A black pastor's election to the Senate was a sign of hope amidst the chaos of the Capitol

(Photo: Unsplash/Louis Velazquez)

Following a year in which analysis of US politics has been dominated by the behaviour of Trump-supporting white evangelicals, a black Baptist pastor has transformed the political landscape. The victory of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, over his Republican rival, Senator Kelly Loeffler, has produced the first black senator in the history of Georgia.

That this could happen in the heartland of the Confederacy is an indication of the seismic events occurring in US politics. That it was then followed by the victory of Democrat Jon Ossoff, over Republican David Perdue, ensures that (supported by the casting vote of the Democrat Vice-President) the Democrats now control the Senate. This gives them the clean sweep of the House, the Senate and the Presidency. These two senatorial seats may have been won by the narrowest of margins, but a victory across the board is what they represent.

It is significant that Donald Trump has continued to try to overturn the democratic decision of the presidential election, and that both the defeated Republicans in Georgia have been among a significant number of Republican politicians who have acquiesced in this blatant attempt to undermine US democracy, for his and their own ends.

Many commentators feel that this had the unintended consequence of undermining Republican belief in the electoral system, in sufficient numbers, to cause many to not turn out and vote in Georgia. If so, that is an extraordinary own-goal.

The 'stolen election' rhetoric clearly encouraged the rioters, whose unprecedented violent invasion of the Capitol building in Washington DC gripped the USA and the world on Wednesday.

Many white evangelicals have, since November 3rd, gone along with this conspiracy-theory-dominated view of the world. They have supported the 'stolen election' narrative in a desperate attempt to impose themselves on the wider electorate, alongside other determined members of the Trump-base. The scenes in the Capitol building show where that can lead.

Wednesday's results in Georgia - despite Republican attempts to challenge the congressional certification of Electoral College votes and the violent demonstrations that occurred at the same time - are the democratic answer to the forces of chaos and a key role in this was played by a black Baptist minister from Atlanta.

What a difference one day can make.

Martyn Whittock is a Licensed Lay Minister in the Church of England and an evangelical. As a historian, he has a particular interest in the interaction between faith and politics. His book, Trump and the Puritans: How the Evangelical Religious Right Put Donald Trump in the White House (co-author James Roberts), was published by Biteback in January 2020 in the UK, and in June in the USA.