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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

May 21: In Deep Denial

Press reports of an official 2020 post-mortem by Georgia Republicans show how subscription to Trump’s lies enables a full whitewashing of what happened, and I wrote about it at New York.

Want a succinct illustration of the delusional nature of the Republican Party’s Trumpian reaction to the 2020 election cycle that lost them control of the White House and both houses of Congress? Check out the Georgia GOP’s official “2020-2021 After Action Report,” released recently by David Shafer, the state party chairman. Here’s the key claim:

“We completely retooled the Georgia Republican Party in 2020. We raised record amounts of money, recruited record numbers of volunteers and knocked on record numbers of doors. We turned out 372,733 more Republican votes in 2020 than in 2016 when Donald Trump won Georgia and 483,429 more votes than in 2018 when Brian Kemp was elected governor.”

So where’s the snake in this Garden of Eden? That’s easy:

“[I]n the top races, even this massive increase in Republican turnout was unable to overcome an electoral system rendered defenseless by foolish legal settlements and feckless ’emergency’ rules. The Georgia Republican Party, on three separate occasions, sued the Secretary of State to force him to obey the law and do his job [emphasis in the original].”

That would be the elected Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who spurned the Trump campaign’s incoherent blustering about “foolish legal settlements” (a consent decree that simply confirmed existing signature-authentication procedures for mail ballots) and “feckless emergency rules” (the mailing of absentee-ballot applications to registered voters), and also declined to obey Trump’s personal instruction to “find” enough missing or erroneous ballots to overturn Biden’s certified victory in Georgia.

The attribution of every defeat to Raffensperger usefully (if “fecklessly”) allowed Shafer to take a victory lap over an election cycle in which the Georgia GOP (a) lost the presidential race for the first time in 28 years); (b) lost not one but two U.S. Senate seats — the first Senate losses in Georgia for Republicans since sorta-Democrat Zell Miller’s win in 2000 — thereby giving Democrats control of the Senate and a governing trifecta, a development with enormous consequences; and (c) the loss of a long-Republican U.S. House seat for the second consecutive election year. Even if you buy half of the ludicrous “fraud” allegations that every judge in the state contemptuously rejected, this was a bad election cycle for the Georgia Republican Party, leading to a panic-stricken effort to restrict voting opportunities in hopes of bringing back the Peach State electorate of yore. So it’s not very smart to paper over the setbacks and pretend that once Raffensperger is purged (a task Georgia Republicans with Trump’s encouragement are well on their way to executing) everything will be hunky-dory for the GOP, as Greg Bluestein suggested in his analysis of the After Action Report:

“Typically, political parties use setbacks as a chance to learn from their mistakes, try out new messaging and offer advice for a future generation of candidates on how to wage a winning campaign in the next election cycle. But there was no introspection or soul-searching in the Georgia GOP’s high-gloss ‘After Action Report,’ even in a year following Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state in November’s presidential election and the Democratic sweep of U.S. Senate runoffs in January. The publication distributed by the state party at district meetings across the state over the weekend, and obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, read as a manifesto about what the party did right.”

On the other hand, a political party that is willing to treat every defeat as a purloined victory has no particular incentive to fix anything. If, say, Republicans lose the governorship to a likely Stacey Abrams candidacy in 2022, it will be the easiest thing in the world to blame it on the imaginary “voter fraud” they are already inclined to accuse Abrams in particular and Democrats in general of fomenting. After all, it won’t be their fault, and in 2024, Donald Trump will come to the rescue of the GOP and of the America he once made great. It’s a closed feedback loop of unassailable strength and shocking mendacity.

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