It is painful for me to write this post. It gives me a knot in my stomach to have to call out a man I have held in very high regard for such a long time. It is literally painful. But someone needs to say something, and so, here I go. Again.
Back in… oh geeze. I was going to start in 2020 when Duncan broke with many in the GOP to call out President Trump for his behavior regarding the election, but it starts way earlier than that. It started back in 2013 when an “Appeal to Heaven” Lapel Pin wearing, freshman legislator from Forsyth County routinely voted no against legislation that his leadership wanted to pass.
Geoff Duncan was one of the members of the Island of Misfit Toys; a band of legislators who had created a strong bond around their desire to see policy elevated over politics, and who were willing to pay a price of sacrificing their own political agenda and vote no on a whole host of bad policies. We are talking about tax-money-giveaways to millionaires so that they could build things like car museums, or build an entertainment district that would put additional millions in the pocket of the property owner. The type of stuff the average Republican voter only wished their State Legislators would do, Duncan was actually doing it.
And after just a few short years in the House, Duncan took his message of policy over politics to the voters state wide and ran for Lieutenant Governor. His candidacy meant something very real for those of us who voted the legislation, not the people who were sponsoring the bill. It was an opportunity to show it could be done differently. It was a new day.
When Georgia became the center of the political universe in 2020, Duncan thrust himself into the spotlight. He appeared on CNN very early to say that Biden won when many Republicans around the country didn’t want that to be true, and his position as a lightning rod had cemented. His willingness, at the time, to stand up for what he believed regardless of the consequences was on brand for the guy I have always known him to be. There were going to be very real consequences for taking that stand, and ultimately he decided against running for reelection.
Along the way Duncan wrote a book that he hoped would launch a movement; GOP 2.0 A better Way Forward. The liberal media loved it. They luuuuuuved it. The AJC ran an article with the headline, “Geoff Duncan’s GOP 2.0 book issues urgent plea for Republicans to ‘wake up.’” The Washington Post gushed, “Georgia’s GOP lieutenant governor conducts the 2020 autopsy his party won’t.” The Associated Press fawned, “Georgia lieutenant governor declares independence from Trump.”
The goal of the movement was supposed to be, “an independent movement that brings a fresh and reasoned approach to creating Republican majorities. Join us in advocating for the PET Project: creating better Policy, Empathy, and Tone within the Republican Party.”
It is safe to assume that for this GOP 2.0 movement to be successful, Duncan would need to appeal to, I don’t know, Republicans? But he hasn’t been doing that and instead has been actively positioning himself as a rising star of the liberal media.
In Early October The Daily Beast broke a story that claimed that Herschel Walker had paid for an old girlfriend’s abortion. Walker unequivocally denied it, and for a few days it dominated the news cycle. I was in DC at the time for a conference and everyone there wanted my opinion on how this would impact the race. I flippantly replied to one person that it was going to help him. They thought I was crazy. But they don’t understand Georgia politics. Walker, despite the doom and gloom distributed by the media which Duncan aided, made the runoff.
But it wasn’t with the help of Duncan. Duncan chose to go on CNN as a pundit and slam the Republican nominee again and again. I began grumbling on the Peach Pundit Podcast that these comments were not at all helpful. Further, I know Geoff Duncan, and had it been Geoff who was the target of his own comments, he would have set the place on fire.
But the ultimate inexplicable comment came this week when Duncan appeared on CNN yet again, and delighted the host and other panelist by telling the story of waiting an hour in line to cast his ballot early, being disgusted by his choices, and walking out without voting for either candidate. Raphael Warnock could not have asked for a bigger gift to his campaign.
The reaction from Republicans in Georgia has been uniformly disappointed in the outgoing Lieutenant Governor.
Long time Republican Activist, Brad Hughes, wrote, “To answer your questions, I don’t know what’s going on with him in this stunt. What he did appeared to be for attention and, seems to me, to show a lack of judgment. But he was and remains a man I love and respect. We can disagree on political things. I can unapologetically say that I believe what he did was annoying, distracting, irresponsible and dangerous to the fight for conservatism. But I can still love him and call him a close brother. That’s called being a grown up. And it’s good for us all to pass that test from time to time.”
Another long time Republican activist posted, “Who in the hell goes to vote in ONE race and when he gets there, can’t make up his mind, so he leaves? It’s ONE race! Seriously?” The responses in the comments echoed her disbelief.
In the day or two since Duncan’s declaration that he did not vote, actual Republicans, even ones he had been targeting in his GOP 2.0 campaign, are looking at Duncan and his new mission as destructive to winning elections. As a result, the credibility of GOP 2.0 is in flames. And maybe, because it wasn’t catching on within the party anyway, that’s just fine by Geoff Duncan. Maybe he has his eyes on some other prize.
I have said many times that Herschel Walker is not a perfect candidate. I voted for another candidate for US. Senate in the primary. But as Buzz pointed out at the beginning of our latest podcast, people should vote for the person that will vote most in line with their values. I hedged that comment by Buzz, saying that people weren’t doing that. And that includes Geoff Duncan.
Geoff Duncan has always said that it is policy over politics. Nothing in his recent actions have shown that he still holds that position. He should stop using the phrase. It falls empty coming from him now.
As Erick Erickson has pointed out, Walker was accused of paying for an abortion years ago, and Raphael Warnock wants to use the force of government to make me pay for everybody’s abortion today. Warnock’s vote for the misnamed Inflation Reduction Act has imperiled jobs in Georgia. For Republicans in Georgia, this isn’t really a difficult choice if your standard is policy over politics.
So why is he doing this?
The most on-the-nose observation came from State Representative Josh McLaurin, a Democrat:
Representative McLaurin and I do not agree on a lot, but it hard for me to find the lie in his analysis. I don’t want that to be true. But I am having a hard time making sense of any other theory because it is obvious Duncan has abandon the policy over politics mantle. And from the ashes of GOP 2.0 rises the next CNN Superstar.