by Lincoln Institute | December 10, 2020

It’s myopic to think that the two Georgia special elections for the US Senate that will take place on January 5th are just about Sen. David Perdue vs. John Ossoff and Sen. Kelly Loeffler vs. Rev. Raphael Warnock. They are merely the proxies for a much greater contest over what the framers of our Constitution considered its most important feature: a structure that minimized the likelihood of a concentration of power in too-few hands.

The solution the Founding Fathers came up with was one taken from the thought of the French theorist Montesquieu – namely, “separating the powers” of the state into different “branches” of government with the intention that each different branch, jealous of its own powers, would keep the other branches in check.

Thomas Jefferson came at the same point from a slightly different angle. “The executive power in our government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.” Some might argue that we are now living in that more distant period, but I doubt that Jefferson ever contemplated that all three branches of government would ever be concentrated in a single political party, yet that’s exactly what our beloved nation will face if the two Democratic party challengers defeat the two Republican incumbents for the Senate from Georgia.

Hundreds of millions of dollars – an unprecedented level of political spending – are being spent right now on those two races. Within Georgia, the main focus is on the candidates themselves, but for those of us outside of Georgia, we should not let the speeches, tv appearances, debates and advertising of the candidates distract our attention from the greatest fear of the Framers of the Constitution: concentration of power in a very few hands. It literally has the power to destroy our peculiar American experiment in citizen-driven democracy. Listen to Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, as he wrote in the Federalist: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” That is precisely what is likely if both Democratic party challengers win in Georgia. A similar threat faced the nation when FDR was President, but he was stymied in his efforts to pack the Supreme Court. A President Biden, especially if the Senate kills the filibuster as has been intimated as an objective by several leaders in his party, will not be similarly constrained.

A majority in the Senate, which would be ruled with an iron fist by Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader, combined with a majority in the House of Representatives ruled by another iron fist in the person of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and topped off by four new Biden-appointed Justices of the Supreme Court to establish a liberal or Progressive majority there, largely sympathetic to or even beholden to the President and Democratic party leaders, presents a formula for tyranny worse than Madison’s nightmare.

If you live in Georgia, but more emphatically if you don’t, try to ignore all the media chatter about Sen. Perdue’s empty chair or Sen. Loeffler’s quote “wooden” close quote performance in the one tv debate or on the campaign trail, and set your mind instead on the much higher issue at the heart of the Constitution: the assumption that concentration of power in a few like-minded political leaders leads to tyranny, and threatens the ideals of representative government. For the sake of the nation, Republicans must win at least one of the two seats on January 5. As Senator Orrin Hatch has said, the separation of powers – not just in theory or in textbook but in practice in the actual functioning of government – is the linchpin of …  liberty. If you agree, then please call everyone you know in Georgia and present this simple argument to them, and then tell them that they could be the last line of defense of our Republic.