OK, RITOOs (Republicans in Trump’s Orbit Only), what’s next? Planning on sitting out November’s general election in a funk so that Democrats can elect Stacey Abrams governor and give Georgia four or perhaps eight years of left-leaning policies? If so, you will deserve every bill passed, every act ratified, every liberal gubernatorial appointment made to every department, board and agency in our state. And trust me, that is a lot.
Please feel free to yell RINO (Republican in Name Only) at any point in this treatise. In the meantime, let me share a few observations with you.
First, all of Donald Trump’s candidates, save two, were waxed and left for roadkill in the Republican primary. Trump’s two main targets, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger easily won without a runoff. Kemp beat former Sen. David Perdue by more than 50 points (!) while Raffensperger defeated Cong. Jody Hice with a nearly 20-point lead.
Down ticket, Trump-endorsed candidates for insurance commissioner and attorney general were soundly defeated. His two wins were State Sen. Burt Jones, who beat Gainesville Sen. Butch Miller to get the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, and Herschel Walker, who easily won the Republican nomination for the United States Senate.
Admittedly, the Republican winners were bolstered by 37,000-plus Democrats who voted in the open primary. That may have helped Raffensperger avoid a runoff but Kemp kicked tail without them.
So, what happened? Several things. Let’s start with the 2020 presidential election. News flash: It is over. Done. Finished. Most people are tired of hearing about it. It is time to move on.
Why are Republicans so terrified of Donald Trump? If he was so all-fired popular with American voters the election would never have been close enough to question the outcome. Ronald Reagan, my all-time favorite president (along with Harry Truman) won reelection in 1984 running against a Joe Biden-lookalike named Walter Mondale with almost 60% of the vote (58.8%, to be precise). He carried 49 states (Mondale barely won his home state of Minnesota and also carried D.C.) and 525 of 538 electoral votes.
Why? He made us feel good about ourselves as Americans. He didn’t insult people. He didn’t polarize people. I don’t ever remember hearing the term RINO in the Reagan era.
And he was effective. Regan and liberal Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill would engage in serious hand-to-hand political combat all day (Reagan usually won) and in the evening they would get together and share an adult beverage. Those were the days. If my mail is any indication, a lot of long-time conservative Republicans don’t like Donald Trump as a person. They approved of his conservative agenda but not his bullying, his constant insults (his petulant comments about the death of Gen. Colin Powell were totally unnecessary and off-putting) and his hyperbole.
Another interesting theory was advanced to me by a leader among Georgia Republicans back when Trump was doling out campaign contributions to Kamala Harris’ campaign for attorney general of California. He says Trump’s mistake was telling Georgians how to vote.
A history lesson: In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt was frustrated at the U.S. Supreme Court for declaring many of his New Deal programs unconstitutional. He proposed packing the court with additional justices. Georgia’s senior Sen. Walter George opposed the idea, so Roosevelt recruited U.S. district attorney Lawrence Camp to run against George. Sound familiar?. Despite FDR’s power and influence, Walter George was handily reelected to a third term. The moral? Don’t tell Georgians how to vote. Not then. Not now.
Instead of obsessing over a failed election, Republicans need to focus on 2024. With inflation at a 40-year high and showing no signs of abating, illegal immigrants pouring across our borders (including, I suspect, some terrorists dressed for the part), big government advocates pushing big government programs using our tax dollars and a president who looks at times like he’s not sure where he is, this could be the GOP’s finest hour. But they need to look ahead, not behind. Make friends, not enemies. Broaden the party’s appeal.
In Georgia, hopefully RITOOs will get behind Gov. Brian Kemp and support his reelection campaign and quit fretting about what Donald Trump says or does. Then again, they may choose to sit back and watch Stacey Abrams take over the governor’s office in November and get their precious revenge and her liberal-leaning policies.
Frankly, I’m not sure what they want. I’m not sure they know, either.