On January 2, 2021, US President Donald Trump made an extraordinary phone call to the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. On this call, Trump asked, pleaded, and threatened the Georgia official to change the election results for the state of Georgia. You can listen to the entire phone call below.
Even if successful in this criminal attempt to interfere with an election process, the electoral college result would not change, and Joe Biden would still be elected president. So, what’s this all about anyhow?
Racism, power, and money.
For those who might not know what a Secretary of State does in one of the US states, here is the description from the state of Georgia website.
The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office organizes and oversees all election activity, including voter registration, municipal, state, county, and federal elections. They are responsible for certification of election results as well as certifying the qualification of candidates and preparation of ballots and election forms and materials.
Generally, the Secretary of State’s office manages elections, plus other administrative topics such as licensing and corporate reporting. Their election management is the broadest reach of administrative tasks the office has, by far. To all accounts, Georgia has run a well-administered election and can certainly say their results are accurate and valid.
Georgia is historically a Republican-controlled state with a long record of profoundly racist and divisive policies. It is the epitome of the Deep South, that generalised geography that is still fighting ‘the war of northern aggression,’ otherwise, known as the US Civil War. Georgians can’t seem to accept that the plantations are no more, and that we live in a racially and culturally diverse society.
Even though the Black population is about 32% (2019), a formidable voting bloc, no Black candidate has ever won a prominent elected position in Georgia. Just ask Stacey Abrams. The reason for this is twofold. First, money in politics and ‘incumbency power.’ The current elected person has great power to exert policy in voters’ direction and toward special interest groups that provide campaign financing. Second is the Georgia “runoff” system, which comes into effect if no candidate captures a majority of votes. If the vote does not result in one candidate achieving more than 50%, then another election is brought between the two candidates with the highest vote totals. Usually, an election awards a win to the candidate with a plurality of votes, not an absolute majority.
No surprise Louisiana also has a runoff system. Several other states (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Vermont) have a runoff systems for primary voting, but not general election voting. (Vermont uses the runoff system only for exact ties, and should not be confused with the ranked-choice voting method.)
Back in the 1950s and ’60s, white candidates came under pressure and ultimately lost Georgia elections because many Black votes were going to some other candidate. Not necessarily Black candidates, but enough Black votes united for another white candidate that the loser was unhappy. Unhappy white candidates then cooked up the runoff system that Georgia still uses today.
The idea is that in the first election, if white voters were spread out (or people didn’t vote in large numbers) across several candidates of differing parties, then a second election would be desirable to consolidate the white voting bloc and to counteract the Black voting bloc. Vote with your conscience in the first round, then vote by your race in the final round. Unsurprisingly, the runoff strategy has worked as designed so far.
Until 2020 and today as of this writing.
Georgia is in the midst of a brutal runoff election between US Senate candidates. Democratic party candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock are running against their Republican party counterparts, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Democrat voters have turned out in record numbers despite Coronavirus risks to vote for Ossoff and Warnock. Perdue and Loeffler are certainly facing a tight race that they didn’t expect.
This runoff is for the control of the US Senate, which is now under the control of the Republican party, and would shift to Democratic party control if Ossoff and Warnock are elected. Even though the US Senate would split 50/50 (Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King were elected representing the Independent party but vote with the Democratic party), Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote role as President of the Senate.
Control of the US Senate is undeniably the most important lever of power for the Democratic party. No Democratic party bill would face blockage or defeat at the hands of the Republican party. Comprehensive reform of the US social, administrative, and corporate systems are possible with a Democratic party majority in the Senate, House of Representative, and Presidency. (Of course, Democrats can painfully argue amongst themselves and squander this opportunity, which is probably likely, but they do have the ability to enact sweeping reforms if the Georgian races go in their favour.)
Donald Trump knows flipping the Georgian presidential vote count makes no difference to his election results. Even in some magical world where the Georgian votes are changed and awarded to Trump, he would only have 248 electoral college votes, 22 short of the 270 needed for re-election to the presidency.
Trump’s phone calls and constant ravings about electoral fraud in Georgia only provide support for Loeffler and Purdue in their Senate races. He knows if the Democratic party controls the House and the Senate, he will face investigations and Congressional hearings, not to mention a complete rebuke and rollback of nearly every policy he has enacted since 2017. Trump’s presidency would be effectively undone over the next two years at a minimum, and for the entirety of a Biden presidency if the mid-term Congressional elections keep the Democratic party in power. Trump will do anything to maintain his power and influence in the Republican party, including calling the Secretary of State in Georgia begging to change the election results.
There is also a financial angle to consider. Trump benefits financially through campaign and PAC donations from people who want him ‘to fight for every legal vote.’ Many people in the Republican party also realise their support for the Republican Senate candidates opens up that MAGA chequebook. Over one-hundred Republicans recently signed-on to a bogus lawsuit challenging how four States conducted their elections. None of those people legitimately believed the court would change the election results, but by aligning themselves with the MAGA crazies, they will get financial support in future campaigns.
The phone call was an egregious, illegal act, but we already knew Trump is a lifelong racist and opportunist. That’s the entire story.