I Reckon: Georgia should be on your mind this election season

A person putting in their ballot in a box with the Georgia state peach symbol and in the background is a silhouette of Donald Trump
(JiWon Lee | Daily Trojan)

You might be well aware by now that my column talks about the South and its politics, but I don’t cover the South because it’s necessarily a fun thing to do. Sometimes, the news cycle south of the Mason-Dixon line is slower than molasses. Recently, it’s been more upsetting. I talk about the South because there’s never been a better time, especially as midterm elections approach, to heed W.E.B. DuBois’ timeless quote: “As the South goes, so goes the nation.”

Biased as I am, being a Southerner and a Georgian, I think the South can be viewed as a great example of a political crystal ball. It’s the birthplace of the civil rights movement and a handful of labor movements, and in 2020, Southern states made all the difference in a consequential election year. South Carolina helped turn around a Biden campaign that seemed to be sputtering out fast, and I’d argue that Georgia wasn’t on anybody’s mind before the Peach State sent two Democrats to the Senate and flipped blue for the first time since 1992.

It is yet again in Georgia where Trump’s clout and the ever-coveted endorsement of the former President are being put to the test. This time around, I believe the election results that come out of the Peach State might be the biggest indicator of whether or not the South, and the nation as a whole, is ready to move on from Donald and his associates.

2022 is the year because, unlike in 2020, the leading Republican candidates running for the positions that make all the difference — such as Secretary of State and the Governor’s Office — are the ones that defied Trump and refused to breathe life into the “Big Lie” that the 2020 elections were stolen. For example, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, an incumbent who is running for reelection to the same position, beat Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) with nearly 52.3%, compared to Rep. Hice’s 33.4%. 

Raffensperger made headlines for doing the bare minimum in protecting democracy by refusing the former president’s demand to “find” more votes to put him over Biden in 2020. Hice, on the other hand, objected to the certification of the results of the 2020 election in Congress on January 6, which is probably what gave him Trump’s golden seal of approval in the Secretary of State race.

Trump’s pick for Georgia governor, former Georgia Sen. David Perdue, didn’t fare too well either. The governor’s race is the second time Perdue has run for office with the endorsement of the former president — the first time being in 2020 when he was running for reelection in the Senate — a race that he notably lost. That time, he ran unopposed in the Republican primary, and ultimately ran against a fairly moderate Democrat, Jon Ossoff. This year, Trump’s endorsement couldn’t even muster him past the primary — which incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp won.

Trump built his whole brand on the premise of slapping his last name onto hotels and real estate. That only got him so far in the business world, and it’s obvious by the defeat of his endorsed candidates that the Trump name is starting to lose its shine in the political world too. 

What Gov. Kemp and Secretary of State Raffensperger have managed to do is push the same sort of nonsense that Trump might espouse, but without sounding like the former president, much less invoking his name in their ads, talking points or debates. This just goes to show that you can’t run on the Big Lie and expect to win anymore. Conservative voters understand that there’s a great range of issues that need to be addressed — issues that perpetrators of the Big Lie don’t seem to talk much about. If Georgia voters, who, according to my memory, are willing to put up with a lot, are already getting tired of Trump, imagine what the rest of the nation is feeling.

This might sound like good news for liberals and progressives hoping that Republican infighting may help their chances of winning state elections, but don’t fold up this paper just yet. Nobody reading this should take Rep. Hice and Sen. Perdue’s defeat as the end of the effects that Trumpism has had on the country. 

Republican infighting and the waning power of Trump’s endorsement won’t really trip up Republicans during election time if Democrats stick with their election game plan, which honestly seems to be running on the “Trump is Bad” wagon until the wheels start to come off. Democrats ought to take Georgia’s state election as a lesson to, as their winning Republican counterparts did, ditch their endless mentioning of the former president so the state, and the nation, can move forward.

Quynh Anh Nguyen is a rising junior writing about the implications of current Southern political events in her column “I Reckon.”