Four years later in Georgia, Trump completes his destruction of the Republican Party

Christian Schneider, Opinion columnist

Over the past year, we’ve witnessed a slate of horrific campaign strategies that until now, any sentient carbon-based life form would avoid. Things like: Maybe don’t hold rallies that might kill your supporters. Try to refrain from insulting popular war heroes and civil rights leaders who represent states you need to win. Opt against telling armed groups with a history of violence and ties to white supremacy to “stand by.”

But above all else, if you’re looking to win elections, it is probably best not to urge your supporters not to vote. And — just spitballing here — don’t suggest that even if they do vote, you’ll engineer a preposterous scheme to get their ballots thrown out if the result isn’t to your liking.

These lessons evidently were not obvious to President and alleged human Donald Trump, whose contribution to Georgia’s two Senate runoffs Tuesday was to tell Republican voters that the elections were “illegal and invalid,” and that his loss in the state in November exposed the voting process to be “rigged” and “corrupt.”

Making Georgia about him

Throughout the campaign, the two Republican incumbents, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, were locked in a deli-thin race with two strong Democratic opponents, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. But, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, “a burnt child loves the fire,” and Trump rushed back in to Georgia to take a blowtorch to the state’s Senate contests.

It didn’t have to be this way. With the presidential election settled in everyone’s mind but Trump’s, all that was at stake was control of the Senate. In order to hold the majority, only one of the GOP candidates had to win in a state where Republicans had traditionally dominated. Loeffler and Perdue could have easily coaxed conservative voters to the polls by running against the AOCs and Pelosis and Schumers of the world, pleading with GOP voters that a Democratic Senate would force them to get involuntarily gay-married to a transgender undocumented immigrant.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 4, 2021, in Dalton, Georgia.
President Donald Trump on Jan. 4, 2021, in Dalton, Georgia.

But Trump, having been scorned in Georgia two months ago and sensing a media opportunity, had to make the race about himself. Since Election Day, Trump has falsely maintained that he won Georgia, threatening any Republican elected official who disagrees with him. Consequently, at a Georgia rally Monday, Trump all but ignored Loeffler and Perdue as if they were thrift store toothbrushes, instead urging other senators to help him overthrow the results of the election when Congress met two days later to count the electoral votes.

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But even as the president spit in the constitutional punch bowl, Loeffler and Perdue heartily lapped it up. Loeffler, who was appointed to the office in 2019 and proudly campaigned with QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, endorsed Trump’s insane call to object to Joe Biden’s electors in Congress, despite there being no evidence they were in any way invalid. With crackpot conspiracy theorists holding his ear, Trump’s attack on the democratic process now posits that elections are the beginning of campaigns, not the end.

A party left for conspiracy theorists

After his loss, both Loeffler and Perdue tried to soothe the president’s fragile ego by calling for the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to resign. When Trump called Raffensperger and pressured him to “find” enough votes in Georgia for the president to be declared the victor, both Loeffler and Perdue avoided criticizing Trump for trying to engage in the Art of the Steal.

And their rewards for this cowardly sycophancy? They each get a one-way ticket to Anywhere but the Senate. Their political careers have assumed room temperature, and their names will only live on in future Google searches when bars need obscure political trivia answers.

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Some Republicans actually see Tuesday's loss of the Senate as a learning experience for the GOP, as if the party will now straighten up, regain its dignity and re-discipline its members. But political parties rarely learn anything from humiliating losses. In many cases, angry party members believe they lost because their candidates weren’t pure or aggressive enough. This is how the Republican Party went from avuncular Mitt Romney in 2012 to human energy drink Donald Trump in 2016.

Thus, it seems unlikely any lessons will be learned, leaving the party in the hands of conspiracy theorists, oleaginous Trump progeny and mustachioed television pillow salesmen. With the dual losses Tuesday, the immolation of the Republican Party is complete. The Grand Old Party is no longer grand, it's definitely old and it is a political party in name only.

Christian Schneider, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, is a senior reporter at The College Fix, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors and author of “1916: The Blog.” Follow him on Twitter: @Schneider_CM

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia Senate: Trump completes his immolation of the Republican Party