George on Georgia – Trolling The RepublicGeorge Chidi. Photo by Dean Hesse
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I was a bit surprised when I heard that Paul Maner, a notorious troll, had been nominated to serve on DeKalb’s elections board by the new chairwoman of the DeKalb Republicans. It seems that most Republicans I know are equally surprised.
His alt-right provocation has for years alienated most people in politics in DeKalb to the left of Pat Buchanan, be it comments that led to a shoving match at a meeting of DeKalb Republicans, or supporting failed gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams when the “deportation bus” showed up in Clarkston. Maner has been a pariah within party circles for a long time.
Maner staked out my house in 2016, interrogating my neighbors while I was running for a county commission seat. He passed out flyers claiming I was lying about my military service and at one point followed me and my wife into a poorly-lit parking lot after an appearance at a campaign event. My experience with him is, as nearly as I can tell, fairly typical.
I won’t speak with him again without witnesses present.
There is no hidden untapped well of support for Maner’s politics in DeKalb County I can see. Maner has run for public office before. He can’t win, so he provokes and confronts instead. He lies. He trolls. His nomination speaks to the collapse of the Republican Party in DeKalb County.
The split in the Republican Party isn’t between conservatives and moderates. It’s between Trumpists and everyone else. With the losses of Meagan Hansen and Fran Millar and Tom Taylor, mainstream Republicans have become less active in the party. The fringe has become the center, ruling the ashes.
Democratic Party leaders have been agitating for Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson to reject the nomination. I’m a little wary of that effort.
I don’t like Maner. I don’t like his politics, broadly. I question his character. But a Democratic effort to block him legitimizes the idea that one party’s activists can veto appointments made by another party’s leaders. I’m thinking about all the elections boards in exurban counties inhabited by Paul Maners ready to harass judges. It also legitimizes Maner, a marginal character in search of relevance.
Instead, I think a couple of questions should be asked of him by Jackson – of all the candidates, frankly.
Do you believe the 2020 election was conducted fairly, here in DeKalb County, in Georgia and nationally?
Do you believe that the election results should – or could – be reversed?
Do you believe Joe Biden is the legitimate and legitimately-elected president of the United States?
As much as some Republicans might like to cast the answers as a partisan issue, they are not. The election is over and every review has found it to be legally sound and fairly conducted. If Maner or others can’t answer questions affirming the integrity of the last election, given the overwhelming evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that person isn’t willing or capable of judging the integrity of a future election fairly.
Democracy is at risk. Donald Trump has begun suggesting that, somehow, he will be returned to office in August. The idea is crystallized stupidity, but a sizable minority of the Republican Party believe it. Such things beget men tearing through the U.S. capitol, murdering policemen and defacing the republic.
Trumpists are at war with democracy right now. They want to impugn the structures of democracy – the ballot, the voting machine, the voter registry, the elections office – the better to obscure their political weakness and lack of majority support, ultimately to justify throwing democracy away.
Georgia’s legislature weakened democracy’s defenses with “reforms” this year. Amid the alarm about a loss of early voting days and criminalizing giving water to voters in line, an insidious change floated under the radar. The new law allows the state’s election board to take over an “underperforming” local elections board if it violated three state rules or regulations within the last two election cycles.
The definitions for what constitutes a violation for these purposes hasn’t been defined by the state board yet. But once a takeover occurs, state appointees would control things like machine allocation, polling places and more – all the things a local board manages. The partisan applications are obvious.
Appointing incompetent local board members would make it easier for a partisan state elections board. If a Republican with bad intentions wanted to offer up a Democratic-majority county like Fulton or Clayton … or DeKalb … for state takeover, all they would have to do is get appointed and violate rules.
Which is to say, to troll.
– George Chidi is a political columnist, public policy advocate and a veteran. He also writes for The Intercept.
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