In a historic show of civic engagement and support for the American experiment, nearly 5 million Georgians cast ballots in a high-turnout November 3 election that produced a Democratic presidential victory in the state for the first time since 1992 and set up a pair of runoff elections that could give Democrats control of the US Senate for the first time since 2014.
That was generally understood as a triumph for democracy, if not for the Republican Party that has dominated Georgia politics in recent years.
In fact, the result has so unsettled Georgia’s embattled Republican senators that they are now campaigning against not just their Democratic rivals but democracy itself.
Last week, Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue endorsed a bizarre legal scheme by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overturn the results from four battleground states that played a pivotal role in deciding the 2020 election for President-elect Joe Biden: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
That’s right, Loeffler, an appointed senator seeking to win a January 5 special-election runoff, and Perdue, an incumbent seeking to win a second term in a regular runoff on the same day, proposed to disenfranchise their constituents, all 5 million Georgians who voted for a presidential candidate in the November 3 election—the 2,475,141 who backed Biden and 2,462,857 who backed Trump, the roughly 62,000 who voted for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and everyone who cast a write-in ballot for the Greens or another party or Mickey Mouse.
All of them.
Why? Because Donald Trump said so, tweeting a one-word order to his minions: “Overturn.”
Paxton, a scandal-plagued Republican who in 2015 was indicted on multiple counts of securities fraud and who now faces a federal investigation for criminal wrongdoing in his current position, asked the US Supreme Court to effectively bar Georgia and the other states from registering their combined 62 votes for Biden when the Electoral College convened on December 14. That would have dropped Biden down to 244 electoral votes, well short of the 270 required to be elected. The strategy was then to have Republican-controlled state legislatures assign the electoral votes to Trump, giving the president 294 votes and a win.
Trump went all in for the strategy, tweeting: “We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!” and “There is massive evidence of widespread fraud in the four states (plus) mentioned in the Texas suit. Just look at all of the tapes and affidavits!”
Loeffler and Perdue jumped in just as enthusiastically as the defeated president, announcing, “We fully support President Trump’s legal recourses and Attorney General Paxton’s lawsuit.” The pair confidently chirped, “This isn’t hard and it isn’t partisan. It’s American.”
Honest observers saw the lawsuit—a grab bag of discredited and disproven conspiracy theories—as distinctly un-American. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican who appeared with Trump during the campaign, issued a statement that explained, “With all due respect, the Texas attorney general is constitutionally, legally and factually wrong about Georgia.”
The Supreme Court sympathized with Carr’s viewpoint, issuing a one-page statement that completely rejected Paxton’s suit with this explanation: “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.”
On December 14, the Electoral College confirmed Biden’s 306-232 win, with Stacey Abrams announcing that Georgia’s 16 electoral votes were in the Democratic column.
That should have chastened Loeffler and Perdue, a pair of wealthy dilettantes whose Senate careers have been marred by charges of self-dealing. But of course, it didn’t.
While savvier Republicans quietly warned that staying on board Trump’s crazy train could tip the election to her challenger, Democrat Raphael Warnock, Loeffler tweeted on December 15, “I will never stop fighting for @realDonaldTrump because he has never stopped fighting for us!” And she and Perdue, who faces Democrat Jon Ossoff, embraced a new voter suppression strategy designed to make it harder to vote in the runoffs.
The senators called Republican lawsuits targeting runoff voting “reasonable and actionable steps we can take immediately to further ensure the integrity and accuracy of our January 5 elections.” In fact, the lawsuits sought to complicate the process of casting absentee ballots in an election where hundreds of thousands of Georgians have already voted. On Thursday, federal judges dismissed two of the lawsuits, rejecting unfounded GOP claims that difficult signature verification processes and restrictions on the use of drop boxes are needed to maintain election security.
Unfortunately, courtroom failures have not dimmed Loeffler and Perdue’s determination to diminish, dismantle, and, if necessary, overturn democracy.
Perhaps an election result will.
When President-elect Biden campaigned in Georgia on Tuesday for Warnock and Ossoff, he ripped into the Republicans for their efforts to disenfranchise voters.
“Your two Republican senators fully embraced what Texas was telling the Supreme Court,” Biden said in Atlanta. “They fully embraced nullifying nearly 5 million Georgia votes. You might want to remember that come January 5.”