Opinion – Ross Douthat: The good news in Georgia that is bad news for Trump


This is a column about good news, written in the shadow of the worst news imaginable.

Like many people, the slaughter of children in Uvalde, Texas, is the only thing I’ve read about for days. But as I bathed in horror – and increasingly infuriated by the police reaction – I also became aware of the way our media experience works today, how we are constantly recycled from one crisis to another, each one of them. apparently existential and yet seemingly forgotten as the wheel turns and the headlines change.

Climate change, structural racism, toxic masculinity, online disinformation, gun violence, police violence, the next Trump coup, the latest variant of Covid, the death of democracy, climate change again. This is the progressives’ crisis list; Conservatives are different.

But for everyone there is relatively little chance of recognizing when something really improves. So my column will be about the darkness in Texas and the possible political backlash. I want to acknowledge that in another region of existential turmoil things have improved significantly.

In Georgia, the state at the center of the 45th president’s attempt to challenge the public will and stay in office, there were two Republican primary races that served as referendums for Donald Trump’s request to GOP officials to accompany him through a crisis. Constitution – and in both his candidate lost badly.

The most outstanding race was the battle for the governorship between Brian Kemp and David Perdue, which Kemp won by an extraordinary advantage. But the most important was the Republican primary for secretary of state, in which Brad Raffensperger, a special target of Trump’s violent tactics and later his public enemy, defeated Jody Hice, Trump’s candidate – and without a runoff.

Probably a few Democrat votes helped give him more than 50%, but most of his voters were Republicans who listened to his opponent’s constant rant about election fraud and decided to stick with the guy who stood up to Trump.

Kemp’s victory was expected; Raffensperger’s easy win, minus, and certainly not expected at this time last year. So if you were to indicate that all the Republicans in positions that really mattered after the 2020 election, in various states and agencies, did their jobs and didn’t want to go along with Trump, the usual response was that it could have happened once, but it didn’t. would happen again, because enmity with Trump was a guaranteed career end.

Now that narrative has been blown up, thankfully. Any Republican in key office in a wavering state in 2024 can look at Kemp and Raffensperger and know that they have a future in Republican politics if, in the event of a contested election, they simply do their job.

Additionally, the Georgia primary had a record early vote turnout and no evidence of significant impediments to voting, which imploded a different crisis narrative that dominated the left — and corporate America and the Biden White House — when the state passed new election regulations last year. By this narrative, in trying to address the paranoia of their own electorate, Republicans were essentially taking away electoral rights, even recreating the so-called “Jim Crow” racist laws — “on steroids,” to quote the president.

There was little good evidence for this narrative at the time, and even less evidence in the turnout rate for the Georgia primary, where anticipated voter numbers were higher than in 2020. “Jim Crow on steroids” should be crossed out of the crisis cycle. ; He does not exist.

On the other hand, the Trumpian risk, the risk of electoral subversion and constitutional crisis, still exists. Doug Mastriano’s recent victory in the Pennsylvania primaries proves that, and there may be other nominees in swing states about whom it’s uncertain whether they’ll emulate Kemp and Raffensperger in the H hour.

But the results in Georgia prove that the faction that elevates figures like Mastriano doesn’t have a simple veto in the party. It shows the effectiveness of what could be a “stay and rule” strategy to deal with Trump’s power among Republicans, with broad application as the party heads into 2024.

And it indicates the limits of all-or-nothing thinking that a crisis mentality imposes. I can imagine an alternative timeline in which Raffensperger resigns instead of running for reelection, strikes a deal with MSNBC, turns his follow-up book into a bestseller in the style of so many of the Trump administration, and embraces Biden administration themes to denounce the Georgia’s electoral laws.

Such a timeline would have been unquestionably better for the Raffensperger family’s bank account and would have led many progressives to hail it as a profile of republican courage. But for everyone else — the Georgians, the GOP, the country — that timetable would have been worse. But since he stayed in the party, fought and won, even in a sad week for the US one area of ​​our common life looks a little better, and one of our crises should look a little less terrible.

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