Georgia’s Two “Political Pariahs” Now Seen as Tenacious Wise Men

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OPINION —

Two state constitutional officers in Georgia had the gumption to challenge President Donald Trump over the electoral fraud he was claiming in late 2020. These men faced political oblivion after rejecting Trump’s corrupt overtures. So said political writers the nation over. One of these men was even described as having “not even a prayer” of being reelected.

Look at them now, after the 2022 midterm elections. They were not only reelected but redeemed. Brad Raffensperger kept his job as Georgia secretary of state, and Brian Kemp received four more years as governor. Other Republicans, such as former Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin have faced Trump’s ire, too. But Raffsenperger and Kemp even faced death threats from Trump supporters.

At a Nov. 7 press conference in Columbus, Georgia, I asked Kemp how much state-to-state cooperation he had with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. He praised our governor for her leadership with joint economic development and “water wars” issues. He said that over his four years as governor, he and Ivey have had a “tremendous relationship” in finding solutions to issues.

I mention this because Kemp and Trump had a strained relationship while Ivey and Trump tended to agree on most issues. It is commendable for Ivey to put aside the rancor most Republicans had for Kemp (in 2020). Instead, she worked with Kemp as she had before the rupture between Trump and Georgia’s governor. That means Ivey and Kemp work well with someone even though they disagree on other topics. That’s a talent all of us should learn.

“We should be consistent with the things we do, so that others will know they can count on us,” said Sterling W. Sill (1903-1994), a leading figure in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “More important, we want to able to count on ourselves. The greatest pain is to have to disappoint one’s self.”

Many politicians think loyalty is meant to be infallible or forever. That’s not true. When an act is morally or legally wrong, loyalty should not drive you to defend indefensible actions. The two Georgia conservatives took on the most powerful in today’s Republican Party.

Amazingly, the governor and secretary of state not only survived, but thrived. Keeping faithful to the laws and the country is unappreciated in these politically “tribal” times. We can only hope that 2020 election deniers who were sent packing on Nov. 8 will understand that keeping such beliefs are counter-productive. Several candidates did renounce those lies, such as Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Don Bolduc in New Hampshire.

Post-election, Raffensperger’s fellow Republicans, U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, issued a statement accusing him of unknown “failures” and calling for his resignation. The senators offered no evidence in support of their claims, which they made after pressure from Trump, who promoted conspiracy theories and falsely said the election had been rigged. An AP story was shocking, with “Trump, on tape, pressures Ga. official to ‘find’ him votes.”

 Carl Bernstein, who broke the Watergate scandal in 1972 with Bob Woodward, called the Trump–Raffensperger scandal “far worse than Watergate.” He said that in any other presidency Trump’s actions would get him impeached, convicted and facing bipartisan calls for him to resign. I note as well that by 2020, political politicization and far-right media were so powerful that the conservative side carried much weight in arguments and investigations.

 “The devil is after me today!” said attorney L. Lin Wood in an April 27, 2020, statement. “The Fulton County DA attacks me as you can see from the email below to my attorney, demanding I testify before the ‘Trump Witch Hunt’ grand jury!”

He was a secondary player in the 2020 election fraud investigation. He became known in the 1990s by defending 1996 Olympics security guard Richard Jewell in a defamation case.

 In March 28, almost four months after the 2020 presidential election, political strategists in Georgia wrote that Raffensperger already had a 2022 primary challenger. Plus, the state legislature was severing some of his official powers as secretary of state. Both Raffensperger and Kemp were very unpopular with many Republicans.

“He’s toast,” said Jay Williams, a Georgia-based Republican strategist. “I don’t know that there’s a single elected official who would put their neck out for Brad Raffensperger right now.”

I wonder where this strategist is now, as the secretary of state and governor of Georgia will be installed on Jan. 9, 2023. And, lo and behold, they will have the same name as the incumbent ones.

Greg Markley moved to Lee County in 1996. He has a master’s in education from AUM and a master’s in history from Auburn University. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to The Observer since 2011. He writes on politics, education and books. gm.markley@charter.net

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