This week’s Courier Herald column:
“At least he fights.” That’s the popular capitulatory phrase used by supporters of President Donald Trump when they have been boxed in to an admission that the former President’s actions are harmful to the execution of his policies or to the long term standing of the Republican party.
The problem with absolving all actions by expressing the desire to have someone fight is that there’s a fine line in promoting someone to use their power to protect your interests and enabling a bully. It’s hard to determine exactly when this line was crossed, but it was well before Georgia’s “unique” Republican primaries.
They were unique in that this was a battle within the loose federation known as the Georgia GOP. Those at the top of the official party structure remained feckless lest they be booted from national circles, still within the firm grip of the various Trump-related grifting machines. Georgia’s statewide elected officials, from Governor Kemp on down, were largely left to fend off the attacks from within the party themselves.
The downward spiral of purpose for the Georgia GOP did not start with Donald Trump. Once an organization that was quite self-aware that it was and is “the establishment” – a term that means “we won” – it’s become more and more popular within the Georgia GOP to work against their own elected officials.
Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson were booed 15 years ago at the State Republican Convention in Augusta for having the temerity to explain to the crowd what they were doing in Washington to fulfill their elected roles. There were numerous attempts by the body to “censure” Governor Nathan Deal while he was on the way to rebuilding Georgia’s economy after the great recession, addressing Georgia’s last in the nation status in per-capital transportation spending, and remaking Georgia’s criminal justice system from an embarrassment into a national model for both the left and the right.
Some people aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy, and they gather at GOP meetings across the state. They’ve been fed a steady diet of red meat aimed not at the opposing party, but at those within their own party with their sleeves rolled up, doing the hard work and making the tough decisions required in governing.
The 2022 primary season was the logical conclusion to this path. A former President and an admitted sore loser decided to scratch his own anger and stoke that of others by taking on those who had the audacity to move on and govern without him.
Trump decided to fight. It’s what he does.
He came to Georgia twice to declare that Stacey Abrams wouldn’t be much different that Governor Kemp. Republican voters, having lived through the past 3 years, knew better.
They’ve lived through Abram’s grifting campaign that allowed her organization to fundraise by demagoging Georgia’s reformed voting laws as “voter suppression”. Georgia lost the MLB All Star game over it, and received months of negative national press. Georgia’s turnout in the primaries showed record voting numbers for midterm elections.
They’ve lived through a pandemic where Governor Kemp received constant chiding for his actions from the state’s largest media outlets, while those same outlets continued to point to “Emmy winning” Governor Cuomo in New York as the model of what Georgia should be emulating. Governor Kemp sent the Georgia National Guard to assist nursing homes. Cuomo sent infected patients to nursing homes.
Meanwhile, Governor Kemp re-opened Georgia and got our state back to work, again facing criticism. Two years later, the state is experiencing record employment and economic activity.
The state’s economic health has been punctuated in the last few months by not one, but two automobile manufacturers deciding Georgia is the place to be for the industry’s high tech future. Georgia is not only one of the best state’s in the nation to live, but it remains the number one state to do business.
The Friday before the election, many of those attending the announcement that Hyundai would invest over $5 Billion in rural Georgia landed at the same airport while David Perdue was having a rally with former Governor Sarah Palin. The comparison of those who have been working to improve Georgia’s future for Georgians against those who just want to boo and fight could not have been more stark.
One group was standing still making noise. One group was on their way to create jobs.
Donald Trump fought, but so did Governor Kemp. Governor Kemp has had to fight a noisy and permanently disgruntled faction of his own party while fighting a constant and well-coordinated attack on Georgia by Abrams and her allies within large media outlets.
One of those fights was settled on Tuesday. It was Kemp by a knockout.