This is a column about good news, written in the shadow of the worst news imaginable.
Like many people, the mass shooting of children in Uvalde, Texas is really all I’ve read about for days. But as I’ve delved into the horror—and, increasingly, anger at the police response—I’ve also become aware of the way our media experience works today, how we constantly move from one crisis to another. the others are cycled, each seemingly existential yet seemingly forgotten when the wheel spins, the headlines change.
Climate change, systemic racism, toxic masculinity, online disinformation, gun violence, police brutality, the next Trump coup, the latest Covid variant, the death of democracy, climate change again. This is the liberal crisis list; the conservative list is different. But for everyone there are relatively few opportunities to take a breather and recognize when something really gets better.
So my next column will be about the darkness in Texas and the potential policy response. In this one I want to acknowledge that in another zone of existential agitation, things have just improved meaningfully.
In Georgia, the state central to the 45th president’s attempt to defy the will of the public and stay in office, there were two Republican primaries that also served as referendums on Trumpian’s demand that GOP officials follow him. in a constitutional crisis – and in both of them his candidate lost heavily.
The higher profile race was the battle for the governor nomination between Brian Kemp and David Perdue, which Kemp won in an extraordinary defeat. But the most significant was the Republican primary for Secretary of State, in which Brad Raffensperger, the special target of Trump’s strong weapons tactics and then his public wrath, defeated Jody Hice, Trump’s nominee, without a runoff. Probably some crossover Democratic votes helped him get more than 50 percent, but most of his voters were Republicans who listened to his challenger’s constant talk about voter fraud and decided to stick with the man who stood up to Trump.
Kemp’s victory was expected; the easy Raffensperger wins less, and certainly not expected around this time last year. At the time, when you pointed out that all Republicans in positions that really mattered in the aftermath of the 2020 election, in multiple states and multiple offices, did their jobs and refused to go with Trump, the usual response was that maybe it happened once but would never happen again, because Trump’s enmity meant a guaranteed end to his career.
Now that story has, thankfully, exploded. Any Republican in a major swing-state office in 2024 can look to Kemp and Raffensperger and know they have a future in GOP politics if, in the event of a contested election, they just do their job.
In addition, the Georgia primary vote had record early voter turnout and no evidence of significant impediments to voting, igniting another crisis narrative that reared its head on the left — and in corporate America and the Biden White House — as the state held new elections. voting rules last year. According to that story, in an effort to address the paranoia of their own voters, Republicans essentially reversed voting rights, even creating Jim Crow – “on steroids,” to quote our president.
There was little good evidence for this story at the time, and even less evidence in the voter turnout for the Georgia primaries, where the early vote count was even higher than in 2020. “Jim Crow on steroids” should be cut from the crisis cycle; it does not exist.
On the other hand, the Trumpian danger, the risk of election subversion and constitutional crisis, still exists. Doug Mastriano’s recent Pennsylvania primary win proves that as well, and there may be other nominees in the swing state who, like Mastriano, can’t be trusted to impersonate Kemp and Raffensperger in the clutch.
But the results in Georgia prove that the faction elevating figures like Mastriano does not have a simple veto in the party. It demonstrates the effectiveness of what you might call a “stay and govern” strategy to tackle Trump’s hold on the GOP, one that finds widespread application as the party moves towards 2024.
And it indicates the limits of the all-or-nothing thinking that a crisis mentality imposes. I can easily imagine an alternate timeline in which Raffensperger resigned instead of running for reelection, struck a deal with MSNBC, turned his subsequent book into a mega-bestseller in the vein of so many revelations from the Trump administration and the Biden’s administration took over talking points to denounce Georgia’s electoral laws. That timeline would no doubt have been better for the Raffensperger family’s bank account, and it would have prompted many liberals to hail him as a profile of Republican bravery.
But for everyone else – Georgians, the GOP, the country – that timeline would have been worse. Whereas because he stayed in the party, ran and won again, even in a dark week for America, a region of our ordinary lives looks a little better, and one of our crises should feel a little less dire.