Report: 5% of GOPers in Georgia House district say they won't vote in 2022 if state doesn't conduct audit of 2020

AP Photo/Jason Behnken

This is a state that counted its ballots three separate times last winter, once by hand. Not good enough for true believers.

They want to keep counting until the results show something different. And if an audit is conducted and doesn’t produce a different result, they’ll want to count again. Or they’ll just lie about the audit’s conclusions.

Most of MAGA will turn out to vote next fall whether or not their state declines to conduct an audit or conducts one that affirms Biden’s victory. Support for audits, like support for Trump’s “stop the steal” claims, is foremost a matter of tribal solidarity. If every Republican who believes that the outcomes in U.S. elections are manipulated followed that logic to its obvious conclusion, something like two-thirds of the party would stay home in 2022 and Democrats would win literally every race in the country.

That won’t happen, of course. The great majority of Trump voters will vote anyway next year, lured by their opposition to Biden and his agenda to show up and cast a ballot notwithstanding their doubts about 2020. But there’s a sliver of the base that’s so committed to their belief that the election was rigged that they really might boycott the next election, just as some appear to have boycotted the Georgia runoffs earlier this year with catastrophic consequences for the national debt.

Reportedly, as many as one in 20 Republicans in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s district are prepared to sit out the midterms. And there are more who are considering it.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has supported exhaustive audits of the 2020 results to look for evidence of voting irregularities that repeated reviews have failed to produce. Still, she has told colleagues that she was surprised by a recent survey of Republican voters in her district, according to one person who spoke with her about it.

The internal survey found that 5 percent of Republican voters said they would sit out the 2022 election if the state of Georgia did not conduct a forensic audit of the 2020 election — a demand that some of Mr. Trump’s hard-core supporters have made. Another 4 percent said they would consider sitting out the election absent an audit.

The possibility that nearly 10 percent of Republicans could sit out any election — even one in a solidly red district like the one held by Ms. Taylor Greene — was something Republican strategists said they found alarming.

Maybe that’s an outlier. Greene’s district is R+28 and hardcore populist. They elected Marjorie Taylor Greene to Congress, for cripes sake. The share of the base there that’s so far gone on election conspiracy theories that they might give up voting because of it may well be larger than in most other Republican districts. But let’s say it’s one to two percent of Republicans statewide. In a state as tight as Georgia, that’s decisive. Biden beat Trump there last fall by less than 0.25 percent of the vote.

Greene naturally believes that the base’s ceaseless skepticism about the 2020 results is a reason to further indulge their paranoia by conducting audits. Other Republicans believe it’s time to start deprogramming them and getting them focused on the midterms. How do you do that, though, when you-know-who spends every day splashing around in election trutherism and lately has taken to hinting that GOP voters should boycott the midterms if he doesn’t get justice?

Trump isn’t saying this stuff strategically, for public consumption. He’s a true believer, which is why he’ll never stop even if his “rigged” messaging costs the GOP seats. He complained about election fraud privately at an NRSC donor retreat last week. “It’s a terrible thing what they did in Georgia and other states,” he told the audience. “You look at Texas, you look at a lot of states — they are correcting all the ways we were all abused over the last election . . . last two elections if you think about it.” Last two elections? Is he trying to bootstrap the 2018 Democratic House takeover into a general theory that Democrats can’t win — ever — unless they cheat? (So long as he’s leading the GOP, I mean.)

No, I think he means 2016, when he coped with losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by accusing Democrats of having brought millions of illegal immigrants out to the polls. Even when he wins, his ego is so brittle that he needs to invent theories about cheating to make himself look better. Result: Upward of 10 percent of his own party in Greene’s district are wondering whether it’s worth voting at all.

I wonder if there’ll be a disparity next fall in turnout in districts where establishment Republicans are on the ballot versus ones where MAGA populists are the nominees. I can imagine some voters in Georgia who strongly suspect their elections are rigged reluctantly turning out anyway for Herschel Walker. (Just in case the election turns out not to be rigged!) Whereas in other states, if the nominee is some McConnell-backed traditional GOPer, the lack of interest in that brand of Republicanism combined with skepticism about the integrity of the election system may be enough to keep populists home, tipping the balance to Democrats. In a way, that would work out well for Trump: The establishmentarians would be hobbled by his anti-voting message but his own candidates would be less affected, allowing him to say afterwards that being a loud and proud Trumpist is the way to win.

Meanwhile, it’s futile for the RNC and other Republican leaders to try to convince the base that it’s worth voting when the head of the party keeps insisting otherwise. How can normie Republicans counterprogram Trump effectively? This Times story made me laugh when it quoted one GOP strategist as saying the RNC should “sanction” him for hinting that Republicans might be better off not voting next fall, as if the RNC gives orders to him rather than vice versa. In fact, some Trump allies are reportedly urging the RNC to lean into the idea of election fraud rather than steer away from it. That makes no sense rationally but it makes plenty of sense emotionally. It may be illogical to try to get people excited to vote by convincing them that their votes might not count but an angry base is a motivated base. And the obvious outlet for that motivation is to vote.

Here’s Bill Cassidy, a rare Republican with a spine, kidding himself that Trump might lose the 2024 primary because GOP voters will want a more electable nominee. The whole point of “stop the steal” is to convince Republicans that not only is Trump electable, he’s so electable that he can only be defeated through cheating.