Democrats voting in GOP primaries to block Trump

Democrats voting in GOP primaries to block Trump
AP Photo/Chris Seward

The Georgia primaries last week turned out to be something of a mixed bag, particularly when it comes to candidates who had received the endorsement of Donald Trump. In both the gubernatorial race and the one for Secretary of State, the Trump-backed candidates lost by wide enough margins to avoid a runoff vote later this year. So does that indicate a waning level of influence among Republicans for the previous president in a state he very narrowly lost? (Assuming you believe he did…) Perhaps there is some of that on display. But as the Associated Press reports this week, it wasn’t just Republicans sticking a shiv in Trump’s back on primary day. Democrats were doing it too, and probably more of them than you might imagine. The report features the tearful story of one female Democrat who had to choke down her bile and go vote (legally) in the GOP primary in an effort to resist the Bad Orange Man.

Diane Murray struggled with her decision all the way up to Election Day.

But when the time came, the 54-year-old Georgia Democrat cast a ballot in last week’s Republican primary for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. While state law allowed her to participate in either party’s primary, she said it felt like a violation of her core values to vote for the Republican. But it had to be done, she decided, to prevent a Donald Trump -backed “election denier” from becoming the battleground state’s election chief.

“I feel strongly that our democracy is at risk, and that people who are holding up the big lie, as we call it, and holding onto the former president are dangerous to democracy,” said Murray, who works at the University of Georgia. “I don’t know I’ll do it again because of how I felt afterward. I just felt icky.”

This was a rather pathetic story to read, while still coming across as being almost comical in nature. Imagine the angst poor Ms. Murray must have felt, dragging herself into a booth and filling out a primary ballot in the Republican race. She came away feeling “icky.” That’s how awful it was for her to mark a box next to the name of Brad Raffensperger.

You may be asking yourself why this story would make any difference in the larger scheme of things. After all, how many Democrats like Diane Murray could there be, right? According to the data collected by the AP, probably a lot more than you think. The names of more than 37,000 people who voted in Georgia’s Democratic primary two years ago showed up as voters in the Republican primary for Raffensperger’s race. The Secretary of State only beat the 50% threshold by 27,000 votes. And if that had gone to a runoff with no other candidates sucking the oxygen out of the room, who knows how it would have come out? Brian Kemp would have beaten the 50% margin even without the Democrats who backed him, but only barely.

Are we going to pretend that any of those Democrats just had a change of heart and decided to go vote for the non-MAGA Republican in that race and that they might vote for them again in November? Granted, Biden’s approval rating in Georgia is so low that I suppose it’s possible that a couple of them might have, but not many. Those people were there for only one reason that day. They wanted to deliver a defeat to Donald Trump.

This is still my biggest concern about Trump playing kingmaker in the midterms or running in 2024. At the moment, Democrats are so despondent that they don’t even want to support Biden. But the Bad Orange Man can still motivate them enough to lower their own primary turnout and vote for a never-Trump Republican. Their own party has given them scant motivation to show up in November and vote for their own party members and agenda. But Donald Trump still has the power to get them out of their seats and go vote against anyone even vaguely connected to him.

This is also yet another argument against open primary laws that allow “crossover voters.” Fourteen states still conduct “closed” primaries that prevent meddling like this. But in 21 states, at least one party holds “open” primaries. Keep in mind that these primary races are not elections. The winners do not ascend to any office. They are contests where the eventual candidates are selected by the parties. If you want to vote in the primary that badly, register with the party. (Some states don’t ask you to pick a party, so these situations wouldn’t apply there.) I haven’t been a registered Republican for more than 20 years so I don’t get to vote on their primary line and I’m fine with that. (I’m registered with the Conservative Party of New York State, in case you were wondering. We have our own primary system.) If it’s any consolation, none of these issues will matter in the general election, but it’s still annoying.

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