Senator Raphael Warnock at a campaign stop in Seattle
Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock addresses a crowd of supporters at a campaign stop in Seattle (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The events of Jan­u­ary 5th, 2021 yield­ed a small, cogent piece of evi­dence that the promise of Amer­i­ca is slow­ly being ful­filled: The senior min­is­ter of Ebe­neez­er Bap­tist Church in Atlanta, the pul­pit of Mar­tin Luther King Senior and Mar­tin Luther King Junior, now sits as a U.S. Sen­a­tor from Georgia.

Sen­a­tor Raphael Warnock is a top Repub­li­can tar­get this Novem­ber and was in Seat­tle on Sun­day for a brief fundrais­ing for­ay. Such are the man’s respon­si­bil­i­ties, as sen­a­tor and pas­tor, that the event for givers was repeat­ed­ly post­poned, but final­ly held on a drop-dead gor­geous day at a home on Lake Washington.

Senator Raphael Warnock makes a reelection pitch
Sen­a­tor Raphael Warnock explains how the Unit­ed States would ben­e­fit from an expand­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Sen­ate major­i­ty and con­tin­ued Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­trol of the U.S. House (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“I’m on to you: You tell the rest of the coun­try it’s dark out here and rains all the time,” joked Warnock.

Preach­ers begin with humor, but Warnock got serious.

The senator-reverend’s way of thank­ing donors was to raise spir­its of what remains pos­si­ble in this coun­try, and the role of an enlight­ened gov­ern­ment in mak­ing that possible.

He grew up the son of an auto mechan­ic in pub­lic hous­ing as the eleventh of twelve children.

He cred­its the Upward Bound pro­gram with get­ting him col­lege ready and cred­its Pell Grants and stu­dent loans with allow­ing him to attend More­house College.

He would go on to earn a master’s degree and doc­tor­ate in phi­los­o­phy from Union The­o­log­i­cal Seminary.

Over thir­ty years lat­er, after a spe­cial elec­tion put two Geor­gia Democ­rats in the Sen­ate, and flipped con­trol, Warnock found him­self in the White House, plead­ing with Pres­i­dent Biden for stu­dent loan forgiveness.

Biden decid­ed to offer $10,000 in relief, but Warnock believes he helped per­suade our 46th pres­i­dent to raise relief to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.

The theme of his remarks on Sun­day: Pub­lic office allows you to work at close quar­ters to make good things hap­pen. The Unit­ed States expe­ri­ences “a pover­ty not of resources but of moral imag­i­na­tion,” Warnock argued, and is “a nation that has neglect­ed itself.” Exam­ples: creaky water sys­tems in minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties, and a lack of broad­band access for many of the nation’s poor.

The 2022 elec­tion, said Warnock, will make a mas­sive difference.

Democ­rats in the Sen­ate suc­ceed­ed in putting a Child Tax Cred­it into Biden’s Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, to which Warnock attrib­ut­es a forty per­cent reduc­tion in child pover­ty. A Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled Con­gress would extend it.

The Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act put a $2,000 cap on drug costs to seniors.

Medicare can now nego­ti­ate drug prices with Big Pharma.

The bill also capped costs for seniors on insulin. “If we can hold my seat and get a cou­ple more, we can cap insulin costs for every­body,” said Warnock.

“I’m here because we have more to do,” said Warnock.

Seattle crowd listens to Senator Raphael Warnock
An upbeat crowd turned out on a gor­geous, sun­ny Sun­day morn­ing in Seat­tle to sup­port Sen­a­tor Warnock (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The sen­a­tor stressed par­tic­u­lars, what Democ­rats have man­aged to accom­plish in a Sen­ate divid­ed 50–50 with Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris show­ing up to break ties.

But Warnock backed up to sur­vey the big pic­ture, dwelling on two days in win­ter. The dual Sen­ate runoff elec­tions in Geor­gia held on Jan­u­ary 5th, 2021 were neces­si­tat­ed by a state law requir­ing win­ing can­di­dates to get fifty per­cent of the vote.

The Repub­li­cans (David Per­due and Kel­ly Loef­fler) had come out ahead in the Novem­ber vote, but both fell short of a majority.

Wall-to-wall TV com­mer­cials sat­u­rat­ed local Geor­gia TV chan­nels in Decem­ber. Don­ald Trump came to Geor­gia, sup­pos­ed­ly to boost Per­due and Loef­fler, but main­ly to attack Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. Elec­tion Day saw Warnock and Jon Ossoff win both Sen­ate seats from the Peachtree State. Warnock was elect­ed to fill out an unex­pired term, so he had to turn around and run again this year.

“We got the last laugh but we’ve been doing the work for a long time,” said Warnock. Fly­ing to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., he was del­uged with net­work inter­views, jok­ing: “I knew I had arrived when I went on ‘The View’ with Whoopi Goldberg.”

It was, of course, Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021, with a mob assem­bled at the White House, hear­ing fiery speech­es from Don­ald Trump and e‑New York May­or Rudy Giu­liani, and then march­ing on the U.S. Capi­tol to which Warnock and Ossoff had just been sent to serve. The insur­rec­tion and bid to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion remains a chill­ing episode in the Amer­i­can experience.

We will, and should, nev­er for­get Jan­u­ary 6th. But Warnock chal­lenged his lis­ten­ers to remem­ber what hap­pened in Geor­gia on Jan­u­ary 5th.

A state once the bas­tion of seg­re­ga­tion, home to seg­re­ga­tion­ist strate­gists Sen­a­tors Richard Rus­sell and Her­man Tal­madge, sent an African-Amer­i­can and a young Jew­ish guy to rep­re­sent them in the world’s great­est delib­er­a­tive body.

“We are a Jan­u­ary 6th nation, and we are a Jan­u­ary 5th nation,” said Warnock.

“We must choose who we are.”

Such are the stakes in 2022.

Warnock did not men­tion his Repub­li­can foe Her­schel Walk­er, a Trump-backed ultra MAGA Repub­li­can who has lied about his edu­ca­tion, his busi­ness record, his char­i­ta­ble dona­tions and even the num­ber of chil­dren he has sired (while cham­pi­oning what he says are fam­i­ly values).

Trump is unleash­ing mon­ey from his warch­est to back Walker.

“2022 is going to be the moment we save our democ­ra­cy,” ex‑U.S. Ambas­sador to Switzer­land Suzie LeVine said in urg­ing the assem­bled crowd to give more.

On the Sen­ate floor, just before the vote to con­firm the coun­try’s newest U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice, Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son, Warnock and Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er, D.-New Jer­sey, were talk­ing to Vice Pres­i­dent Harris.

“She would not even be sit­ting here (for con­fir­ma­tion)” if Repub­li­cans still con­trolled the place, the Vice Pres­i­dent told them.

She chal­lenged Warnock to write a let­ter to his two daugh­ters, explain­ing what was being accom­plished that day, con­fir­ma­tion of the first African Amer­i­can woman to serve on the high court.

Har­ris pulled out paper to which Warnock put pen.

He had made a dif­fer­ence, and on a bright and sun­ny Sun­day, reflect­ed: “Leg­is­la­tion at the end of the day is a let­ter to your children.”

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Adjacent posts