With the impact of the Georgia Senate runoff elections, the violence at the Capitol, and the upcoming January 6 inauguration making waves in U.S. politics right now, the Smoke Signal has compiled all of the information to know about these historic events in a series of articles below.
Click the links below to jump directly to each article.
The Georgia Senate Runoff Elections
By Staff Writer Jerry Yuan
On January 5, the Georgia Senate runoff elections took place with incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue running against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in the regular Senate election and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler running against Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock in the Senate special election. Ossoff and Warnock won both of these runoff elections, flipping control of the Senate to the Democratic Party for the first time since 2013.
Ossoff (left) and Warnock (right).
Since former Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned in 2019, Georgia held an additional special Senate election to determine who would fill Ikakson’s seat until 2022.
The multiple candidates from both parties prevented anyone from reaching a majority, so Warnock, who received 32.9% of the vote, and Loeffler, who received 25.9% of the vote, advanced to a runoff election as the two candidates who received the most votes.
Meanwhile, in the November 3 regular Senate election, Perdue earned 49.7% of the vote, Ossoff earned 47.9% of the vote, and Libertarian Party candidate Shane Hazel claimed 2.3% of the vote.
However, since Georgia demands that House and Senate candidates receive more than 50% of the vote to win the seat, Perdue and Ossoff, as the top two candidates, had to advance to a runoff election on January 5.
The January 5 runoff elections concluded with Ossoff defeating Perdue by a margin of 1.2% and around 55,000 votes, and Warnock defeating Loeffler by 2.0% and around 90,000 votes.
A total of 4.4 million votes were counted, which is around 88% of the general election’s votes. Senator-elect Perdue will serve until 2026 while Senator-elect Warnock needs to run for re-election in 2022.
This marks the first time a Democrat held a Georgia senate seat since former Sen. Zell Miller in 2005. Warnock also made history by becoming Georgia’s first Black Senator.
With the election results from the other states, the Senate was 50 Republicans to 46 Democrats and two independents who caucused with the Democratic Party, so the two Georgia runoff elections determined the Senate control with Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie. By winning these two seats, the Senate flips to the Democrats, and Sen. Chuck Schumer will replace Sen. Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader.
The Democratic Party now holds control of both bodies of Congress and the Presidency, which is the first time they have done so since 2011.
Because these Senate races determined control of Congress, the four Senate candidates raised a total of about $830 million to raise awareness for the campaign, with all four candidates breaking the previous fundraising record for a Senate seat. There were also many rallies and campaigns held for these candidates, including campaigns by President-elect Joe Biden, Harris, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and former President Barack Obama.
However, the 50-50 Senate split also grants more power to the more moderate members of the Senate, such as West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin or Arizona’s Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, as they could vote against the rest of the Democratic Party and prevent the 50-50 tie and Harris’ tiebreaker from taking place.
Even with that caveat, the Democratic control of the Senate makes it easier for Biden to add more progressive members to his cabinet, as the Senate needs to confirm these members. More progressive ideas, such as statehood for Washington D.C. and for Puerto Rico, acts that expand voting rights, or even the Green New Deal now have a greater chance of being passed by Congress.
The Storming of the Capitol
By Staff Writer Anvi Kalucha
On the afternoon of January 6, domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. following President Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud after the Associated Press called the 2020 presidential election in favor of President-elect Joe Biden, who had a 74 electoral vote margin over Trump.
Trump supporters at the Capitol Building.
The morning of the attempted coup on Congress, Trump addressed his supporters in front of the Washington Monument, a few miles away from the Capitol, to rally for his campaign.
He urged them to take a stand against results he viewed as fraudulent, saying, “I will lay out just some of the evidence proving that we won this election and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.” He also went on to blame the press, accusing them of “suppressing” America’s free speech.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani also spoke to the energetic crowd, saying that a “trial by combat” was needed to overturn election results. Trump ended his speech by encouraging attendees to “march over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically” make their voices heard.
Following the address, a large crowd of Trump supporters paraded outside the Capitol building with flags and banners. Some were even dressed as Vikings and soldiers.
After smashing windows to enter the building, the mob raided the offices of several politicians including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, even stealing lecterns, podiums, and computers.
