Brad Raffensperger Serves Up The Peaches of Consternation
Atlanta hasn’t been besieged by Republicans like this since Sherman. This time however — unlike Willie T ignoring Scarlett’s bleating, burning Atlanta anyway, and marching to the sea — the breastworks of this would-be civil war are being formed against fellow Republican Secretary of State of the great state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. Bad news for the besiegers, the besieged Brad has plenty of fight in him:
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.
In a wide-ranging interview about the election, Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.
The atmosphere has grown so contentious, Raffensperger said, that he and his wife, Tricia, have received death threats in recent days, including a text to him that read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”
“Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning,” Raffensperger said of the threats, “particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle. Everyone that is working on this needs to elevate their speech. We need to be thoughtful and careful about what we say.” He said he reported the threats to state authorities.
The pressure on Raffensperger, who has bucked his party in defending the state’s voting process, comes as Georgia is in the midst of a laborious hand recount of about 5 million ballots. President-elect Joe Biden has a 14,000-vote lead in the initial count.
The normally mild-mannered Raffensperger saved his harshest language for Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who is leading the president’s efforts in Georgia and whom Raffensperger called a “liar” and a “charlatan.”
Doug Collins, it should be noted, is also suffering from a near-Biblical case of butt hurt, courtesy of getting spanked in his bid to upgrade to a senate seat against his own party’s wishes, thus being partially responsible for the current run-off between appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (Rr-GA) and Democrat Raphael Warnock in the first place. Having misjudged his own political calculations that being front and center in defending President Trump during his impeachment trial would elevate his chances, Collins now finds himself at the tip of the futility spear for a lame duck President Trump and frozen out of higher office, with a wounded brand and dimmed prospects. That “charlatan” charge Raffensperger leveled Collins is not a throwaway line, either, as the ordained minister and former Air Force Chaplain Collins is not impressing folks in the integrity department.
Not that it is stopping Collins, Loeffler, Sen. David Perdue– who finds himself also in a runoff against famous electoral runner-up Jon Ossoff for the other Georgia US Senate seat — and the rest of the President’s most ardent supporters who have decided the Peach state is the best place to channel their frustration, specifically the office and personage of Raffensperger. The barrage of election fraud accusations, “stop the steal” hashtags and signs, and constant tweets from the president about the same and how he won has created a publicity wave now aimed at the State of Georgia.
The problem is, that wave has crashed against an immovable seawall in Brad Raffensperger, who ironically enough ran for office under the promise of having a lower-profile Secretary of State office when it comes to elections. More to the issue at hand, Secretary Raffensperger isn’t someone who has a lot of time, or patience, for rhetoric over substance.
At a televised news conference Wednesday, (Raffensperger) sent an explicit message to his party, flanking himself with the local election officials whom other Republicans have accused of illegally rigging the results.
“They and their staffs are the ones who do the hard work on the ground of making sure that all legal votes will be counted,” he said outside the Georgia Capitol. “Many executed their responsibilities, and they did their job.”
Defiance to Trump might not have been what Georgia Republicans expected from a mild-mannered businessman who worked his way up through the party with stints on a suburban Atlanta city council and in the state legislature — and who campaigned for secretary of state in part on a less high-profile aspect of that office’s official duties, with a promise to make business licensing easier.
But Raffensperger is accustomed to dealing in concrete — literally. In his private business, he manufactures concrete structures such as offices, hotels and parking garages. If that background has lent him one perspective in his current job, he has said, it’s that facts and figures matter.
“That’s why we have a verifiable paper ballot. If there are errors, we now can audit the results,” he said in the interview. “It’s going to be so close [to the current tally], within the margins, that there won’t be the numbers there.”
After four years of think pieces and opinion writing on “who among Republicans is going to stand up to President Trump” Brad Raffensperger probably wasn’t on anyone’s bingo card for the honor. But it is fitting. An otherwise little-known pol who wasn’t trying to be a national figure or raise his profile wound up in the role for the simple fact he refused to go along with the crowd, insisted on doing his job properly, and not giving an inch on matters he clearly sees as right vs. wrong. A guy who built his fortune and reputation on crunching numbers and building things with concrete isn’t impressed with wild accusations and passionate appeals to feelz without underlying reasoning or evidence.
The contrast here couldn’t be more clear, and in the simple act of doing his job and not cowering to tweets, threats, and pressure Brad Raffensperger teaches an important — if almost lost — lesson in American politics: Facts still matter. Eventually, no matter who you are or what you’ve previously gotten away with, reality shows up for everyone. Georgia and the national GOP can howl all they want; there is no getting around a 14K vote deficit. There is no legal machination that is going to flip multiple states to President Trump’s favor. There is no smooth talk from Lindsey Graham and others that will make Brad Raffensperger forget how to count, how to read, or how to have integrity when the pressures on.
And all this for what? Loeffler and Perdue were probably going to win their runoffs but with this nonsense and the way they are carrying on who knows. President Trump will still give way to President Biden on January 20th. Brad Raffensperger will still be Secretary of State of the great state of Georgia. Doug Collins will still be smarting from his miscalculation and the acrid smell of his burnt career on the alter of ambition. Georgia will go forth with its new-found battleground state status and all the attention that will come with it.
Hundreds of millions of dollars, endless media attention, and 8 more weeks of hand-wringing over the two Georgia senate seats are now ahead of us. Before that, though, the completion of the hand recount of Georgia that will confirm the results we already know, and a few more pressers of Brad Raffensperger will solidify the Biden win. The Georgia GOPers supporting President Trump can howl all they want. The Trump true believers, or at least the ones that think they need to continue to coddle the diehard Trump voters for their own purposes, will wave the bloody shirt of 2020 Georgia, and Pennsylvania, and Arizona, and all the other reasons Donald J. Trump was cheated out of the presidency for years to come. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
But it won’t matter. Brad Raffensperger and other people of character are not going to let MAGA burn Atlanta’s electoral integrity just for the YOLO of a lost cause.
“The United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be. Allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta,” Sherman wrote in his Letter to the City of Atlanta in 1864, but it could just as well be from Brad Raffensperger to the Trumpists who want math and facts to give way to slogans and feelz. But facts don’t care about feelings, or so we are told.
Or, if you must use a slogan, how about the one that hangs over the heads of our debating presidential candidates and in the spirit of doing the right things for the nation as a whole while upholding the rights of us all: “The Union and the Constitution Forever.”
And if Doug Collins, Senators Loeffler and Perdue, President Trump, or anyone else think what they want is more important than that, more important than our country even, they can take themselves a nice long walk to the sea, and leave Georgia and the rest of us in peace.