The GOP's flailing response to the Georgia voting law backlash shows how lost the party is

John Haltiwanger
·5 min read
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offers a stimulus compromise at a press conference with Republican Senator from Wyoming John Barrasso (L) and Republican Senator from South Dakota John Thune (R) at the Capitol. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • The GOP response to backlash over Georgia's new voting restrictions shows how lost it is.

  • The typically pro-corporate party is threatening tax hikes on major companies criticizing the law.

  • And as Republicans rant about "cancel culture," they're calling for boycotts of pro baseball.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Republican party was always going to struggle to define itself post-Trump, but the scope of that challenge has become increasingly evident via the party's bumbling reaction to growing fallout over Georgia's controversial new voting law.

The voting law, which includes a provision banning volunteers from delivering food or drinks to voters in line, has sparked a wave of criticism - including from major companies based in Georgia like Coca-Cola and Delta. The MLB has also protested the law by moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia. Republicans maintain that the law is designed to prevent voter fraud, an extremely rare and virtually non-existent problem in the US.

In a strange twist of events, the typically pro-corporate, hyper-patriotic GOP is now calling for boycotts of Coke, perhaps the country's most iconic brand, and America's favorite pastime.

"If @mlb is boycotting states that pass Republican election integrity laws, maybe Republicans should boycott Major League Baseball?" GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted on Monday.

For decades, Republicans have made opposition to raising taxes a central tenet of their political philosophy, while decrying almost anyone who called for taxes and regulations on corporations as socialists. But Republicans are currently threatening tax hikes on companies that criticize Georgia's new law.

"Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement on Monday.

"Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & antitrust?" Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted on Friday.

Indeed, the same party that has consistently backed the notion corporations should be granted the same free speech rights as people is now leading the charge to punish companies that expressed views contrary to their agenda.

"Just mind blowing hypocrisy from the crowd that fought for years to make corporations 'citizens' so they could make First Amendment protected unlimited political contributions," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted on Monday. "Republicans LOOOOVE corporate free speech so long as the corporations agree with Republicans."

And while a number of top Republicans and Fox News - the GOP's de facto state news channel - continue to rant about the perils of "cancel culture," the party is effectively engaging in the same behavior it's been condemning by pushing for boycotts of major US companies and institutions they currently disagree with.

In short, the Republican party has lost its sense of self and has no discernible, cogent ideology. It's in survival mode, as evidenced by the flailing response to the backlash over Georgia's new voting restrictions. But while the GOP effort to defend the divisive law is clumsy, the legislation itself is part of a far more coordinated, nationwide effort from the party when it comes to elections.

Republicans are afraid of becoming a permanent minority party

Brian Kemp bill signing
Gov. Brian Kemp signs SB 202 into law at the Georgia state Capitol in Atlanta on March 25, 2021. Governor Brian Kemp's Twitter feed/Handout via REUTERS

The Georgia law, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, came as GOP lawmakers in state legislatures across the country push for a slew of voting restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election. At least 361 bills with restrictive voting provisions had been introduced by legislators in 47 states as of March 24, per an analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice.

After a the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, political scientists and democracy experts warned that Republicans would increasingly embrace anti-democratic tactics over fear they'll become a permanent minority party.

"What we're seeing is basically a fear of a multiracial democracy," Carol Anderson, a professor of African American studies at Emory University, told Peacock's Mehdi Hasan in February.

In many ways, the GOP is already a minority party. The GOP hasn't won the popular vote in a presidential election since 2004. Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight elections, including the past four (2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020). Under former President Donald Trump, the GOP lost the White House, House, and Senate in just four years.

And as America becomes increasingly diverse, the GOP remains an overwhelmingly white, male party. The current Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in US history, according to Pew Research, but the vast majority of racial and ethnic minority members are Democrats (83%), while just 17% are Republicans. There are also more Democratic women in Congress (106) than Republicans (38).

The Capitol attack was largely catalyzed by Trump's "big lie" that the election had been stolen from him, which was enabled and amplified by many Republicans in Congress. This lie, combined with the GOP fear of perpetual minority status, is continuing to fuel voter suppression efforts nationwide.

Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who's been credited with driving historic Black voter to help Democrats flip the Southern state, in late March told the Guardian that Republicans are "responding to the big lie, to the disproven, discredited, the blood-spilled lie of voter fraud."

"They are responding by conforming to a lie and cloaking it in this mask that this is somehow ethical, that this is somehow about protecting, when it is about restricting and suppressing," Abrams added.

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