As if there hasn't been enough drama the last six years, there's an interesting phenomenon that is about to occur within the Republican Party, playing out on the main stage of the newly-minted swing state of Georgia.
Though she is still yet to concede her 2018 loss to the Peach State's current Republican Governor Brian Kemp, Democrat activist Stacey Abrams has announced her intention to run again in 2022. But she's not alone. Former Republican Senator David Perdue declared this week that he intends to challenge the incumbent Kemp in the primary, in an effort to ensure Abrams is "Never Governor of Georgia."
It's an odd flex, given that Kemp has already defeated Abrams head-to-head, while Perdue failed to hold off a far less formidable opponent, Jon Ossoff, in a pivotal 2020 Senate race. But that's where all the drama comes in.
Following President Biden's 2020 upset victory in Georgia, former President Trump began making sweeping allegations of voter fraud, including "suitcases or trunks" of illegitimate ballots being brought in, ballots being counted more than once, and ineligible voters casting ballots. Georgia's secretary of state Brad Raffensperger became public enemy #1 to Trump loyalists after the high-ranking Republican "betrayed" the former president by rejecting his verbal request to find enough votes to change the outcome of the race.
Governor Kemp sided with Raffensperger, saying that there was no evidence of the kind of massive voter fraud that would be necessary to overturn the election. Incidentally, President Trump's attorney general Bill Barr would agree with Kemp and Raffensperger, as would Georgia's top Republican election official Gabriel Sterling, who meticulously presented an explanation to counter each of Trump's objections.
Trump took these responses from the state's leading Republicans as a mixture of cowardice and betrayal, using his bully pulpit to trumpet a two-fold message: 1)The election in Georgia had been "rigged" against him, and 2) Anyone, like Kemp, who disagreed was corrupt and complicit.
This public feud put Senator David Perdue in a precarious position. If he sided with Kemp, Barr, Sterling, and Raffensperger, he would anger and alienate the legions of Trump supporters in the state – supporters he needed to defeat Ossoff in the imminent runoff election. If, however, he sided with Trump, he was essentially saying to his would-be supporters, "It doesn't matter if you vote or not, elections here in Georgia are rigged."
He chose the latter, and like clockwork, 427,205 Republicans in Georgia who voted on election day stayed home for the runoff, dooming Perdue and sentencing the rest of the country to Democrat Party control over every elected branch of the federal government.
What's interesting to me is the justification offered by these Republicans who stayed home. Knowing it would put the Democrats in charge, the decision was made based on principle. Participating in the sham election process would only serve to validate the Biden/Democrat steal, they reasoned; and in the long run, election integrity was more important.
The fact that I disagree with their rationale is immaterial. What matters is that so many Trump-supporting Republicans sat out of a pivotal election, not voting Democrat, not voting Republican, not voting at all, because they saw it as the principled thing to do.
So, let's play this current situation in Georgia forward several months. Donald Trump has already weighed in on the upcoming primary face-off, unsurprisingly throwing his support fully behind Perdue, and blaming Kemp for his 2020 loss as well as the two run-off Senate defeats (apparently contending that they were also casualties of Kemp-permitted Democrat voter fraud):
But notice the parenthetical remark Trump makes in his statement. He alleges that a Kemp victory in the primary would be the result of a "rigged" election. Which means, should Kemp emerge victorious and face Abrams in the general election, there's little question that legions of Trump loyalists in Georgia would again refuse to show up and vote. Abrams would thus win, and Trump would claim an "I told ya so."
And again, the action of withholding support from Kemp would be done on the basis of principle – the idea that a Democrat in office is a small price to pay for not prostituting the sanctity of the vote to an unworthy Republican.
What's so astounding about this likely scenario playing out? In both 2016 and 2020, several conservatives took the position that they could not vote for Donald Trump on principle. Despite being told by Trump supporters that the Republican party, the conservative movement, and the country itself couldn't afford the luxury of their principles, these so-called "never-Trumpers" warned that Trumpism was a dangerous cult of personality – one that would fracture the party and movement sooner or later. Their principles wouldn't let them support such a future.
And now here we are, just months away from that very reality unfolding in real time in Georgia. Having condemned never-Trumpers for choosing their principles over the party given the damage it would cause the country, Trump loyalists are likely poised to themselves choose their principles over the party (as they did in the Georgia Senate runoffs) despite the damage it will cause the country.
While the progressive Left is likely fine with this arrangement, I tend to believe it's past time for the Right to distance itself from celebrity politics and choose to again be a movement of ideas that will rally cooperatively around those who exemplify and espouse them.