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Warnock’s Victory Does Not Mean Georgia Has Turned Purple—Yet

Georgia is red, its senators blue, Trump cost Mitch the Senate, drubbed Herschel, too.
December 7, 2022
Warnock’s Victory Does Not Mean Georgia Has Turned Purple—Yet
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock speaks at a campaign event on November 19, 2020 in Jonesboro, Georgia. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Reports of the death of red Georgia have been greatly exaggerated. It took a strong blue incumbent, Sen. Raphael Warnock, to beat a Herschel Walker candidacy with so many weaknesses that it couldn’t stand up to a second-string JV football team.

It could barely stand up at all. Walker was so unfit that it almost felt impolite to talk about it. From hidden children to abortion scandals to incidents of Russian roulette to credible allegations of domestic abuse, the former NFL star had more skeletons in his closet than a Halloween party.

Warnock’s 2-point victory over Walker doesn’t make Georgia purple. To know that the state still bleeds red, all you need to do is look at how conservatives like Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—both of whom distanced themselves from Donald Trump—soundly defeated their liberal opponents.

What has been made clear by the results of the now-concluded midterms is this: If you don’t steer clear of Trump, he can inject a shot of blue into the bloodstream of a battleground state.

As GOP consultant John Thomas told CNN’s Ron Brownstein: “If you . . . remind voters of Trump . . . it’s pure poison to independent voters.”

Independents have already rejected this toxin in Arizona, where Trump VP-wannabe Kari Lake and Senate candidate Blake Masters both lost by comfortable margins. Trumpist gubernatorial candidates Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon in Michigan met the same fate. Now Walker has joined them all in defeat.

Lake, in particular, seemed all but certain to give a victory speech from the podium at her campaign’s election-night party. She was a telegenic star whose years as a newscaster had made her a familiar sight to millions of Arizonans. If only she hadn’t pledged fealty to the campaign killer, Donald Trump.

None of this means that he won’t be the next Republican presidential nominee. And with the 2024 playing field tilted his way by voter suppression, MAGA-controlled state legislatures, and the Supreme Court, there’s no guarantee he won’t retake the Oval Office.

But what the successive defeats of radical MAGA candidates does show us is this: Over the next two years, Trump’s opponents must hammer endlessly at the anti-democratic, election-denying positions he and his followers hold. If nothing else, Trump has reminded us that in politics, nothing is more useful than an enemy.

Meanwhile, elected Republicans, including moderates like Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), continue to run terrified of Trump, saying his call to abolish the Constitution is no deal-breaker. Republican members of Congress, like Sens. Rick Scott, John Cornyn, and Josh Hawley, evaded when asked if Trump’s comments disqualify him: “The voters get to decide those things.” It took Mitch McConnell three days before he bellied halfway up to the bar: “It would be pretty hard to be sworn in to the presidency if you’re not willing to uphold the Constitution.”

“Profiles in courage” they are not. These Republicans continue to enable the guy they wish would disappear. They must not have gotten “tired of winning” the way he’s done it the last three cycles. More likely, they haven’t grown a set of—let’s settle for—vertebrae.

He may be a future dictator, these Republicans seem to be thinking, but he’s our future dictator. Maybe in 2024, he’ll turn Georgia blue again.

Dennis Aftergut

Dennis Aftergut, a former assistant U.S. attorney and former Supreme Court advocate, is currently of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.