Profiles in cowardice

Why can't all the Georgia Senate candidates lose?

Several people have approached me recently to ask about who I’m supporting in the Georgia Senate runoff elections. The honest truth is that I don’t support any of them and I’m not sure who I’ll vote for. My opinion on the races is like that of Henry Kissinger discussing the Iran-Iraq War when he famously said, "It's a pity they both can't lose."

I grew up in Georgia, but we’ve lived a lot of different places. We moved back to Georgia about three years ago. At that point, I assumed that Georgia was a solid-red state. People have talked about Democrats building up their support in Georgia, thanks largely to the urban areas, but it seemed unlikely that those predictions would come true any time soon. Fast-forward three years and Joe Biden has just won the state’s electoral votes and two – not one – of Georgia’s Republican-held Senate seats are in jeopardy.

And they are in jeopardy. There hasn’t been a lot of polling in the races, but FiveThirtyEight’s polling average shows the Democrats leading in both races. Jon Ossoff leads David Perdue by less than a point while Raphael Warnock leads Kelly Loeffler by 2.2 points.

To be fair, polls haven’t always been on the mark this year. Looking back to just prior to the election, Ossoff led Perdue in the polling average by 0.7 points, but trailed in the final results by 1.7 points. Warnock led a crowded field in the special election by an average of 15 points. In the final tally, he still led but by only seven points. The takeaway here is that the Democrats need to lead by more than a few points to ensure a victory.

Leading up the presidential election, my hope was that Donald Trump would lose and that Republicans would retain control of Congress. That strategy still looks possible but there is now a fly in the ointment.

The incumbent Republicans seem determined to drive voters away and hand the race to their Democratic challengers. On Sunday, the candidates faced off in a debate. I should say that three of the candidates faced off. Two against each other and one against an empty chair. Senator David Perdue was a no-show after being panned for his performance in debate a last October. Jon Ossoff debated an empty podium.

Kelly Loeffler showed up, but refused to acknowledge that Donald Trump lost the presidential election, news that is now almost a month old. To me, that’s a pretty serious issue that cuts to the core of both our constitutional system and the future of the Republican Party. Do we want a GOP that bases its policy on conspiracy theories?

Also troubling is the fact that both of the incumbent Republicans have been credibly accused of insider trading. Both Perdue and Loeffler made suspicious stock transactions shortly after being briefed on the looming Coronavirus pandemic last January. Whether the senators engaged in wrongdoing has never been satisfactorily determined.

That isn’t to say that I like the Democrats any better. Both Ossoff and Warnock seem to be nice people, but they are far to my left. They aren’t as far left as Perdue and Loeffler claim they are, however. The “socialist” label seems to be applied to any and every Democrat these days. As such, it is losing its meaning and effectiveness.

If Senators Perdue and Loeffler would step up and tell Georgians the truth about Trump’s loss, it would go a long way toward bringing me into their respective camps. However, with every day that goes by that my two elected officials continue the charade of denial, it makes it tougher for me to support them.

I would much rather vote for Gabriel Sterling, the Voting System Implementation Manager for the State of Georgia, and one of the few Republicans with the moral courage to call out the president for his false allegations of election fraud. The Republican Party needs more Gabriel Sterlings but there seem to be very few at hand.

Instead, the Republicans are saddled with two candidates who are afraid to acknowledge that President Trump lost, yet afraid to go all-in on his claims of a stolen election as well. At least Kelly Loeffler had the cojones to show up at the debate.

So, I don’t know who I’ll vote for or even if I’ll vote. I have some sympathy for the Trump supporters who don’t want to cast a ballot for any of the four, although my reasons are different. I’ll continue to watch the races and the candidates, but I’m in no hurry to give any of them my approval.