If you can, carve out some time on Saturday to watch the doings in Georgia. A whole barnload of Trump chickens are winging their way home. If they roost just right, Mitch McConnell could lose majority control of the Senate in January, and he and his brigade of calculating Republican lickspittles will only have themselves to blame.
It is, of course, a long shot. Incumbent GOP Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are locked in a dual runoff in Georgia against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The vote is slated for January 5. Thanks to a monumental grassroots effort by progressive activists like Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s presidential vote flipped to the Democrats for the first time since Bill Clinton pulled it off in 1992. Now all of that energy is focused on these runoffs, and the state has become a fulcrum point at a moment freighted with COVID, climate crisis and economic calamity.
Democrats have not fared well in Georgia runoffs over the years. Adding to the challenge, they must win both contests in order to flip control of the Senate. The stakes are enormous; with a friendly House and Senate, Joe Biden could embark upon a truly ambitious slate of policies and clean the Augean stables of the Trumpian filth that has piled up over the last four years. It would be a catastrophic rebuke to Trump, McConnell and the entire GOP to lose these seats, and more importantly, to lose control of the ruinous agenda McConnell has pursued with venomous efficiency for almost 15 years.
In an irony so luxurious I want to roll in it like a dog, Republicans are becoming increasingly terrified that they will lose those seats, and all because of Donald Trump. The soon-to-be ex-president has handled his loss to Biden about as well as a spoiled child who got nothing but broccoli for Christmas — the tree is on fire, the bulbs are all smashed and the screaming just will not stop.
At the core of Trump’s ceaseless tirade is the repeatedly debunked claim that the entire election was rigged against him by a network of conspirators that includes (no really) Bill Barr’s FBI and Justice Department, the Republican governor of Georgia, the nation of Germany and the ghost of Hugo Chavez. He and his people have been so adamant and persistent in promoting this bag of nonsense that swaths of his devoted supporters have come to embrace these theories, if you’ll pardon the sacrilege, as the gospel truth.
But wait: It gets better. A goodly portion of that devoted base, after taking to heart Trump’s claims of a rigged vote, have decided Perdue and Loeffler have been less than devoted to the cause of flipping the election away from Biden, and may actually be complicit in Trump’s defeat. Since they already believe the vote in Georgia is clearly rigged anyway (see: Dem flip back in November), members of Trump’s base are actively calling for a conservative voter boycott of the January 5 runoff.
“Driven by Trump’s insistence that Georgia’s elections are indelibly rife with fraud, conspiratorial MAGA figures are calling for a boycott of the two Senate runoff races, slated for Jan. 5, that will determine which party controls the upper chamber,” reports Politico. “Their reason: The two GOP candidates, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, are not only insufficiently pro-Trump, they may be complicit in Georgia’s electoral fraud.”
Over the last several days, Trump has done zero favors for his fellow Republicans in the matter of Georgia. He denounced Georgia’s uber-Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for being “hapless” after Kemp followed the law to the letter and certified Biden’s victory in that state. Trump labeled Georgia’s uber-Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger an “enemy of the people,” and now Raffensperger has bodyguards.
… and now, Trump is slated to visit Georgia on Saturday so he can “help” his fellow Republicans in these runoffs. What will he say when he meets with Kemp and Raffensperger? When confronted by one of his beloved adulation mobs containing supporters who want to boycott the vote in January, will Trump be able to restrain himself? Or will he, overtly or otherwise, bless their endeavors to avoid saying anything that disrupts his ersatz narrative of total victory?
There’s a real possibility that Trump the arsonist could once again go for the kerosene and the matches, if only to hear the cheers as the flames burn his party to the ground. Any network coverage of his visit there this weekend is appointment television.
“The Trump wing of the Republican Party was always at risk of detaching from the party establishment,” notes The Washington Post. “Trump is such a singular figure in U.S. politics, few if any can emulate him. He’s just willing to say things that get certain voters riled up that other politicians won’t. That’s the crux of the problem Georgia Republicans face.”
It’s not just the Georgia Republicans, either. Trump’s defeat has broken the GOP in half, with one side represented by Trump, his base, and all the shabby Republicans too afraid to cross them. On the other side are McConnell and his cohort of establishment Republicans who watch now with growing dread as the beast they created, coddled and fed now threatens to lay waste to all their works.
This civil war is also playing out in the conservative media. One of Trump’s most visited targets of late has been Fox News, a network that hauled a Pacific Ocean of water for Trump over the years. Fox inspired Trump’s undying wrath when it put Arizona in Biden’s corner on election night. The network since has, very slowly, come to acknowledge Biden’s eventual presidency.
The Trump believers have taken his cue and shunned Fox News by massive numbers, flocking instead to far-right fringe networks like One America News and Newsmax TV, where Trump’s version of election reality is promoted with inspired vigor. After all, there’s money to be made off of people who will believe anything.
Fear of the ultimate consequences from this deliberately inflicted mayhem was given voice by yet another Georgia official. Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for the state of Georgia, begged Trump and his people to stop tearing up the landscape before someone truly and irrevocably gets hurt. “This has to stop,” Sterling said on Tuesday. “Someone is going to get hurt. Someone is going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right. It’s not right.”
There is no way to say how this will all play out, and betting odds still favor the GOP to win at least one of those Georgia runoffs. Trump will make that easier or harder on Saturday. I will say this much, however: If Trump’s poor-loser shenanigans lead to a double-barreled GOP defeat in Georgia, all forms of hell are going to break loose within that party.
In the interim, the next time you see a “Dems in Disarray” news report because progressive House members have a legitimate beef with Biden’s cabinet appointments, do what I do: Look to the mayhem on the right side of the aisle, smile and shake your head. “Disarray,” clearly, is also in the eye of the beholder.
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