[guest post by Dana]
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffesnperger discussed the phone call from President Trump this morning on Good Morning America:
When asked what he was thinking, Raffensperger said “for the last two months, we’ve been fighting a rumor whack-a-mole. It was pretty obvious very early on that we debunked every one of those theories that have been out there, but President Trump continues to believe them.”
Stephanopoulos also asked Raffensperger if he felt “pressure” at the moment when Trump asked him to “find 11,780 votes” and help him overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
“No,” Raffenperger answered. While he spoke of how the coronavirus pandemic posed complications for the election process, he also said “everything we’ve done for the last 12 months follows the constitution of the state of Georgia, follows the United States Constitution, follows state law.”
Raffensperger said “I never believed it was appropriate to speak to the president” before the call because of ongoing litigations. Nonetheless, he affirmed his contradiction of Trump’s conspiracy theories once again by saying “the data he has is just plain wrong.”
Raffensperger maintained that he had never spoken to Trump prior to their conversation on Saturday.
“No, I never believed it was appropriate to speak to the president. But he pushed out — I guess he had his staff push us. They wanted to call,” Raffensperger said.
Raffensperger described his office as “in a litigation mode with the president’s team against the state of Georgia. And whenever you say anything, then you do have to have your advisers there. They have to have their advisers there, with lawyers.”
Although “I just preferred not to talk to someone when we’re in litigation,” Raffensperger continued, “we took the call, and we had a conversation.”
The president “did most of the talking. We did most of the listening,” he said. “But I did want to make my points, that the data that he has is just plain wrong. He had hundreds and hundreds of people he said that were dead that voted. We found two. That’s an example of just — he has bad data.”
On Monday, Raffensperger declined to say whether he personally found Trump’s requests in their conversation to be lawful.
“I’m not a lawyer. All I know is that we’re going to follow the law, follow the process,” he said. “Truth matters. And we’ve been fighting these rumors for the last two months.”
Reportedly, White House switchboard operators “made 18 previous attempts to have Trump speak with Raffensperger before the call took place.
Anyway, I found this simply astounding: Even though Raffensperger (who we know to be an honorable and honest broker) and his wife have received death threats since the election, and even though Trump made the outrageous phone call in which he told Raffensperger the specific number of votes that the secretary of state needed to find for him, it appears that Raffensperger would still likely vote for Trump because of party loyalty. It is hard to wrap my mind around the belief that party loyalty supersedes all else – especially when that “all else” is unlawful, unethical, un-American, corrupt, and coming from within your own house:
Stephanopoulos concluded the interview by asking Raffensperger if he would vote for Trump all over again after everything that has happened. Raffensperger hedged on the question by noting Trump isn’t on the 2024 ballot yet, but “I support Republicans. I always have and I probably always will.”
Georgian Republicans at large also continue to willfully ignore what is happening and look the other way when it comes to Trump and the Republican Party. Unbelievably, Patricia Murphy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Republicans don’t trust the election, potentially dampening turnout. Not one Republican voter Murphy has spoken to since Election Day believes that President-elect Biden won. “Not one, not a person,” she said. “And many of them don’t even think he’ll be inaugurated on January 20.”
One can find example after example after example after example of prominent faces in the Republican Party continuing to cover for Trump by ignoring the content of the phone call and diverting attention away from it by feigning indignation that the call was recorded and leaked to The Post. Of course, for the lawmakers doing this, self-preservation can easily be disguised as a nobler, greater good...for the party.
All of this reminded me of these smart observation from October about Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, which is now complete:
Trump’s takeover…has been as one-dimensional as it has been total. In the space of one term, the president has co-opted virtually every power center in the Republican Party, from its congressional caucuses to its state parties, its think tanks to its political action committees. But though he has disassembled much of the old order, he has built very little in its place. “You end up with this weird paradox where he stands to haunt the G.O.P. for many years to come, but on the substance it’s like he was never even there,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist.
During Trump’s presidency, his party has become host to new species of fringe figures…
But Trump’s influence is also reflected, in a more pedestrian but equally revealing way, in the ease with which George Kruse and others like him have transposed Trumplike signifiers onto otherwise utterly conventional suburban Republican platforms. Republican voters are essentially the same people who voted Republican before Trump; the party’s politicians are still mostly the same people, hiring mostly the same strategists. But their relationships to the party now flow through a single man, one who has never offered a clear vision for his political program beyond his immediate aggrandizement...
Republicans should not forget that the Republican Party very intentionally committed this act of self-sabotage, for which Americans have been paying every day for the past four years*:
In January 2016, Republican lawmakers gathered at a harborside Marriott in Baltimore for their annual conference retreat. Paul Ryan, then the speaker of the House, would preview his “Better Way” agenda, a collection of policy proposals addressing the economy, national security, the social safety net. In scheduled sessions, members would debate the finer points of the agenda that Ryan stressed would transform the G.O.P. from an “opposition party” to a “proposition party.” And in unscheduled interludes, they would consider how their party’s presidential primary could very well come down to a contest between a reality-television star, whom they hated, and Senator Ted Cruz, whom they also hated.
By the end of the retreat, many had privately agreed that the best way to achieve Ryan’s proposition-party ambitions in such a scenario was to nominate the candidate with the fewer proposals. As one Republican congressman explained to me at the time, when I was reporting on the conference for National Review Online, Cruz had his own “divisive” ideas (though in fact they were not so different from Ryan’s own). But with Trump, “there’s not a lot of meat there,” the congressman said. If Trump became the party’s candidate, he serenely predicted, he would “be looking to answer the question: ‘Where’s the beef?’ And we will have that for him.”
The GOP willingly did this. They chose Trump. Everything he has said and has done to undermine democracy, all of his un-American behavior, his corruption, dishonesty, self-serving narcissistic plotting – where everything is up for grabs and nothing is off-limits – is on them. Trump owns them. Especially now.
[* At the time of the election, a lot of us already knew who Trump was. There was no doubt. With regard to Cruz, a lot of us didn’t know who he would turn out to be when push came to shove.]