.”

“The makeup of the federal judiciary is his legacy, and it is one to which he would go to great lengths to protect,” Mac Stipanovich, a longtime GOP consultant in Florida, said of McConnell. “Biden got lucky when Trump screwed the pooch in Georgia.”

Trump, nevertheless, has continued lying about the 2020 presidential election and has even actively recruited candidates to run against Kemp and Raffensperger in the Republican primary next year. In recent statements, he has blamed both Kemp and ― inexplicably ― McConnell for losing the two Senate seats rather than accepting any blame himself.

“He has all the cards to win, but not the ‘guts’ to play them. Instead, he gives our Country away, just like he did with the two Senate seats in Georgia, and the Presidency itself,” Trump said about McConnell in a statement he released Dec. 8, two days after claiming that Kemp “cost us two Senate seats and a Presidential victory in the Great State of Georgia.”

Trump’s political action committee staff did not respond to HuffPost queries about the statements.

Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes overall and by 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol – his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― killed five, including one police officer, injured another 140 officers and led to four police suicides.

Notwithstanding this, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.

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