From November 2020 to January 2021, the history of the state of Georgia was pro-Democratic: all Democratic candidates for the presidency and the United States Senate won. But more importantly, it was pro-democracy. Joe Biden, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won in part due to aggressive efforts by grassroots groups in the state to increase the number of people who voted compared to last Georgia elections. Two of the state’s top Republican elected officials, Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, rejected a major push from then-President Trump and other Republicans to effectively nullify the results of the state’s presidential election because Biden had won. The events in Georgia, along with a similar rejection of Trump’s false claims of fraud in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, were perhaps the clearest examples of how America’s democratic systems stood firm and prevented Trump from making cheating on his way to a second term.
A lot has changed since then.
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Now, Georgia’s democratic position in 2020 looks more like a temporary victory in a broader fight for American democracy that remains highly controversial. On Thursday, Kemp signed a major election law pushed by Georgia’s Republicans. Among other things, the law strips some of the power to run Georgia’s elections from the secretary of state and local counties and transfers it to a state board that is likely dominated by conservative Republicans. It includes a ban on providing food and water to people waiting in line to vote. And Kemp justified the new law by suggesting that there were unresolved questions about whether the elections in Georgia were conducted fairly.
In short, Trump lost Georgia in 2020. But his narrative about that election, which was stolen from him, has won out among state Republicans and has now been effectively codified into state law.
Republicans are trying to pass laws that make voting difficult across the country, and it is unclear whether Georgia will be among the most aggressive when they are all finalized. But considering what happened in Georgia from November to January, the enactment of this law in that state It’s a particularly alarming sign that the Republican Party’s attacks on democratic norms and values are continuing and somehow accelerating.
Democrats changed a changing state, and the Republican Party in that state has responded by enacting a law designed to make it difficult for Democratic-leaning voters to cast their votes and be counted. A former Confederate state changed its electoral laws after a strongly black coalition of voters played a significant role in choosing their preferred candidates for president and the United States Senate, which included the historic election of an African-American senator in the state. A Republican official (Raffensperger) put the country above the party and was later stripped of some of his authority.
There is has already been a lawsuit filed to prevent this Georgia provision from taking effect. And even if the law goes into effect, it is difficult to say exactly how this would affect the Republican and Democratic electoral prospects in Georgia; it seems clearly designed to make it harder for Democratic-leaning voters to exercise that right, but Democrats still could to win. So we don’t know exactly what this law will mean in an electoral sense. But in a democratic sense, there is already a clear result: the United States is a country with a declining democracy, because it has a main party that increasingly does not respect the results of the elections that it loses or the right to vote of the people who oppose him. .
Put another way: Georgia Republicans did not come out of the 2020 election with the goal of finding new messages or policies to appeal to Georgia’s growing population of people of color. Instead, they chose to imply that these voters participated in the Georgia elections in inappropriate ways that should be avoided in the future. The Washington Post suggests in its slogan that “Democracy dies in darkness.” But based on the actions of much of the Republican Party today, it might be more accurate to say that it is dying in broad daylight.