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 basically the only thing I’ve heard about in days. But as I marinated in horror – and, increasingly, in rage at the police response – I also became aware of how our media experience works today, how we spend constantly from crisis to crisis, each seemingly existential and yet seemingly forgotten as the wheel turns, the headlines change.
Climate change, systemic racism, toxic masculinity, online misinformation, gun violence, police brutality, Trump’s next coup, the latest variant of Covid, the death of democracy, climate change again. This is the liberal crisis list; the conservative list is different. But for everyone else, there are relatively few opportunities to breathe and recognize when something is actually improving.
So my next column will focus on obscurity in Texas and the possible political response. In this one, I want to acknowledge that in another area of existential turmoil, things have improved significantly.
In Georgia, the state at the center of the 45th president’s bid to defy the public will and stay in power, there were two Republican primary races that doubled as referendums on Trump’s demand that GOP officials follow him. in a constitutional crisis – and in both of them his candidate lost badly.
The most publicized race was the gubernatorial battle between Brian Kemp and David Perdue, which Kemp won in an extraordinary rout. But more important was the Republican primary for Secretary of State, in which Brad Raffensperger, the prime target of Trump’s heavy-handed tactics and then his public anger, defeated Jody Hice, Trump’s nominee – and did it without any runoff. Some Democratic crossover votes probably helped him top the 50% mark, but most of his voters were Republicans who listened to his opponent’s constant rhetoric about voter fraud and decided to stick with the guy who stood up to Trump.
Kemp’s victory was expected; Raffensperger’s easy win is less so, and it certainly wasn’t expected at this time last year. Back then, if you pointed out that all the Republicans in positions that really matter in the aftermath of the 2020 election, in multiple states and multiple offices, were doing their jobs and refusing to follow Trump, maybe the usual response was that it had happened once but would not happen again, as Trump’s enmity was a guaranteed career end.
Now that narrative, thankfully, has exploded. Any Republican in a key swing-state office in 2024 can look at Kemp and Raffensperger and know they have a future in GOP politics if, in a contested election, they simply do their job.
Additionally, the primary ballot in Georgia saw record early voting turnout and no evidence of meaningful barriers to voting, exploding a different narrative of crisis that has taken hold on the left — and in corporate America and the Biden White House — when the state passed new voting rules last year. According to this narrative, in trying to combat the paranoia of their own constituents, Republicans were essentially cutting voting rights, even recreating Jim Crow – “on steroids”, to quote our president.
There was little valid evidence for that narrative at the time, and even less evidence in Georgia’s primary turnout, where early voting numbers were even higher than in 2020.” Jim Crow under steroids” should be removed from the crisis cycle; it does not exist.
On the other hand, the Trumpian danger, the risk of electoral subversion and constitutional crisis, still exists. Doug Mastriano’s recent primary win in Pennsylvania proves it, and there may be other Swing State nominees who, like Mastriano, can’t be trusted to emulate Kemp and Raffensperger in the clutch.
But the results in Georgia prove that the faction that elevates figures like Mastriano does not have a mere party veto. It shows the effectiveness of what you might call a “stay and govern” strategy for dealing with Trump’s grip on the GOP, a strategy that broadly applies as the party heads into 2024.
And that points to the limits of all-or-nothing thinking that a crisis mentality imposes. I can easily imagine an alternate timeline where Raffensperger resigned rather than run for re-election, signed a deal with MSNBC, turned his next book into a mega-bestseller in the style of so many exposed of the Trump administration and adopted the Biden administration talking points to speak out against Georgia’s election laws. This timeline would undoubtedly have been better for the Raffensperger family bank account, and it would have prompted many liberals to hail him as a profile of Republican courage.
But for everyone else — the Georgians, the GOP, the country — that delay would have been worse. While because he stayed in the party, ran again, and won, even in a dark week for America, one area of our life together looks a little better, and one of our crises should sound a little less serious.