Donâ€™t let Republicans get away with this massive rewrite of recent history. At stake here is not just getting the story of these elections right, but also whether we will hold the right people accountable for the disastrous assault on our democracy Republicans waged for the last two months, the future damage of which could prove substantial.
As of early Wednesday, Democrat Raphael Warnock has been widely called as the victor against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Democrat Jon Ossoffâ€™s lead over Republican Sen. David Perdue stands at over 17,000 votes, with one leading analyst calling the race for Ossoff, and others suggesting his victory is all but assured once remaining absentee ballots are counted.
Politico reports that numerous Republican strategists are angry at Trump over this outcome. They say Trumpâ€™s relentless focus on overturning his loss and his grievance-laden attacks on GOP officials in Georgia for failing to help him reverse it distracted him from boosting Loeffler and Perdue and deenergized GOP voters.
One prominent ally of McConnell amplified the point, insisting that Republicans had lost the suburbs because they were forced to talk about â€œQanon election conspiracies,â€ i.e., those pushed by Trump, instead of â€œtalking about jobs and the economy.â€
What a bunch of self-serving hooey. In reality, McConnell and his team did all they could to harness the very same conspiratorial and deeply destructive impulses among GOP voters that Trump was feeding, and even went as far as they thought possible in feeding those impulses themselves.
Republicans actively enabled Trump all along
Letâ€™s not forget that McConnell and many other Senate Republicans spent weeks refusing to say publicly that Trump had lost the election. They did this for purely instrumental purposes: Because maintaining the deception that Trumpâ€™s hopes were still alive might keep his voters energized in the runoffs.
Itâ€™s true that McConnell and some other Republicans recognized Joe Bidenâ€™s victory once states certified electors, and that McConnell has urged Senate Republicans to refrain from challenging Bidenâ€™s electors in Congress on Wednesday.
But none of this is exonerating. McConnell did the latter only to protect his members from voting down those objections, because that would require them to vote against Trump. And McConnell recognized Bidenâ€™s victory only after weeks of denying the true outcome.
What this really shows is that McConnell kept feeding GOP base voter delusions for as long as he thought he could. Neither of those belated concessions flowed from any principled desire to affirm the integrity of the outcome.
Underscoring the point, Perdue and Loeffler themselves went to great lengths to sustain Trumpâ€™s effort to overturn the election. They supported the Texas lawsuit that would have invalidated millions of votes in four states â€” including their own. And Loeffler has announced she will object to Bidenâ€™s electors. Itâ€™s hard to imagine those things happening without input from McConnell.
Republicans tried to harness Trumpism
On another front, Super PACs allied with McConnell saturated the Georgia airwaves with absurd ads about how a Democratic Senate would unleash waves of immigrant invaders, antifa mobs destroying cities and socialist rule executed by the non-White congresswomen in â€œthe Squad.â€
In some ways, those ads overlapped with conventional GOP attack lines. But they were also an effort to capture the Trump effect: Trumpism posits that this constellation of enemies isnâ€™t just frightening, but represents an existential emergency that is forever about to destroy the country.
This has flushed a lot of low-propensity conservative voters into the electorate. Republicans tried to harness all these ugly Trumpist impulses by torquing the depiction of those threats to the maximum, precisely because they needed those very voters to turn out in Georgia, without Trump on the ballot.
All of that makes the idea that McConnell and his allies piously wanted the election to be about the economy pretty absurd. But it gets worse: McConnell belatedly pivoted to a deal on a big economic rescue package when it became necessary to save Loeffler and Warnock â€” when it became clear that all that fearmongering and all those lies about the election wouldnâ€™t cut it. And even then McConnell refused the $2,000 stimulus checks that Trump and Democrats wanted.
Democrats appear on the verge of winning both runoffs due to a combination of massive African American turnout (which outpaced Trump base turnout) and success with suburban White people. By Republicansâ€™ own analysis, Trump played a big role in ensuring both of those.
But Republicans from McConnell to Loeffler to Perdue largely embraced just about everything Trump had to offer in carrying out that role.
As Josh Kraushaar reports, Republicans are now at risk of being split, as some with 2024 ambitions embrace a kind of Lost Cause of Trumpism narrative and others move toward the line that Trump badly damaged the GOP and itâ€™s time to leave him behind. You can see stirrings of the latter in the effort to blame Trump for this debacle. But letâ€™s not let them write their own role in all of this out of the story.