There is a famous joke that twists the trope, “snatching victory from the jaws of defeat,” into its opposite. In the joke, through bad decisions, poor planning, or disastrous execution, hapless people have been said to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” That may be what is happening in the twin Georgia Senate runoffs.
I’m a native Georgian. Although I’ve lived in many different places, I grew up in the Peach State and returned there several years ago. I watched the state shift from a purely Democratic bastion to the red state that it is today. It wasn’t that long ago that Democrats dominated rural Georgia and Republicans couldn’t get elected dogcatcher. You may remember well-known and respected moderate Democrats such as Sam Nunn and Zell Miller, not to mention Jimmy Carter, from that era. Of course, now Georgia is the polar opposite of those days in partisan terms. If you go outside the urban areas, Democratic elected officials are hard to find.
I say this to point out that neither party should assume that its hold on a state’s voters. When a party starts taking its voters for granted, it leaves open the possibility that the opposition can pick off disenchanted moderates and independents.
That brings me to the Georgia Senate runoffs. The race so far is being dominated, not by a discussion of what a Democrat-controlled Senate might do under President Biden, but by a debate over whether Democrats stole the election, not only in Georgia, but in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
President Trump’s claims that the election was rigged have angered Republicans, but, when it comes to proof that will stand up in court, the reality has not matched the hype. The president’s legal team has an appalling 2-40 record on post-election lawsuits and has not prevented any of these close states from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of their electoral votes. Despite the shortage of actual red meat under all the sizzle of fraud claims, a large share of Republicans believe that the election was stolen.
This could be problematic for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in two ways. First, it puts their Republican base out of step with the rest of the electorate. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that, although 52 percent of Republicans believe that Trump “rightfully won” the election, 73 percent of all voters acknowledge that Biden won.
That puts the Republican incumbents in a difficult position. If they campaign on their strongest argument, that Democrats should not have control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they alienate Republicans who believe that Trump won and will find a way to prove it. If they argue that Trump won the election, they appear detached from reality to the majority of voters. This is the majority of voters who, by the way, just gave Georgia’s electoral votes to Joe Biden and who may well dislike having their senators try to overturn the will of the people.
I fall into this category. I wrote back in October that I was voting for Joe Biden even though I am a conservative and was a lifelong Republican until 2016. However, I’m no Democrat and preferred that Republicans retain control of the Senate to block any radical progressive agenda that Joe Biden attempted to force through.
Now, I’m finding myself in the position once again where I have to hold my nose to vote for either side. On the one hand, I oppose Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s liberal platforms. On the other hand, it’s a big turnoff when David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler attack Georgia’s secretary of state and provide no evidence that will stand up in court of foul play to tip the election to Biden.
The stolen election rhetoric is so heated that I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually triggers violence of some form. Some of the president’s supporters have openly called for martial law or threatened civil war. Already election workers have received threats, prompting Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia elections official to lambast Republicans for taking the fraud claims “too far” in a diatribe that is reminiscent of Joseph Welch asking Joe McCarthy, “Have you no decency?”
If the unsupported allegations turn to violence, I will have a very hard time voting for any Republican who has not stood up to tell the truth. The truth, according to Attorney General Bill Barr, a Trump appointee, is that “We have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
The second problem for Perdue and Loeffler is that the conspiracy theories may depress their own base’s turnout in the runoffs. There is a movement among Trump supporters on Parler to either boycott the runoffs or to write in Donald Trump. At the same time, Democrats are talking about relocating voters to Georgia ahead of the registration date for the special election. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out which party would gain a net advantage from these strategies.
The boycott idea is being pushed by Trump attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell. Interestingly, it was recently revealed that Wood is a long-time supporter of Democrats who votes in the Democratic primary.
Things that make you go “hmm.”
While President Trump has voiced support for Perdue and Loeffler, his attacks on other Georgia Republicans and the integrity of the election make it difficult for the two candidates to carve out common ground in the middle between Republicans angry about the election results and other Georgians who are angry that Republicans are trying to overturn the election results. These factors might combine in a way that allows Democrats to pull off a squeaker victory in one or both of the Senate races.
As a conservative, I would hate to see Democrats with unfettered control of Congress and the White House. I would also hate to see candidates be rewarded for trying to steal an election, which is what President Trump’s legal broadsides amount to. That leaves me with a difficult choice in the runoff between the liberals or the coup attempt. If those are the choices, I might just stay home.
If enough voters feel the way I do, then Georgia Republicans might go the way of Georgia Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s. Party affiliation is not permanent and Georgia’s changing demographics have already made several recent statewide races very close.
The best way for Republicans to handle the runoffs is to convince President Trump to stand down and call off his dogs. It might be necessary to take his phone away (a ploy that might have changed the outcome of the election if it was attempted two years ago). More Republicans need to follow the example of Gabriel Sterling and say that it is not right to threaten public officials and it is not right to refuse to accept the results of the election.
If the Georgia runoffs are a referendum on the Democratic agenda, then Republicans will win. If Republicans turn the elections into a referendum on whether the presidential election was stolen, then they may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
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