On Monday, in a joint statement, Georgia Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue called on their state’s secretary of state to resign, arguing that there have been “too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems.”
The public denunciation and request for termination was remarkable for a couple of reasons. Not only did the senators fail to provide specific evidence supporting their claims, but Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, is a fellow Republican.
There certainly has been some electoral drama in Georgia over the past week, but not so much with the voting process. Sure, like everywhere else in the country, huge turnout amounted to long lines and a few problems at individual polling places, but it was nothing of particular note or consequence.
The real drama has been political. Georgia is a traditionally red state, but President Trump lost there by over 12,000 votes (they’re still being counted, but Trump’s loss is only widening). Additionally, while the Republican Senate candidates (which included both Loeffler and Perdue) outperformed their Democratic opponents (and also Trump), none of them reached Georgia’s 50% threshold required to win. Thus, there will be a runoff election in January, where the Republican incumbents will face their individual Democratic opponents in one-on-one contests, with a majority in the U.S. Senate on the line.
“Georgians are outraged,” Loeffler and Perdue included in their statement, and on that they’re right… at least among those who really wanted Trump to remain president. But without evidence pointing to these alleged “many failures” supposedly attributable to Raffensperger, it’s pretty clear that the angst is coming from the efforts of President Trump (along with his toadies in the conservative media) who has been doing everything he can to stoke doubt in the election results (something he’s been doing since even before election night), by alleging mass corruption.
Unfortunately, Trump’s endeavor has been rhetorically effective not only in Georgia, but throughout the country. In fact, new polling suggests that 7 out of 10 Republicans voters believe the election was not free and fair.
To be clear, voting problems occur in every election. So does voter fraud, to a very small extent. Yet, as conservative commentator Erick Erickson pointed out the other day, it almost never rises to the level of affecting the outcomes of even very local races, and there hasn’t been evidence of anything unique or systemic in this year’s election.
Back to Georgia…
Anger and distrust without evidence of wrongdoing isn’t grounds for a state’s highest-ranking election official to resign. Such sentiment apparently is grounds, however, for two GOP incumbent senators scoring points with President Trump, and throwing one of their own to the MAGA wolves in hopes of it generating an extra bump for them in the runoff election.
One would think that once Trump is gone from office (early next year), a lot of these tasteless, tribal political stunts would fall by the wayside. It stands to reason that Republican leaders who’ve debased themselves for the president’s ego, political standing, and tribal lock on the party for the past four years would rediscover some independence, and perhaps even return to some of the prior ideological principles that got them elected in the first place. But a recent (and sobering) interview with former RNC chairman and White House Chief of Staff for Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, suggests otherwise.
Speaking to The Dispatch’s Stephen Hayes on Monday, Priebus made no bones about the GOP remaining beholden to Donald Trump, even after the president has left office.
“I think, in the near future, Republican leadership is going to have to be Trump acceptable,” said Priebus. “In other words, there is not going to be immediate leadership within the Republican party that Donald Trump doesn’t find to be an acceptable person to be a leader of a particular… whether it be the Senate, the House… They have to be acceptable to Donald Trump if they’re going to be able to survive in this Republican party.”
Priebus qualified his remarks by pointing out how popular Trump is within the party, despite many Republicans, who ran for congress this year, outperforming Trump on the ballot.
When pressed by Hayes to define what the Republican Party currently stands for, beyond deference to Trump, Priebus had some trouble iterating a vision, ultimately settling on past GOP tenets like “limited government” and “morals.” Hayes rightly pushed back on the narrative, citing Trump-era spending levels ($7 trillion added to the national debt) and the extensive moral allowances Republicans have made for the president.
On the issue of the national debt, and how it was the driving force behind much of the GOP’s efforts against President Obama over eight years (before completely disappearing under Trump), Preibus made a glaring — I would say astonishing — admission.
“On both sides of the aisle, it’s a big lie,” said Preibus, referring to concerns over the national debt. “People don’t want to tackle debt and deficits, because they really don’t want to tackle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. You know that. Everyone in congress says, ‘Oh we’re going to get rid of the debt. We’re going to get rid of the deficit.’ It’s been going on since I was a teenager, we’ve been talking about this… No one wants to get serious about it, because they really don’t want to do what you actually have to do to get that kind of spending curve under control. It isn’t going to happen. It will happen when things get so bad that no one’s going to know what to do about it.”
Preibus alluded to that event being a debt crisis, which he described as inevitable. He even went as far as saying that the elected representatives who’ve sounded the alarm on the national debt (a Tea Party fueled, GOP war cry during the Obama years that earned the GOP a ton of congressional seats) are basically full of crap.
“I find it to be the most insincere, hypocritical, commentary… from politics in general… I don’t think there are three or four people that actually believe it enough to do anything about it. Believing it, and doing something are two different things. I think we’re going to face a major problem in the country in 20 years.”
Preibus did concede that one of the very few people who actually did believe in what he was saying about spending and the debt, and risked a lot of political capital to actually do something about it, was Paul Ryan.
Ryan, as we all know, was essentially chased out of the Republican party for not being sufficiently loyal to President Trump.
In summary, if one is to believe what Preibus says, the GOP has effectively washed its hands of any premise of fiscal responsibility, and Republican voters just need to accept that. Also (as has been further demonstrated by the conduct of people like Loeffler and Perdue), the party’s leadership, for the foreseeable future, is completely reliant on (and must remain loyal to) the instincts and ego of a single individual who won’t even be in public office in a little over two months.
If Trumpism truly is the path forward for Republicans, even after Donald Trump was decisively voted out of office last week, I can’t think of a more abysmal testament to the glaring weaknesses, spinelessness, and lack of vision of the Grand Old Party.