GOP Relationship status: It’s Complicated

Political journalists and commentators like simple, binary narratives. Left vs. right. Establishment vs. grassroots. Hardcore Trump supporters vs. Never Trumpers. It’s easy to write such stories and easy to make the audience understand them. And as one moves from objective coverage to analysis and punditry, it’s easy to frame those narratives in terms of good guys and bad guys. 

Unfortunately, the disadvantage of this framing is that it’s almost always overly simplistic and often flat-out wrong. That’s certainly the case for most of the narratives written in the runup to this year’s Georgia GOP convention, which wrapped up about 8:30 PM last night. 

One such story that I and several other Peach Pundit contributors have covered in the past few weeks is the idea that the convention would become a competition between supporters and opponents of the Georgia Republican Assembly. They made the news both for their controversial proposal for a rule allowing conventions to bar candidates from running for office as Republicans, and for their slate of endorsed candidates. 

Because their proposed rule change and the competition for state GOP chair in which the GRA had endorsed a candidate were the highest-profile issues facing the convention, it was easy to assume that either the GRA or its opponents would “win”. Either the GRA slate would be elected and their proposed rule would be implemented, or “establishment” candidates would win and the proposed rule would be blocked. 

Only it didn’t quite work out that way. As I predicted, the rule was never even presented to the convention, partially because of some parliamentary maneuvering and partially because not enough delegates stuck around after elections were finally finished around 8PM for us to be able to conduct further business. That was less of a loss for the GRA and more of an inevitable result of the structure of these conventions. It’s my personal opinion that their rule would not have passed an up-and-down vote by the convention delegates, but that can’t be proven. 

The executive board elections were an even more mixed bag. Josh McKoon was elected Chairman with a GRA endorsement, but he was also the best known of the three candidates, and as a former four-term state Senator with deep connections to the GOP grassroots, he’s hardly an insurgent outsider. 

The role of first vice chair was thought to be a contest between long-serving board member BJ Van Gundy and current DeKalb County GOP Chair and GRA endorsee Marci McCarthy. In the end, the job went to…neither. Instead, we elected radio host Brian K. Pritchard, whose impassioned campaign speech targeted elections and vaccines (both fake, in his view), and who has his own share of controversial baggage

The rest of the elections went similarly. More GRA endorsees lost than won, but they weren’t defeated by people one would describe as “establishment” or “moderate”. Frankly, many such people have stopped participating in the Georgia GOP, and those who are left are either uninterested in running for party office or believe, correctly, that they couldn’t win an election as the party currently stands. 

If anything, it seems that the GRA itself may have been too “establishment” for the delegate body, about 40% of which was attending a state convention for the first time, according to a test vote on the convention floor. But this convention didn’t turn out to be a referendum on the GRA or its views. In hindsight, I can’t immediately come up with any specific issue or endorsement either the winners or the losers had in common. You can safely ignore the mainstream media narrative that we elected “election deniers”. No candidate for any office made a point of affirming the outcome of the 2020 election, and the candidates who had most supported the rigged-election theory were not always the ones who won.

At the end of the convention, the candidates, both winners and losers, came out onto the stage together to deliver a message of unity, which was also a theme in many of the candidates’ speeches. All agreed that the mission would be to support each other and Republican candidates for office, whoever they may be. Maybe the winning candidates were the ones the delegates thought would best be able to win elections for Republicans, regardless of the details of their political views. That is, after all, the job of the Georgia GOP.

That’s a nice, easy, binary narrative. We elected the good guys who we thought were best suited to defeat the bad guys. Come together! Elect Republicans! Defeat Democrats! Easy as that.

But then, that’s probably overly simplistic, isn’t it?

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