The election results in the state of Georgia are a breath of fresh air for democracy, which is under siege around the world by the resurgence of populism.
The Republican candidates for governor and secretary of state in Georgia easily won re-election in a state fiercely contested by the Democratic Party. Brian Kemp beat his opponent by more than seven percentage points, and Brad Raffensperger was victorious with a margin greater than nine points. They both faced primary candidates backed by Donald Trump but won in the primary election despite the open hostility of the former president. Now they have prevailed in the general election without his support.
In contrast, Herschel Walker, renowned for his exploits as a professional football player in the 1970s and ’80s, ran for the Senate with Trump’s support but was defeated in the runoff election required by Georgia law when no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the regular election.
The main difference between Walker and the Republicans who were re-elected lies in the commitment to the democratic system. Walker, chosen by Trump to be the party’s candidate in the election, embraced the lies spread by the former president in his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Kemp and Raffensperger, on the other hand, rejected the pressure from the White House to change the results.
The recording of a telephone call captured for posterity Trump’s insistence that Raffensperger “find” a little more than 11,000 votes necessary to beat Joe Biden in the state. “The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated,” Trump said to the secretary of state, the state of Georgia’s highest authority on elections.
Despite the fact that they are all Republicans, Kemp and Raffensperger refused to go along with the attempted fraud. As a result, they became targets of Trump’s hostility. Under the circumstances, their victories in the regular election and Walker’s defeat in the runoff are a breath of fresh air for democracy, which is under siege around the world by the resurgence of populism, due largely to Trump’s transformation of U.S. politics.
The same voters, on the same day, put a premium on Kemp’s and Raffensperger’s fidelity to democratic values but sent Walker to the second round, in which he was defeated. Even Kemp’s active support in the last stage of the campaign could not rescue Walker from the original sin of his candidacy.
Other factors did contribute to Walker’s defeat; however, being under the shadow of Trump makes this defeat voters’ most dramatic rejection of the spurious claims of election fraud spread by the former president, first to stay in power, and then to excuse his own failure.
Nonetheless, what happened in Georgia is not the only indication that people are fed up with the questioning of the democratic system and the claims that the election was rigged. To get Trump’s support, candidates for office at all levels in the recent midterm elections had to embrace the claim of election fraud. That’s how they won the Republican nominations, but almost all of them lost in the general election, especially the ones running for secretary of state, like Kim Crockett in Minnesota and Kristina Karamo in Michigan.
The Republicans were hoping for an impressive victory in the November elections. They did not get it, even with high inflation and Biden’s low popularity ratings. They got a thin majority in the House of Representatives and lost one seat in the Senate. According to the polls, the attack on the electoral system was among the reasons for the failure. Now the Republicans are passing the bill on to Trump, who is no longer either a kingmaker or a king-breaker. It’s good news for democracy.