Lay down with dogs, wake up with fleas. And the more time you spends next to bigots, the harder it is to get the stench out of your clothes.
Nationally, Republicans are dealing with this as they mostly hold their noses and get behind the party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, even as they start condemning the racist stuff their candidate keeps saying.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) is one of a handful who have said they will support the party’s nominee, but don’t want that construed as an endorsement. In other words, despite calling him out for racist comments about a federal judge in California, she’s treating Trump with a “long-handled spoon.”
Down ballot, though, rank-and-file Republicans are starting to walk quietly away. Consider Georgia, once thought to be a strong red state, one whose last three Democratic governors were among the bluest blue dogs the south has ever known. Several ranking Republican state officials took a pass at a convention delegate slot, meaning they won’t have to sign their name under Trump’s. Some are instead attending the GOP convention as “guests,” while others, like two-term Gov. Nathan Deal, say they may skip the trip altogether.
Deal, a former congressman who was initially elected to the House as a Democrat until he flipped in 1995, appears to have whipped out his own spoon. He won’t say whether he’ll go the to convention and his name is curiously missing from the slate of 31 delegates and alternates elected at the state conventions.
Governors, for the uninitiated, are typically shoe-ins as delegates and rarely do they demur.
There are a total of 76 people in the Georgia contingent, but the bulk of the party’s leadership “were either bypassed or took a pass at a delegate slot,” says Atlanta Journal Constitution writer Greg Bluestein. Among those choosing to opt-out are Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston. Both are party loyalists but, unlike Deal, their political ambitions won’t likely end with their current terms. Due to term limits, Deal won’t face voters again. Thus, there was likely little political danger in being seated as a delegate.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp, U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson will all go as guests, but none of them are listed among the official delegates.
Reports Bluestein: “The only statewide elected officials Georgia is sending to Cleveland as part of its contingent of 76 delegates are Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald, an early Donald Trump supporter, and Attorney General Sam Olens, who endorsed Jeb Bush at the outset of the race. Only a few politicians—including Sens. Josh McKoon, Michael Williams and David Shafer, and state Rep. Ed Rynders of Albany—are on the list.”
It’s important to note that Trump won the Georgia’s open primary, handily, with almost 40 percent of the vote and many who opposed him in the primary have now either endorsed him outright or are still walking around with that spoon in their back pocket.
So what’s holding them back?
Political prognosticators point to the fact that Georgia was blue (at least a pale shade of it) 20 years ago. Yes, Republicans now hold the governor’s mansion, both chambers of the statehouse and every statewide elected post. But the demographics are swiftly changing. Georgia was once the third largest state for migrating Hispanics and Latinos and the lion’s share are of Mexican descent.
Despite draconian laws aimed at driving undocumented immigrants out of the state, the number of legal citizen of Hispanic or Latino heritage and who are of voting age continues to swell. In 2011, before the governor HB 87, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 425,000 undocumented immigrants lived in Georgia.
The move triggered an estimated $140 million in agricultural losses. Crops literally rotted in the fields, due to a lack of farm labor. But many believe that was an unintended consequence, and that the real goal was to keep the growing number of Hispanics and their native born children, who were coming of age, out of the voting booth. Nearly 40 percent of all immigrants living in Georgia were naturalized citizens in 2013—meaning the adults are eligible to vote. While only, 7.4 percent were registered voters, at the time of the survey, that is expected to change. Every possible voter ID law has been passed and the DMV has tough new requirements to get a driver’s license, but none of it is working out the way state Republican lawmakers planned.
The levee will break. The question is when. Republicans see the demographic threat coming. And Trump’s ugly rhetorical flourishes about immigrants could be what breaks the dam.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…” he said in his June 2016 announcement speech. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
And last week, months after chowing down on a taco salad in honor of Cinco de Mayo, Trump attacked a sitting federal judge on the basis of his ethnic background. He has repeatedly said that Gonzalo Curiel, an Indiana native who is overseeing two class-action lawsuits against the now defunct Trump University, cannot be impartial and has made a number of bad rulings… because he is Mexican and, according to Trump, “I’m building a wall.”
For their part, no one in the state GOP leadership has anything to say about Trump’s increasingly racist rhetoric, including publicly calling a black man “my African American” during a campaign rally.
“Whether we had a different choice, it doesn’t matter,” Lt. Gov. Cagle told state convention attendees over the weekend. “Because some things are more important than our personal feelings. And when it comes to the next Supreme Court justice, it’s not going to be a one-year issue, a two-year issue. It’s going to be decades.”
Maybe he’s afraid of being captured on a videotape that might make it into a future campaign ad, but Cagle—like a lot of other Georgia leaders—refuses to say Trump’s name out loud. To the contrary, Sen. Perdue—who apparently isn’t afraid of fleas and doesn’t own a long-handled spoon, proudly put on Trump’s signature red cap like he was donning Superman’s cape.
“He can help us lead again. But he can also help make America great again,” Perdue told the crowd.
Even so, Perdue is not an official delegate to the convention.
Like Ayotte, Deal has not formally endorsed Trump but issued a familiar refrain: He’ll support the GOP nominee. Deal, who once bucked his party by vetoing a so-called “religious liberty” bill and “campus carry” legislation, must be wondering what this may all mean come November.
That’s plenty of time for state Democrats to close the party registration gap among naturalized citizens. And, if they do, it could be enough to turn Georgia blue.
Maybe the Georgia GOP should get into the spoon making business before it’s too late.