Brian Kemp, the bane of the # MAGA Republicans, uses his big speech to find a way forward.
January 16, 2021
| 4:11 pm
For all three of his State of the State addresses, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has opened with the same Biblical allegory about a wise man building his home on strong foundations to withstand epic storms. He uses it as a parable for his legislative work as the Republican leader of the 8. Most populous state.
But after the tumult of that year, Kemp’s foundations were torn and blown away – first by a pandemic and then by the unprecedented attacks by President Trump, who claimed his defeat in 2022 and labeled him “corrupt” for not fighting against state certification had from Joe Biden’s Georgia win. Kemp’s governorship and position within the GOP are deeply shaken. The Democratic victories in the presidential elections and the Senate races are a bad sign of the 57-year-old’s hopes for re-election in 2022. With the animus of so many Trump Conservatives who have turned against him, he could even move forward face a great challenge.
It’s a long way from 2018 when Kemp, then Georgia’s foreign minister, won the GOP nomination for governor by walking to the right and securing President Trump’s approval during the primary. In his most famous ad campaign, he was featured with a chainsaw ready to meet state regulations, along with his pickup ready to collect illegal immigrants. Theaters aside, Democrats accused Kemp of wrongly winning against their candidate, Stacey Abrams, by using his foreign ministerial powers to remove African-American voters from the lists. Former President Jimmy Carter, perhaps the most famous Georgian, was among the Democrats who called for Kemp to step down as Secretary of State while he runs for governor. Kemp refused. In office he was solidly conservative. For example, he signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
Kemp’s 2020 state of the state speech reflected the pre-pandemic economic optimism that many governors, Republicans and Democrats had touted. (The national unemployment rate was only 3.6 percent a year ago and in Georgia 3.1 percent.)
“When I travel around this great state, I always tell everyone it’s a great time to be in Georgia, don’t you agree?” Kemp said a year ago: “We have the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the state and 64,000 new jobs in the private sector. Our state is the number one state for companies. ”
That year, Kemp dedicated his speech, which he gave on Thursday, mainly to applause from Georgian medics and frontline workers.
“Our frontline healthcare workers have experienced hell on earth. You have been working multiple shifts in brutal conditions for months, ”said Kemp. “It has never been clearer how important their jobs are and how important they are to keeping our state healthy and successful.”
Kemp made no mention of Trump or the now infamous leaked call Trump made to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to find enough votes to overthrow the state’s elections. The Kemp who came closest to the elephant in the room condemned “harmful conspiracy theories and lawlessness”. Above all, however, he did not blame any party political guilt for the reinforcement of these conspiracies. He avoided voting problems such as Raffensperger’s attempt to end apologetic absentee voting, a move the Democrats opposed, and was frostily received by powerful GOP spokesman David Ralston.
Instead, Kemp set out to ridicule the coastal elites in “California and New York” for criticizing his controversial move in April to end the state shutdown despite COVID-19 cases exploding. He praised the struggling small businesses and farmers who were hampered by new pandemic rules, or “regulations” as Kemp saw fit.
Many Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell, have distanced themselves from the president following the mob violence in the U.S. Capitol this month, followed by another Trump impeachment last week. Kemp’s speech was a far less energetic condemnation and stayed largely on local state issues, avoiding national politics altogether. Its state of the state can be seen as the linchpin of the most powerful weapon in the GOP’s arsenal: the resentment of rural Americans against cities.
Kemp He noted the job creation he had brought to rural areas and an economic recovery in Georgia fueled by broadband access to rural communities. He stressed the need for economic growth outside of Atlanta and made several pushes in the urban professional class whose livelihoods are free from downtime and who can more easily work from home.
In a notable departure from his right-wing campaign against Abrams in 2018, Kemp was tempered, praising the peaceful protests that broke out across the country over the past summer over police violence. A proponent of the second amendment, Kemp also pledged to reform the Citizens Detention Act, which has been linked to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, despite calling for a call to “always support the blue”.
Kemp’s calculation seems to be that his re-election efforts are best served by the outgoing president, despite Trump’s attacks on democracy – and even on himself – being distant but not unlawfully rejected.