Fringe activists threaten Georgia GOP’s political future
“The Republicans are the party of bad ideas. The Democrats are the party of no ideas,” comedian Lewis Black once joked. As a rule, I don’t believe that necessarily reflects reality, but some of those in the Georgia Republican Party have embraced some truly vile and awful ideas.
This is inevitable to some degree when promoting a bigger tent organization. But it becomes a major problem when fringe elements obtain positions of influence or are given elevated platforms to disseminate their destructive views within major political parties.
Until Republicans come to terms with this and adequately police their party, the Georgia GOP will continue to face adversity, alienate voters and cannibalize its own. The most recent example of the series of bad ideas came just days ago.
“A far-right faction that has gained clout in the Georgia GOP wants to give the state party new powers to block candidates from qualifying to run as Republicans if they’re deemed to be insufficiently conservative or a ‘traitor’ to the party,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Elements within the controversial Georgia Republican Assembly have reportedly advocated this rule, which would empower state party delegates to forbid certain candidates from running as Republicans. In essence, it would serve as a purity test, but according to whose terms?
As the Journal-Constitution noted, the Georgia Republican Assembly has been hostile to some elected Republicans—particularly to Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. If the GOP were to approve the rule—in contravention of democratic norms—would activists move to prevent people like Kemp, Raffensperger, and others who don’t buy into conspiracy theories to run as Republicans? Perhaps.
Thankfully, it is very unlikely that the state GOP will adopt this rule as cooler heads appear poised to prevail. But this is hardly the first time that the Georgia Republican Assembly has grabbed headlines for the wrong reasons.
When then-Speaker David Ralston announced that he was stepping down from the speaker’s office because he was battling an illness that would claim his life not long after, the Georgia Republican Assembly pounced.
“We are not going to miss him,” they wrote. “We do rejoice in the Lord for providentially using such an illness to rescue us all from Ralston’s reign of tyranny over the last decade. We confess that we are unapologetic in making that statement.”
Ralston’s political and legal legacy is fair game, but to applaud the sickness that killed him is beyond the pale. Needless to say, many Republicans repudiated the Georgia Republican Assembly for their disgusting response.
Unsurprisingly, these obscene antics are repellent and have driven people away. “After much prayer and after Mass yesterday, God has put it on my heart to resign as a member of the Cherokee County Chapter of the Georgia Republican Assembly,” long-time activist Charles Jones wrote in a letter posted online.
Within the piece, he outlined his reasons, including: “In good conscience as a Christian, I cannot and will not be part of the GRA, whose leadership cheers the death of another human being because that person didn’t agree with them on 100% of the issues (only about 90%).” He listed his other disagreements with the Georgia Republican Assembly, debunked conspiracy theories and reiterated his dedication to electing people of principle.
Sadly, there are other problems within the Georgia GOP. Despite Trump losing fair and square in 2020, election denialism is still rampant among some circles. There are still Jan. 6 apologists seeking to downplay the misdeeds of those who stormed the capitol, and some Republicans strangely seem more interested in supporting a Trump cult of personality than winning elections.
There’s an ongoing investigation into an alleged plot to use fake electors to illegally overturn Trump’s defeat. Eight of the supposed fake electors have accepted immunity deals—possibly to serve as witnesses for the prosecution—which isn’t a good look for Republicans.
As it stands, Gov. Kemp, Secretary Raffensperger, Attorney General Chris Carr, and Insurance Commissioner John King have all announced that they will skip the Georgia GOP Convention. It used to be a carnival-like who’s who of Republicans, but it’s hard to blame these officials for avoiding it.
“The decision to skip the convention comes amid mounting tension within the Georgia GOP over the party’s direction,” according to the Journal-Constitution. “At a spate of meetings this year, many mainstream conservatives have been sidelined in favor of fringe activists.” What’s more, each of these incumbents faced primary challenges from pro-Trump candidates.
The Georgia GOP is struggling with its image, and a vocal minority is effectively tarnishing it with their virulent ideas. While building a bigger tent is often critical for political success, doing so isn’t worth it if it makes you lose everything. Put simply, it’s time for the GOP’s grown-ups to assert themselves.