If you want a single fact that neatly captures the stakes of this political moment, you probably can’t do better than this: The Republican Party is pumping millions of dollars into an attack ad in Georgia that spends literally less than one second mentioning the recovery.
The GOP’s attack ads in the Georgia Senate runoffs are detailed in an important new report in The Post. The story provides an illuminating glimpse into many of the deeper pathologies afflicting the GOP, one that illustrates what’s on the line in Georgia with great clarity.
There’s a deep contradiction in the GOP argument in Georgia right now, as the report shows. The two GOP senators campaigning in the runoffs — David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — still refuse to admit that Joe Biden won the presidential election. Vice President Pence, campaigning there on Thursday, insisted that President Trump’s fight for reelection is still alive.
Yet the entire GOP campaign argument is that Perdue and Loeffler must be elected to preserve GOP Senate control as a check on the coming Biden presidency, which is depicted as nothing more than a Trojan Horse for radical leftism.
That’s absurd enough. But something else is revealed here: This argument, too, is based on pure invention, and, importantly, it has nothing to say about the two biggest actual crises facing the country next year.
An astonishing $43 million has now been booked for spending on this ad from a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to The Post’s report:
You’ll note that “the recovery” is mentioned for less than a second. The rest is the usual nonsense about how Democrats will unleash mobs to burn down cities and turn the country over to the Politburo run by commissars Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Republicans have been linking Democrats to the independent Vermont senator and Democratic New York congresswoman for years, of course. And it’s fairly standard for attack ads to be devoid of substance coming from either party.
But in this case, there’s an important difference from typical campaigns.
Many Democratic ads in Georgia, by contrast, actually are about the need to get the virus under control and pass a stimulus bill to facilitate the economic recovery. There’s this ad from Biden and Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock vowing ramped-up federally funded testing and vaccination and assistance to small businesses.
Or see this ad from Ossoff calling for generous stimulus checks and supplemental unemployment insurance. Or this one urging support for essential and medical workers and vowing a national coronavirus strategy.
You see nothing like this in most GOP ads. Numerous spots from Perdue and Loeffler — see examples here, here and here — say nothing about the coronavirus or the recovery. Instead they air fictions about defunding the police or insulting nonsense about Warnock hating America.
Because there’s such an enormous crush of ads in Georgia, it’s hard to keep track of all the messaging. But a veteran political reporter in the state tells me there’s been very little advertising from Perdue, Loeffler or the GOP on any affirmative plans to address the coronavirus and the economic challenges the country faces.
What Republicans really stand for
This is important, because it gets at the actual argument, writ large, that Republicans are making right now. Republicans really are telling voters that they should elect a GOP Senate not because of the constructive steps it will take to address the coronavirus or economic crises, but instead to prevent the radical left from destroying America.
The health care issue illustrates this perfectly. The GOP super PAC ad above, and another one from Perdue, claim that Democratic control of the Senate means Biden will implement “expensive government-run health care” and take away people’s private insurance.
That’s nonsense, because Biden, of course, ran against Medicare-for-all in the primaries. Yes, he would dramatically expand the Affordable Care Act. Yet even as Republicans attack this as scary socialism, what are they offering?
Shockingly, it turns out Perdue has voted to wipe away the ACA. Perdue tried to obscure this by running ads last fall claiming to support protections for preexisting conditions, but they’re baloney. That Republicans are running ads attacking expanded government health care as socialism while offering nothing serious of their own amid a pandemic says it all.
The fact that this party has nothing to offer in the face of these crises, of course, is why Senate Republicans are finally gravitating toward a deal on a new coronavirus relief package. But it’s far too little. It comes after they resisted stimulus payments and unemployment assistance for months.
And it also comes as McConnell has privately admitted Perdue and Loeffler are getting killed on the issue. All of which demonstrates that GOP control of the Senate surely means nothing serious in the way of more assistance next year.
Still, Republicans plainly have a plan to obscure this, too. If an agreement is reached on this limited deal and it does pass, it’s likely they’ll abruptly pivot to an affirmative economic message, suddenly extolling all they’re doing for the recovery.
“Republicans are running as a check on socialism, without offering any alternative,” Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg tells me. “But it’s clear that once McConnell gets a deal done, they’ll close on free enterprise, opportunity, and recovery. Democrats should anticipate that and challenge it forcefully.”
Yes, they should. And one has to hope that Georgia voters won’t fall for the con.