What began as a peaceful protest soon turned violent as the mob overtook Capitol Hill police barriers in a matter of hours. Gunshots were also reported from the rioters, resulting in five deaths as of the time of publication, including a veteran and one policeman. Numerous bullet holes littered the inside of the Capitol after being fired through the glass doors and windows of the building.
Officials believe the siege had been organized by Trump supporters to disrupt the official counting of the electoral votes, which the president had deemed false for the past two months. After Vice President Mike Pence called the National Guard to control the protestors, Congress was finally able to resume the tallying and announced Biden as the winner early January 7 morning. The mob had delayed results by several hours.
Since the attack on the Capitol, many social media users have drawn comparisons to the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that took place during summer. They have highlighted key differences in each situation’s police response, attributing the contrasting levels of violence to the different racial backgrounds of participants in the two events. The minimal force on Capitol Hill’s aggressive mob has incited backlash on how people of color were treated in calmer circumstances during BLM.
Politicians inside the Capitol spoke out about the riots, condemning the reckless actions of the president; Trump himself applauded the crowd for their patriotic behavior which was later retracted.
Since January 6, Trump has been banned from multiple social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat for his role in inspiring the violent terrorist attack.
As January 20 draws closer, the FBI has been investigating planned armed protests in major cities. The bombs that were found in proximity to the Capitol and the Democratic and Republican National Committee headquarters have also prompted up to 25,000 National Guard members to be stationed inside the Capitol building until after January 21 as a precautionary measure.
Due to his actions on January 6, the House of Representatives passed articles of impeachment against Trump, impeaching him for the second time during his single term with a bipartisan vote. At the time of publication, the impeachment hearings are ongoing.
Image Credit: Samuel Corum | Getty Images
2021 Presidential Inauguration: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Sworn In
By Staff Writer Tavish Mohanti
“This is America’s day.” On January 20, President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who was sworn in as the first Black, Asian American, and female vice president of the U.S.
Biden and Harris being sworn in.
After the attack on the Capitol only two weeks prior, organizers were left scrambling to ensure a safe and secure ceremony. National guard troops underwent renewed vetting, with some members being removed for ties to white nationalism and right-wing activism, and law enforcement was on high alert after arresting a man on January 15 in Washington carrying unauthorized election credentials, a handgun, and 500 rounds of ammunition.
Fortunately, the ceremony went on without a hitch, and both Biden and Harris were sworn in safely.
Missing the typical crowds due to public health restrictions, the event still boasted a list of notable speakers and performers including Lady Gaga, who sang an impassioned rendition of the national anthem, Jennifer Lopez, who performed a patriotic mashup of songs including “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” and the first National Youth Poet Laureate and youngest inaugural poet, at only 22 years old, Amanda Gorman, who recited her original poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
Gorman echoed the hopeful sentiment hanging in the air: “And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it / Somehow, we do it / Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed / A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”
Gorman reciting her original poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
Notably missing from the festivities was President Donald J. Trump, the third president ever to miss all the inaugural ceremonies of their successors. Former Vice President Mike Pence was the most prominent member of the Trump administration to attend the ceremony.
That said, the theme of the inauguration, “America United,” appeared everywhere.
Harris, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton dawned purple attire, a key color of the suffragette movement and the power of red and blue together. Biden reiterated his promise to be a “president for all Americans” and continued his calls for unity in his speech, as he said, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue. Rural versus urban. Conservative vs. liberal.” he said.
Obama, Harris, and Clinton, respectively.
With less glitz and glam, freshman senators from Georgia, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, along with Alex Padilla, Harris’s replacement for the CA Senate seat, were also sworn into office shortly after Harris and Biden, officially granting Democrats control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in 11 years.
With a Democrat-controlled Congress, Biden has now a clear-cut path to follow through on his campaign promises. Merely hours after his inauguration, he has already rejoined the Paris Agreement and signed 17 executive orders to repeal Trump-era pandemic and anti-immigration policies.
Biden’s message to the American people was one of hope and promise, as he finished his inaugural address: “So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to the tasks of our time. Sustained by faith. Driven by conviction. And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.”
Image Credits: Saul Loeb | AP, Getty Images
Cover Graphic by Web Editor Mahek Bhora