How Georgia Gov. Kemp recovered from Trump's near-death experience.
Donald Trump publicly chastised Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp following his loss in the presidential election last year.
After Joe Biden won the Peach State by a.23 percent margin — a difference of just 11,779 votes — Trump demanded that Republican Kemp overturn the results, claiming election fraud.
Kemp's refusal enraged the former president and resulted in months of attacks from within his own party. The governor's poll numbers rapidly declined as an increasing number of potential primary opponents lined up to challenge him in the upcoming election.
Everyone in the media appeared to have written Kemp's political obituary. However, all of that changed this spring when he signed into law a voting measure he claimed was necessary to restore confidence in the state's elections by requiring absentee voters to produce identification. The move was slammed by critics as restrictive.
President Biden dubbed the law "Jim Crow for the twenty-first century" — an irresponsible reference to a morally bankrupt period in American history when many basic rights for people of color were restricted, including the right to vote.
Georgia's largest corporations, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, all voiced strident opposition to the law, but Kemp remained not only unfazed by the attacks, but actively engaged in them.
Even when Major League Baseball dealt the most severe blow by withdrawing the coveted All-Star Game from the Atlanta Braves' stadium — a major economic driver for any host city — Kemp maintained his position.
And now, the governor in his first term is riding high. According to the most recent Morning Consult poll, he has recovered, with 74 percent of Republican voters now approving of his job performance — a whopping 15 percentage points higher than just ten days before he signed the voting bill in March. He intends to run for governor again in 2022 and retain his seat.
“This is not the first time this has occurred,” Kemp explained in an interview with The Post. “In politics, you have to learn when to pick your battles, and this is one worth fighting.”
Kemp's turnaround began when he stood like a wall of fire between his voters and the state's cultural elites. He possessed the fortitude to sign a bill reviled by the mainstream media when he believed it made perfect sense, and he refused to capitulate under pressure from corporate America when his state was punished.
Kemp, 57, a former state senator and secretary of state, said he has consistently defied elite pressure to alter his conservative policies to conform to their liberal worldview.
“To me, standing up to that is more important than any political party or individual, including myself, and that is what I have been fighting for,” said Kemp, a small-business owner with interests in real estate, construction, and agriculture.
In 2019, several Hollywood production companies, an industry that supported over 92,000 jobs in Georgia, announced they would cease filming in the state as long as the state's "fetal heartbeat" abortion law remained in effect. A federal judge permanently blocked the law months after Kemp signed it, and the boycott fizzled.
When Kemp was secretary of state, activists chastised him for what they dubbed "purges" on the voter rolls. In 2018, his Democratic opponent for governor, Stacey Abrams, dubbed him "a remarkable architect of voter suppression."
Kemp stated that every Republican member of the Georgia General Assembly, regardless of district, voted for the recent election bill. “We had supporters in Trump-losing districts and supporters in Trump-winning districts, and they all supported this bill because it was a good bill.”
Following the vote, he stated, he was tasked with defending it.
“I anticipated their behavior,” Kemp said of the progressive media and corporations' backlash. “I fought it as I have always done.”
Kemp has now reclaimed his national standing — not through his defense of Trump, but through his resistance to Major League Baseball, Coke, and Delta. His approach demonstrates how Republican politicians can win back voters in the post-Trump era, according to Jeff Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone College.
“For the majority of the country's history, and certainly for the last two decades, American politics has been bitterly divided between economic/cultural elites and everyday working people,” Brauer explained.
Brauer stated that this was true prior to Trump's presidency and remains true now. “Trump was successful in embracing populism, but other politicians, such as Kemp, have done so as well and will continue to do so even without Trump's brand.”
Meanwhile, the vast network of anti-Trump elites continues to believe that everything in right-leaning politics is about the brash Queens billionaire. They have never understood that his 2016 victory was a result of America's new conservative populist coalition, not the cause of it.
What the media fails to grasp is that voters supported Trump not for himself, but for his willingness to fight for them. They will support 100% anyone who opposes the forces that oppose these voters and their values of family, faith, capitalism, and patriotism.
This will be the deciding factor for Republican candidates in 2022 and 2024, particularly among suburban voters who defected to the Democrats in 2018 and 2020 due to Trump's harsh rhetoric, Brauer said.
“Politicians who embrace the anti-elitism message will have a better chance of winning over voters,” he concludes.
In short, this populist coalition desires a candidate who will challenge powerful cultural institutions and advocate for their communities. It is not — and never has been — solely about Trump.