Are Georgia’s Senate Democratic candidates as ‘radical’ as Republicans are making them out to be? – The Washington Post


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The Republican senators running to keep their jobs in two runoffs in Georgia next week are framing their Democratic challengers in extreme, almost apocalyptic terms. “Our freedoms and our rights are at stake,” Sen. Kelly Loeffler likes to say.The evidence? Democrats, these senators argue, want to defund police, pack the Supreme Court, spend billions on the “Green New Deal” and just generally be “socialist.” Except many of the claims are exaggerated, if not outright false.To some degree, Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue are blurring the line between the Democrats they are running against — the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively — and the Democratic Party. They insistently warn that Democratic wins in these two races would give Democrats total governing control of Washington, with slim majorities in the House and the Senate and President-elect Joe Biden in the White House.But the message that voters are often getting is that Warnock and Ossoff specifically would be carbon copies of the most liberal factions of the Democratic Party. And the facts don’t bear that out.All campaigns use misleading ads — fact checkers have dinged Democrats in these Georgia races for their own misleading ads. But the attack ads by Republicans and their affiliated groups on Warnock and Ossoff merit special attention, given the scale of hyperbole and misinformation.You could argue that the Republican senators lobbing these attacks on “radical” Democrats are themselves extreme. Both Loeffler and Perdue have publicly refused to acknowledge that the presidential election is over and Biden won.Here’s what we know about the attacks on the Democratic candidates in the Georgia runoffs. Do either of the Democrats support defunding the police?No, and they have repeatedly said that they don’t.Warnock, who is Black and preaches at a prominent Black church in Atlanta, has been unequivocal that he doesn’t want to defund police. He’s open to reimagining how police operate in Black communities and holding law enforcement accountable for police brutality. “I do not believe that we should defund the police,” he said as far back as June.“Anybody who knows me knows how deeply I respect law enforcement,” he told Gray Television in November, noting that he has been asked to speak at memorials for fallen officers.Still, Warnock has been accused by Loeffler and Republican groups of calling police “gangsters and thugs” (he has said he was referring to the mentality of some officers in Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown), and that he’s backed by “defund the police radicals.”Ossoff also has been clear that he doesn’t support defunding the police. “No, the answer is not to defund police. The answer is to reform police. And the answer is to demilitarize police,” he said as far back as June. The Ossoff campaign pointed to dozens of hundreds of times that he has said that he doesn’t want to take away money from police departments.Loeffler and Perdue continue to use this line of attack, putting Democrats on the defensive and forcing them to issue repeated rebuttals. But the Ossoff campaign pointed out that Republicans spent tens of millions of dollars in the November election on similar attacks that didn’t stick; Ossoff made it to the runoff against Perdue.Do they support packing the Supreme Court?Defunding the police is outside the mainstream in Democratic politics. But adding seats to the Supreme Court to change its balance of power is something a number of sitting lawmakers have advocated for — so much so that a reluctant Biden said he will appoint a commission to study Supreme Court reforms once in office. As senators, Ossoff and Warnock would have a direct role in this because the Senate votes to confirm justices to the court.Ossoff does not support changing the law to add more than nine justices. “We shouldn’t expand the Supreme Court just because a justice may be confirmed with whom we disagree on policy,” he said in an October interview with Classic City News in Georgia.Warnock more indirectly brushes off the attacks by saying Republicans are “trying to divide us again, and it’s really sad.” When pressed twice an interview with Gray TV to give an opinion on this, he refused. “I think it’s presumptuous for me going further down that path talking about what will happen with the courts,” he said.At a recent debate with Loeffler, Warnock said Georgians just aren’t asking him about this, so he doesn’t see a need to talk about it.Do they support ending the Senate filibuster and other big governing changes?“Maybe,” Ossoff has said about ending the filibuster in the Senate, thus ending the minority party’s ability to block legislation. But he offered caution, much like Biden, saying: “What I will consider is the implications in the long run when the shoe is on the other foot.”Like many Democrats, Ossoff does support making Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico states. That could give Democrats more seats in Congress.Warnock has been less clear on this. He hasn’t directly answered the question.Both campaigns say this is not an issue they hear about much from voters. But it is something Senate Republicans and their affiliated groups are hammering on in an attempt to portray the Democratic challengers as outside the mainstream.Even if Democrats gain control of the Senate by winning these two Georgia races, the chances of getting these changes through are slim, with Republicans likely to block the measures and even some Democrats likely to balk at them.Do they support Medicare-for-all?This policy issue is dividing the Democratic Party, and it’s one they could revisit if the Supreme Court decides sometime next year to knock down the Affordable Care Act.Ossoff has been clear that he doesn’t support Medicare-for-all, striking a more middle ground of wanting to offer a public option in addition to improving people’s private health insurance.Warnock is more circumspect. He has not embraced Medicare-for-all, but he hasn’t talked about whether he’d support a public option either, according to a review of all the candidates’ health-care policies by 11 Alive in Georgia.Does they support the “Green New Deal”? This is an attack directed primarily at Ossoff. And the answer is no. Like “defund the police,” this is another line of attack in which Republicans are repeatedly misstating the facts. “Ossoff praised radical socialist AOC’s Green New Deal,” an ad from Senate Republicans’ campaign arm says, referring to one of the climate-change legislation’s well-known authors, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).“They’re claiming that I support the Green New Deal. I do not,” Ossoff responded.Is Warnock in any way affiliated with Marxism? Is Ossoff a “socialist”? This is the underlying message of all of the Republican attacks. And the answer is no to both.Ossoff doesn’t associate in any way with the socialist fringes of the party. Nor does Warnock, who is on the receiving end of most of the Republican attacks trying to pitch the Democrats as radical. As The Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. writes, it’s in part because Republicans see Warnock as the bigger threat to Republicans maintaining power. Loeffler has dug into his past sermons and church affiliations, most prominently referencing the fact that a church with which he was affiliated decades ago invited Fidel Castro to speak.Even after fact checks have determined that Warnock probably didn’t play a role in the invitation to Castro, Loeffler continues to attack her challenger as “Marxist.” More than 100 religious leaders across the country sent her a letter telling her to knock it off. They said her attempts to radicalize Warnock’s faith are “a broader attack against the Black Church and faith traditions for which we stand.”Democrats have pointed out that Loeffler was recently photographed with a former KKK leader, though her campaign said she had “no idea” who he was.
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