Georgia’s 2022 midterms are a battle against the GOP’s most malignant strains
All eyes will once again be on Georgia in 2022 as a state that could again defy its, until recently, traditional denomination as politically ruby red.
President Joe Biden’s win in Georgia in 2020 and the two Democratic Senate victories that followed, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, highlighted the state’s transformation into a deep purple, trending blue state. Now that Stacey Abrams has officially announced she will run for governor of Georgia in 2022, that fate could be tightly sealed, or it could prove the state will be a swing state that’s up for grabs for many elections to come.
Either way, Georgia is no longer a safe bet for Republicans, thanks to the massive organizing effort that was conducted by Democratic and progressive activists, led by Abrams and other leaders — an effort that has not stopped since Abrams narrowly lost the governorship to Kemp back in 2018.
For Democrats, it will be a test of those historic efforts and a chance to prove that Biden, Ossoff and Warnock were not flukes.
For Republicans, it will be a test of which strain of their party is more powerful in Georgia — the Donald Trump/Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) faction that embraces the Big Lie and would do anything they need for Trump to win or steal the presidency — or the seemingly more common-sense, law-abiding faction that refused to bend to Trump’s will and did their jobs to uphold a fair and free election, but has no reservations in suppressing Black and brown voters.
The focus for Democrats no matter who wins, however, needs to be to energize and mobilize as many traditional and new voters as possible to ensure that every voice is heard and every vote is counted. That is the only way to win.
It would be a mistake to think that either Kemp or former Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R) would be better for Democrats or for democracy, or that one or the other would be easier to beat.
The fact is that as governor, Perdue would likely try to steal the election for Donald Trump if he is on the ballot in 2024. Kemp will do everything he can (as he has done in the past) to repress the voices and the votes of Black, Latino and other voters of color through draconian laws that make it much more difficult for those voters to vote.
In his campaign launch video, Perdue wraps himself around Trump’s Big Lie by stating that he is running because Kemp handed the victory for Georgia to Biden and then gave the Democrats the two Senate seats in the special election. Perdue says that Kemp’s refusal to help Trump overturn the election is enough to punish him with a defeat in the race for the governorship.
Perdue stated outright that had he been governor in 2020, he would not have certified the election, telegraphing what he will do in 2024 if he is governor then and Trump is the GOP nominee.
Such a blatant embrace of an effort to steal a legitimate election in the name of Trump demonstrates just how much of a stranglehold Trump still enjoys on the GOP. It also illustrates just how dangerous to democracy and to the rule of law Perdue would be. His own statements as to the reason he is running prove just how unfit he is to lead.
Kemp, for his part, has been unwavering in his understanding that as governor, he had no choice but to follow the law, certify the election and state publicly that there was no fraud that would in any way change the outcome of the election.
Kemp did his job. That is what he was supposed to do. Should he get a medal for it? It seems in the face of audacious attempts by Trump and his acolytes to lie, cheat and steal their way to remaining in power, it is easy to overly appreciate a public servant and elected official who simply does what he or she is supposed to do. So, it is welcome in today’s political environment of low expectations.
It is also a fact that Kemp has not only presided over some of the most egregious efforts to seemingly repress Black and minority voters but that he was caught on tape in 2014 saying how Democrats could win if allowed to register “all these minority voters.” His subsequent 2018 efforts led to the disenfranchisement of many minority voters during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign when he first ran against Abrams.
While many Democrats wholeheartedly believe these efforts cost Abrams the election (we may never know for sure), what we do know is that under Kemp, there were massive purges of the voter rolls — mainly of African American voters — more than 200 polling places were closed mostly in poor and minority neighborhoods prior to the election and 53,000 voter registrations were put in political limbo because of the “exact match” criteria, with 70 percent of these estimated to be Black voters. It was never known how many came to try and vote.
The fight between Kemp and Perdue will be costly and ugly and will focus on the two darkest strains in the Republican party — one whose fealty is only to Donald Trump, ahead of democracy, civility, the Constitution and the rule of law — and the other, whose efforts to make it harder for people of color to vote and who upholds the party’s ugly tendencies toward intolerance, bigotry and racism.
Both have loyal followers who will turn out in the 2022 gubernatorial election. Democrats, progressives and independents must understand that these strains of the Republican party are dangerous and backward for all Georgians and that they run counter to the new Georgia that is emerging because of demographic shifts that have been happening for the last two decades.
As such, the only way forward is to energize and engage all voters — old, young and new — to beat whoever emerges as the GOP victor.
Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist, a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.