Discover more from Elliot Pierce Updates
Principles vs. Performance: The Battle Inside Georgia’s GOP
"You don’t need to be Karl Rove or Lee Atwater to know Republicans can’t win for long with this setup."
Local Republican parties and their leaders in Georgia are lost. They have forgotten their role and purpose, and as a result, they are hurting the party and its chances of winning elections.
In the past two weeks alone, the chairs or executive committees of Catoosa, Dekalb, Chattooga, Fulton, and Walker counties, as well as the leaders of the 14th and 11th districts, have written letters defending Georgia State Senator Colton Moore and rebuking 32 Republican senators who kicked him out of the senate caucus.
Some of them are the same people who have been echoing Moore's indignant tone towards all the other Republicans in the state government since he started his doomed-to-fail effort to get Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis removed or defunded for indicting Trump.
For anyone agreeing with Moore's strategy and tactics regarding Fani Willis or any legislation he proposes or with the discontent of local party leaders toward the State Senate Republicans, consider this:
Imagine you're on the board of your neighborhood homeowners association. You have an incredible idea for a new policy that will benefit the community, but you need consensus to enact it. What do you do?
You don't go to the press or social media and demand that your neighbors sign a petition. You don't target specific individuals with robocalls and texts. And you don't throw a tantrum when people don't agree with you.
Instead, you work to persuade your neighbors and build a coalition around your idea. You explain the benefits of your policy and answer their questions. You listen to their concerns and make changes to your idea as needed.
The same is true for legislators in the General Assembly. They need to work together to build consensus and pass laws that benefit the state and their constituents. A one-person outrage machine may generate likes and donations, but no goals will be achieved.
The local Republican party leaders who are supporting Moore are doing the party no favors. They’re not even doing Trump any favors. They are alienating potential voters and making the party look like a bunch of angry children.
Expressing personal or group feelings and opinions is not the same as doing something. These party leaders are not growing the party, strengthening it, or reforming it. They're just making it weaker and less appealing to voters.
They should be enlarging the GOP tent, persuading voters, enlightening the public, pioneering grassroots solutions, and both nurturing existing and crafting new community social and civic institutions. These endeavors, in essence, lay the foundation for securing electoral victories and building sustainable majorities.
This is what turnout looks like when party leaders put performative activities ahead of formative action. Walker and Catoosa are not alone. Numerous conservative counties mirrored the trend.
When the under-50 crowd treats voting like a forgotten Myspace account and the over-65s are all about it like the latest TikTok trend and it’s two of the most conservative counties in the state, you don’t need to be Karl Rove or Lee Atwater to know Republicans can’t win for long with this setup.
In order to win elections, Republican parties need to build a broad coalition that includes moderates and independents. However, the letters in support of Moore and social media statements from local Republican parties are unlikely to appeal to anyone outside of a small portion of the party faithful. And they have no hope of actually changing the minds of the senators to whom the letters were addressed. So what was the point of the letters and posts? Performance and expression. Same as Moore.
The party leaders supporting Moore claim to be committed to conservative and Republican principles. But where were they when Donald Trump recently rejected the pro-life movement and said that heartbeat bills were--like the one that we have in Georgia--“a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” Trump even said that he would work with Democrats to pass a national abortion bill.
The fact that local Republican parties and their leaders were silent on this issue is telling. The pro-life movement has been one of the strongest motivating forces in Republican politics for the past 50 years. But now, Republicans are silent when Trump rejects the pro-life movement and calls for a federal solution that would trample on federalism and state & local government. This should concern all Republicans.
If conservative principles become nothing more than empty words, it's a slippery slope. That's what's happening in Georgia, where local Republican parties and their leaders spend more time on performative political activities than in civic action or actually governing. This is hurting the party, because it's alienating voters or making them cynical. Not every Republican legislator has a district with a 60% Republican majority. Moderate districts elect moderate legislators. In my view, a moderate Republican is better than a moderate Democrat.
Do these local parties and local party leaders want to see constitutional carry repealed or Stacy Abrams’ abortion policies enacted? Given how much time and effort they spend attacking fellow Republicans or “the establishment,” one wonders.
The Republican Party in Georgia is at a crossroads. It can either continue down its current path, which is trending to defeat and minority party status in the not too distant future , or it can change course and become a more inclusive and effective party.
The choice is up to the Republican voters of Georgia. If they want their party to win elections, they need to demand more from their party leaders. They need to demand that party leaders focus on building and branding a party that appeals to a broad coalition of support, including moderate Republican and centrist voters. Primary voters also need to vote for and put forward candidates in general elections that can win and are interested in governing, not just performing. Additionally, the legislature should take a serious look at ranked choice voting and other primary reforms.
New GAGOP chair Josh McKoon is smart, well liked, and has his work cut out for him. Part of the reason why these local groups engage in these activities is due to lack of alternatives. McKoon and the state GOP can and should change that. Give local parties an agenda. Put them to work with new methods of party building. Experiment and iterate. The 20th century party experience is over.
The Republican Party in Georgia has a bright future ahead of it, but only if it is willing to grow, adapt, and govern for all Georgians.
To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.