This story was updated Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at 10 p.m. with more information.
Later this month, Washington, D.C., will be closer to a Democratic one-party town than it's been in awhile — since the first two years of the Obama administration.
Georgia is now a bluish purple state, and as such just voted, in still unofficial tallies, to send both of its incumbent Republican senators home and replace them with two Democratic political novices.
Democrat Raphael Warnock, who upset Sen. Kelly Loeffler, becomes the first Black U.S. senator from the Peach State. And, with Democrat Jon Ossoff's win over Republican Sen. David Perdue, both become the first Democrats elected to the Senate from Georgia in 20 years.
The changes mean the U.S. Senate on Jan. 20 will be evenly split, 50-50, between Republicans and the Democrats — something that has happened in our country only three times, according to The Washington Post.
In 1881, the Senate remained evenly divided for much of its two-year session. In 1954, it happened again — because of a senator's death — but the even split lasted only a few months. And in 2001, the Senate was split 50-50 from January until June.
Who will lead this evenly split Senate? Kamala Harris.
The Constitution makes the vice president the president of the Senate, with the power to cast the decisive vote in cases of a tie.
It seems to us that this will make the Senate — perhaps especially Republicans — a bit more willing to do what we send people there to do: Find some common ground on which to work for us.
At least that's our hope.
But history has some clues about how politicians in the past have fouled those opportunities.
For the time-challenged, the last time great fouling began just about a dozen years ago with Mitch McConnell. It started with the last Democratic trifecta in Washington shortly after Obama took office. McConnell, with other Republicans, famously vowed to make Obama a one-term president.
We see what that brought. Obama was a two-term president, and Americans unhappy with everything that smacked of Washington elected Donald Trump. Now Mitch's man Donald will go down in history as a flawed, stained and one-term, impeached president. It's too bad McConnell didn't take a backseat in the Senate sooner.
But, no, McConnell won't be humbled. It's not in his DNA.
History, however, does offer him (and us) some lessons on power sharing. In 1881 and again in 2001, the two evenly divided parties of the Senate struck deals giving the out-of-power party more leverage than a minority party typically has.
In 2001, top Republican Trent Lott of Mississippi worked out a deal with then-Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. According to the Post, the parties agreed to split committee memberships evenly — instead of overloading them with members of the majority party as usual. They also changed the rules so that, if a committee deadlocked on a bill, the bill could still be brought to a vote on the Senate floor.
"I could have been a horse's rear, and said, 'We have the majority, the hell with you,' And we would have had daily warfare," Lott said at the time.
The "deal" lasted about six months, until Democrats convinced Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont to switch to their caucus. With a new 51-49 majority, Democrats took control.
If we're lucky, and if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are as smart and earnest in their talk of unity as we think they are, they will find ways to make this work. They will find ways to prevent both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party from blowing up every opportunity to set aside power grabs and serve the country.
Cross your fingers.