In a new turn in this ugly saga, Georgia Republicans are now actively pleading with Trump to put an end to this problem for them. But what’s even more darkly absurd is how they’re going about doing this: They apparently do not believe that they themselves can explain to voters that the voting was actually legitimate in their own state — until Trump gives them permission to do so.
Two new pieces — one from the New York Times and the other from The Post — neatly capture all this depravity. The Times reports that Republicans are “quietly rattled” that Trump’s lies will “depress turnout,” and it’s gotten so bad that an adviser to one of the GOP senators running for reelection is speaking out:
“You can’t say the system is rigged but elect these two senators,” said Eric Johnson, a campaign adviser to Kelly Loeffler, one of the G.O.P. Senate candidates, and a former Republican leader of the Georgia Senate. “At some point he either drops it or he says I want everybody to vote and get their friends to vote so that the margins are so large that they can’t steal it.”
Tellingly, this Republican is suggesting that Trump should either quietly let the matter drop, or keep saying his loss was fraudulent but voters should turn out anyway, to drive up margins beyond the ability of Democrats to steal the Senate elections.
What cannot be suggested, of course, is that Trump should simply tell the truth to voters: The voting in Georgia and his loss in the state were entirely legitimate, and Republican voters can rest assured that the votes were, and will be, counted accurately. Instead, Trump is being offered a way to keep up his lies about the election being fraudulent, but one that won’t depress GOP turnout.
This is also notable because Kelly Loeffler herself — a United States senator, last we checked — continues to parrot the same lies. Loeffler and fellow GOP Sen. David Perdue have called for the Republican secretary of state in Georgia to resign for the crime of doing his official duty and certifying Trump’s loss as legitimate.
Loeffler defended this stance on Fox News as follows:
“The buck stops with the secretary of state. He is supposed to run a trusted, free, fair, transparent election. David Perdue and I have called for him to step down because Georgians have lost faith in our elections.”
To recap: Loeffler’s own adviser is calling on Trump to stop telling Republican voters that they can’t have faith in Georgia’s electoral system — even as Loeffler herself is telling them the same thing. Loeffler apparently can’t stop telling this lie until Trump stops telling it — even though Republicans fear it will hurt their chances.
Separately, The Post reports on still another tangle of pathologies here. Neither Loeffler nor Perdue has conceded that Trump lost the election. But this is creating a problem for them, because they want to sell their candidacies to Republican voters as a check on a Joe Biden presidency.
The rub is that they can’t really do this. Why? Because they’re not allowed to so much as hint that Biden might have won the election, because that angers Trump voters:
Again, the ugly dynamic exposed here is that telling the plain truth to Republican voters — that the voting in Georgia and Trump’s loss there were legitimate — is simply not permitted.
GOP strategist Liam Donovan recently got to the core of the problem: Untold numbers of Trump voters trust him more than they trust Republicans. When Trump tells them the election was stolen, they not only believe it; they also think GOP leaders will betray them on this point as well. Trump has told them for years that all our institutions are corrupt; that only he is the arbiter of reality, and only he should be the focal point of their political aspirations.
Now Republicans believe this is backfiring on them and are pleading with Trump to release them from this toxic dynamic. But he isn’t in any mood to do that:
Indeed, as CNN’s Ronald Brownstein aptly notes, all this is comparable to the 1950s. Just as Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s lies about communist subversion grew more wildly implausible, Trump is now implicating the “deep state” and more and more GOP governors in his invented conspiracy to steal the election from him. Now, as then, GOP leaders are largely silent:
As Trump’s charges have grown more and more untethered and vitriolic, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other top GOP legislators in both chambers — not to mention the vast majority of Republican governors — have raised not a peep of dissent.
However, in this case Republicans themselves have spent years plying GOP voters with lies about fraud, to justify all manner of voter suppression directed at the other side, as I recount in my book.
It’s not clear whether this will end up costing Republicans one or both Senate races. It probably won’t: The lie that the election was stolen from Trump might actually juice GOP turnout, which would validate the wholesale delegitimization of our electoral system as a mobilization tactic, with unsettling future implications.
But it’s a temporary form of poetic justice that Republicans themselves fear that Trump’s much more grotesque version of the voter-suppression lie they’ve told for years is threatening to discourage their own voters. It would be amusing if it all weren’t so toxic and destructive to democracy.
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