Trying to Make Sense of Geoff Duncan

Several of my former colleagues who are still serving in the Georgia House of Representatives have called me in the last several weeks to express their complete and utter dismay with former Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan. A common theme among those conversations is the disbelief that Duncan has gone so far as to endorse Joe Biden for President of the United States.

For those members who went to bat (see what I did there?) for Duncan when he ran for LG, the departure from the GOP is jarring. It is personal to them. They vouched for him with their own constituencies. Each who have contacted me have expressed a feeling of personal betrayal. It is usually tinged with a theme that they would be fine with him just quietly going about his business and not voting for Trump. But being so public about not only refusing to vote for Trump, but endorsing Biden, it is costing them some level of credibility with their own voters.

So I have spent way too much time trying to figure out why Geoff would do this. And to make it make sense, I guess, I have to tell a story about the man that starts with this photo.

What you see there is a group of 10 members of the Georgia House of Representatives and Brad Hughes, who is a dear friend to each of us. From left to right: Regina Quick, Delvis Dutton, Kevin Cooke, Stephen Allison, Geoff Duncan, Trey Kelley, Brett Harrell, Buzz Brockway, Mike Dudgeon, Brad Hughes, and me.

It was 2013 and it was the day before crossover day. But what brought us to this point had started days or a couple of weeks before with some friendly banter about baseball. Cooke and Duncan shared an office suite at the time and the opportunity to talk smack to one another about their glory days organically presented itself.

As everyone knows, Duncan made it to AAA in the Marlins organization before hanging up his spikes. I could not really tell you what level Cooke played, but lets just say the guy is a big time fan of Tottenham Hotspur. Duncan told Cooke he could strike him out, or Cooke told Duncan he couldn’t strike him out. I don’t clearly remember who threw the gauntlet. And then Duncan decided to raise the stakes. A significant wager was offered and Duncan promised that not only would he strike Cooke out, he would do it while standing on second base.

As word spread of the challenge, someone connected to the Braves got word and offered the facilities at Cool Ray Field in Gwinnett. So we car pooled up to the stadium and what transpired is seared in my memory. In his first at bat, Cooke hit a weak fly ball to right. In his next at bat, Cooke hit a weak grounder to shortstop, where I happened to be standing, recording it on my old iPhone. In his third at bat, Cooke did in fact strike out, but Duncan wasn’t done. He moved back to second base, the spot demanded by Duncan upping the stakes for the wager, and proceeded to walk Cooke.

There was a certain level of fallout from the event. For one, Duncan had to undergo reconstructive surgery on his throwing shoulder. Also, as far as I know, he never paid up on the bet.

But I have also come to view so much of what Geoff Duncan is doing these days through the lens of that moment.

For example, just yesterday, the AJC published an op-ed by Duncan offering President Biden advice for how to win Thursday night’s CNN debate against Trump. Why would a guy who once wore an Appeal to Heaven flag on his lapel be willing to accept the following: a presidency that ignores the Supreme Court, created a humanitarian crisis at the border, led to the deaths of innocent Americans at the hands of illegals, seen prices on American families swell over 19% since taking office, pumped $7 billion into an electric car program that has produced only 7 charging stations, adopted polices that weaken protections for women, and the nebulous way the Biden family has made their money. I think I know why, but I will get to that in a second.

In his endorsement of Biden over Trump, Duncan said that Biden was a, “decent person.” Oh, just stop it. This is a demonstrably false statement by any objective measure. Somewhere out there there is a little girl who knows her grandfather is the President of the United States but yet has never met him. This makes him a verifiable piece of [REDACTED]. At this point in a podcast Pye would interject with a “what-about” regarding Trump’s character, but that would miss the point. It s possible to come to the conclusion that both Trump and Biden lack a certain level of decency. Duncan’s claim that Biden is a decent person lacks intellectual honesty.

I am willing to give Geoff Duncan a great amount of leeway when it comes to questioning Donald Trump’s conservative bona fides. The former President is a populist first and foremost and it is true that many of his policies, everything from tariffs (which are taxes on the American people) to his propensity for deficit spending, fly in the face of the concept of small government conservatism. As someone who describes myself as a conservative idealogue I understand it when Duncan points out those flaws in Trump’s policy positions. There’s a nuance there. But there is a significant difference between not supporting Trump and fully embracing Biden and all of those policy positions I linked above. There is no nuance in Duncan’s embrace of Biden. He has signed up to support those policies.

And there was a time when Duncan praised Trump for actual conservative policies.

So why is Duncan fighting Trump so hard at this point? First let’s look at the fallout from the 2020 election, and then let’s look at the current circumstances through the lens of that day at Cool Ray Field back in 2013.

I have mentioned many times that in 2020 there was a fog of war around the results of the election of the President in Georgia. So many false claims were coming from a myriad of directions, it was difficult, as a policy maker, to determine what was true and what was not. But there came a certain point when it was obvious that the false claims were not true and it was the conservatives within the GOP who pushed back against the false narratives. Governor Kemp and Duncan teamed up on a joint statement outlining that calling for a special session to overturn the results would be unconstitutional. In a call with the President, David Ralston told him there would be no special session.

Trump was apoplectic. In a series of tweets he attacked Duncan specifically. At a certain point, Duncan refused to respond to Trump negatively, but the urge to move back off the mound and to second base started to percolate over time.

Many elected officials had to have extra security during that time as a result of receiving credible death threats. I know that both Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan are men who put their families over everything else. Having to order extra security for their families isn’t something any of us sign up for. As a result there came a point for the ultra competitive Geoff Duncan when it stopped being about anything else other than beating Trump for himself.

You see, that moment at Cool Ray Field really exposed Duncan’s biggest strength and also flaw: he’s hyper competitive. And there is nothing he won’t do to win. And if he has to raise the stakes to being absolutely stupid level, he will, and then be willing to tear the ligaments in his shoulder to try to prove a point.

So this is about him beating Trump. Trump attacked him so raise the stakes. Move off the mound and back to second base. Insert bluster, ego, etc. Now Trump must lose or Geoff sees himself as a failure. I don’t think he sees this election about Biden vs Trump at all. Closer to Duncan vs Cooke.

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