On Tuesday, January 5, a runoff election in Georgia will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Both of the Peach State’s sitting Republican senators will be on the ballot, and if both lose to their Democrat opponents, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will lose his job and the GOP will lose virtually all power to slow or stop the worst excesses of a Biden-Harris administration.
What happens on that first Tuesday in January depends to a large degree on whether Georgia Republicans can maintain their focus and their priorities in the face of pressures pulling them off track.
Last week, I joined with several of my fellow Georgia Republicans on a letter urging that our focus stay on this essential target – turning out the vote in order to keep David Perdue and Kelley Loeffler in the Senate, and thereby, in the majority. Despite the clear and undebatable need for ensuring as robust a turnout for the January runoff as possible, there are Republicans in Georgia who openly criticized those of us who signed that letter. We were labeled RINOs (“Republicans in Name Only”) and “elitists.”
The nonsensical nature of this criticism aside, it does highlight a problem that too often encumbers Republican chances of winning elections — attacking each other over perceived or nonexistence differences.
The letter was partly in response to other Georgia Republicans who in recent days have been urging GOP voters not to vote next month. This head-scratcher of a proposition appears premised on the notion that because there appear clearly to have been serious problems with the balloting before, during and after the November 3 election, voting in the runoff cannot be trusted so voters should stay home.
The obvious drawback with such a proposition is that if Republican voters stay away from the polls on January 5, it will simply guarantee Democrat victories in Georgia, along with a massive win for Chuck Schumer and the Democrats nationally. As a strategy, it fails to approach the level of even a pyrrhic victory.
Georgia Republicans, including myself, have much to be worried about in how the ballot counting took place during and after the November 3 vote. These concerns have to with the manner by which absentee ballots are verified, as well as the possible fraudulent counting of ballots on and after November 3, which appears to have been concentrated in counties controlled by Democrats.
The concern about how absentee ballot signatures are verified resulted at least in large part from a decision by the Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to settle a lawsuit brought last year by Democrats that alleged the absentee ballot verification procedures then in place were racially discriminatory and “suppressed” the minority vote. Raffensperger agreed to a settlement in March that established an absentee ballot signature verification procedure so cumbersome as to be virtually unworkable. Making matters worse, he then pressed ahead with encouraging massive mail-in balloting in the primary and general elections and opening the floodgates to even more potential fraud.
Whether evidence of fraud plays out in court, where it should be presented, remains to be seen, and such allegations – whether civil or criminal in nature – need to be pursued. Unlike the old joke about not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time, however, we can and should do both – work to turn out the vote for the two Senate seats and take steps both in court and in the legislature to clean up the porous mail-in balloting system.
Failing in either regard will only weaken the GOP brand in the eyes of the voters this year and in the crucial 2022 off-year election when, if we play our cards right, we should regain the majority in the House.
Name calling, whether by local and state Republicans or by those in Washington, does nothing to move us an inch closer to the goal of retaining the Senate majority on January 5; reflective of a lesson that should have been learned long ago.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s.