I can already hear the Very Serious Beltway Folks gasping at my headline. The trope from the Brett Stephens and Bari Weiss’s of the world would go something like this: “But what about democracy!? And norms!? Yet again, the left demonstrates how little they care about our institutions.”
In fact, refusing to concede a rigged race demonstrates an immense amount of respect for our institutions. Letting Secretary of State/probably future governor Brian Kemp get away with Jim Crow-style voter fraud is what demonstrates an astounding lack of respect for our institutions, because you are asserting that this kind of stuff is normal politicking and should be tolerated.
Like, this is just straight-up illegal.
BREAKING FROM THE @AP: A spokeswoman in Kemp’s office, who has also worked on his campaign, says there are 22,000 provisional ballots. She has shared the county breakdown with only one candidate — Kemp — but has not shared it with the media or the public. #CantTrustKemp#gapol— Georgia Democrat (@GeorgiaDemocrat) November 7, 2018
Or this, per 107.9 FM in Atlanta:
According to Stacey Abrams camp, Fulton County did not have the adequate amount of machines for voters. They discovered 700 wrapped machines in a warehouse. This evidence is more proof of widespread voter suppression throughout the state.
Three of the four largest counties in the state – DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Cobb – have reported only a portion of the votes that were submitted by early mail. In Cobb County alone, anywhere between 25,000 and 26,000 votes were submitted early by mail. Four other large counties – Chatham, Henry, Douglas, and Clarke – have reported exactly 0 votes by mail.
Brian Kemp has overseen an industrial-level voter fraud operation specifically designed to undermine our democracy, and it’s abhorrent that this mass disenfranchisement hasn’t been a bigger deal in the national press. Per The Atlantic:
Under Kemp, Georgia purged more than 1.5 million voters from the rolls, eliminating 10.6 percent of voters from the state’s registered electorate from 2016 to 2018 alone. The state shut down 214 polling places, the bulk of them in minority and poor neighborhoods. From 2013 to 2016 it blocked the registration of nearly 35,000 Georgians, including newly naturalized citizens. Georgia accomplished this feat of disfranchisement based on a screening process called “exact match,” meaning the state accepted new registrations only if they matched the information in state databases precisely, including hyphens in names, accents, and even typos.
Although a judge ruled that exact match was biased and had a disparate impact on minority applicants, the Georgia legislature in 2017 scoffed at the decision and created a new exact-match program plagued by the same bias for traditional, anglicized names. Exact match is supposed to weed out attempted voter-impersonation fraud before it can begin. What it actually does is remove tens of thousands of otherwise eligible voters, overwhelmingly minorities, from the electorate.
This is an illegitimate election likely won by a man who oversaw his own election. If this exact same thing were happening in Venezuela right now, Republicans would be talking about air strikes and an invasion. But it’s not Venezuela, it’s America, and this kind of shit isn’t new. This is who we are, and by refusing to concede, Abrams would advance this story further into the national narrative, and highlight for all how intrinsic voter disenfranchisement is to Republican politics.
Democrats in the House should help her out, as they have subpoena power now. Hamilton Nolan perfectly detailed at Splinter how they should use this power to highlight one of the most important issues in America:
Republicans win elections in part by systematically and purposely suppressing the votes of people likely to vote Democratic, most often minorities. This is a fact that was amply demonstrated in the 2018 midterms, from Georgia to Kansas. It is also a historic fact that has helped to produce our current age of gerrymandered districts and a concerted right wing effort to roll back legal protections designed to ensure voting rights. (You can follow this thread all the way back to the U.S. Constitutional Convention, if you like.) Political professionals all understand this fact and its strategic use. A fair and functioning democracy is not conducive to Republican electoral success, and therefore Republicans try to see to it that our democracy is neither fair nor functional, as a tactic.
The House can hold hearings on voter suppression. They can start immediately. They can subpoena every fucking Republican secretary of state who can reasonably be judged to have assisted in the suppression of minority voters. They can subpoena law enforcement officials. They can subpoena campaign staffers. They can subpoena poll workers. They can call in all types of political science professors and statisticians and sociologists to explain in detail what is happening. They can invite Michelle Alexander to read the entirety of The New Jim Crow into the Congressional record. They can draw attention. They can make noise. They should, and they must. The more you let the overt oppression slide, the more it will be seen as the standard playbook for the next election.
America is not a democracy. Protecting existing “norms” at the expense of minority voters only furthers our pace along the authoritarian outcome we are currently barreling towards. Conceding the race sends the message that it was legitimate, and Brian Kemp and Georgia Republicans’ efforts to disenfranchise as much of its African American population (30% per the last census) should be highlighted for all to see (besides, as Roy Moore demonstrated in Alabama, refusing to concede does not preclude your opponent from winning). Kemp’s heinous undemocratic measures did not garner the national attention they should have, so Abrams should keep this race in the national consciousness as long as possible, so as to force the harsh reality upon as many open-minded Americans as possible: Republicans typically lose when democracy wins.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.