Georgia Republicans Wise Up on Trump
Primary voters turn the page on the "stop the steal" nonsense
January 5, 2021 was very rough day for the Republican party. Having lost the U.S. presidency just two months earlier to Joe Biden, the GOP’s prospects of retaining control of the U.S. Senate went down in flames in Georgia, when both incumbent Republican senators — David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — unexpectedly lost their runoff races to Democratic opponents.
I say “unexpectedly,” but the fate of those seats, initially projected to be easy Republican wins (both Perdue and Loeffler had led in the general-election vote counts), started to come into question a few weeks earlier. President Trump had ratcheted up his false claim that his Georgia loss to Biden was the result of a rigged election system, and he very publicly set his sights on Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (both Republicans), pressuring them to do whatever it took to overturn the results.
Kemp and Raffensperger, much to their credit, weathered the pressure (which included numerous threats against them and their families from irate Trump supporters). They held firm to the law, and maintained the integrity of Georgia’s voting system. Unfortunately, enough Republican voters had bought into Trump’s "rigged election” narrative that a significant number of them declined to participate in the runoff election. The result was disastrous for the party. The GOP lost both Senate seats to the Democrats, and with them, the Republican majority they had in the U.S. Senate.
Joe Biden, empowered and emboldened by his party controlling both branches of Congress, went on to pursue a far more progressive agenda than anything he could have hoped for had Mitch McConnell remained Senate Majority Leader. Over those same two years, Trump has made it his mission (sometimes referred to as a “revenge tour”) to unseat Republican officials who stood in the way of his efforts to steal the election. Kemp and Raffensperger topped that list, with Trump often labeling them “RINOs”, “cowards”, and “turncoats”.
Trump recruited David Perdue (yes, the same guy whose Senate seat Trump lost) and endorsed Jody Hice. Both were effectively single-issue “Stop the Steal” candidates who ran respectively against Kemp and Raffensperger in this week’s GOP Georgia primary. The contests promised to be good indicators, outside of crowded and open primaries, of just how influential Trump still is in the Republican party… as well as how many Republicans are still buying his fraudulent election claims.
The answer, at least in Georgia, was devastating for the former president.
Kemp absolutely crushed Perdue, more than tripling the challenger’s votes. Raffensperger won by an impressive margin as well, avoiding a runoff election.
“Georgia Republicans have spoken about how they feel about Trump,” said Saxby Chambliss, former two-term Republican Senator from Georgia.
“The vast majority of Georgians are looking for honest people in elected office,” Raffensperger said in his victory speech. “I think people are tired of the lying and bickering, and they’re tired of the incompetence.”
Georgia-based conservative commentator Erick Erickson expressed similar sentiment last night, tweeting, “Georgia Republicans do like Trump, but they're tired of his bullshit and want to move on.”
There’s an old saying we’ve all heard before: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
On Tuesday, Georgia Republicans decided they weren’t going to be fooled twice. They rewarded officials for standing up for election integrity, and the state will be better off for it.
Let’s hope Republicans in other states have learned a similar lesson.