Diving Deep into Brian Kemp's Battles, Past and Future
Brian Kemp pulled off some unbelievable moves to win the governorship. So why is he saying it's meaningless? Can he win again?
On August 16th of 2021, Governor Kemp fascinated me. He gave a press conference during which he announced a holiday to allow all state employees time off work to go get vaccinated against COVID. But when reporter (and sharp dresser) Justin Gray asked why the governor didn’t just mandate vaccinations for employees, Governor Kemp said this:
“I don’t think mandates work … If anybody out there trusts the government, it’s not these people.”
It is so very rare to see a public figure wind up — I mean really take a good backswing — and then punch themselves, full-force, in their ideological vulva. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the like of it.
Brian Kemp’s job — one he fought hard to obtain — is to help create and enforce mandates. I’m not a fan of his, but it’s a fact that he pulled off some savvy political maneuvers to get where he is. People tried to swat him away with a net of ethical concerns but he wafted right through like a fart through a tennis racket. That has to feel like accomplishment.
And yet, there he is, on TV, saying that his Holy Grail is nothing. Mandates don’t work. Punch. Government employees don’t trust the government. Punch. Live onlookers at the time deserve an award for suppressing what must have been an overwhelming urge to yell, “Then what the fuck are we doing here?!”
This moment transfixed me. I had to better understand this ideological self-vulva-puncher.
First I will say some nice things about him. Then I will describe how he pulled off a come-from-behind David-v-Goliath victory to win the Republican primary. Lastly, I will describe the Valles-Marineris-sized crack into which the Gov. has planted his hind quarters and suggest what I think will happen next. To wit, doom.
Who is Brian Kemp?
If you’re not from Georgia, you might have first heard of Brian Kemp when he handed himself the gubernatorial election while acting as Secretary of State in 2018. I say “handed himself” because it’s the Secretary of State in Georgia who is responsible for securing elections, including deciding who can legally vote.
In this fight, Kemp served not only as combatant but referee and he was by no means a passive referee. The eventual margin of victory was razor thin. Why didn’t he just step down and fight for the governorship without the possibility of his win carrying an asterisk? Why be Tom and Jerry?
Or you might know Brian Kemp from other out-of-context quotes like the time on April 2nd, 2020 when he stated publicly that nobody told him asymptomatic COVID carriers could also be contagious, something people had been saying for months. That’s coming from a man who just about has to drive past the CDC to get to work in the morning.
You see what I mean? The guy is an enigma. But again, I don’t understand the vagaries of state governorship. And it is not always fair to judge people on out-of-context quotes. Is there anything nice to say about him?
A Few Good Things about Brian Kemp
My honest-to-goodness favorite thing about Brian Kemp is that, to date, I have had no cause to imagine him in a sexual situation. He announces on his web site that he “is a husband, father, businessman, and public servant,” and to all appearances he takes the first two seriously. That’s a rare plus in a public figure.
Around the time I reached voting age and flipped on the TV to learn about politics, I was forced to imagine the president inserting things into his subordinates. Granted, it was a different time. A politician of that era could claim to have merely mistaken member of his staff for a cigar cutter. Later in my life, a man named Weiner got caught sending out pictures of his Weiner. Twice. With Kemp, so far, we have none of that and I love it.
One of the first things Kemp did after he rose to the office of governor was to issue an executive order revamping the state’s sexual harassment reporting and training. It demands that people don’t have to report harassment to their own supervisors who are, often times I’m sure, the very ones doing the harassing. They report that instead to an Office of Inspector General. That sounds better.
I mean, can you imagine? Someone with a real incentive — whether they act on it or not — to thumb the scales? And they’re also the judge of the situation? Thus serving as both combatant and referee? The very idea!
A minor point now. Governor Kemp’s official state web site brags:
“…he was elected as Georgia's 83rd Governor, earning more votes than any gubernatorial candidate in state history.”
That’s a bit of a weird flex because, due to population growth, every year there are always more people. Governor Kemp should know that because he and his wife together added three more people.
But we all put our best foot forward when listing our achievements, so we can let Gov. Kemp slide on that one.
Brian Kemp’s Bold Gun Gooberism
There are some critics out there who, for the purposes of entertainment, pretend that Brian Kemp is dumb. People mock him for the ads he ran as he was running for governor, in which he assumes the persona of an aw-shucks down-home gun goober, even going so far as to suggest that he would threaten a child with a gun.
But the fact is that gun gooberism is savvy politics and Kemp is a shrewd operator in this way.
I can tell you my own experience living in the Atlanta suburbs, which is that any conversation with my male neighbors about anything at all converges upon gun ownership and a professed willingness to fire on human beings within seconds.
Listen. I grew up shooting with my family. We didn’t really talk about what guns we had any more than what vacuum we used. But in 2021, loudly owning guns and bragging hypothetically about using them to kill people serves as a kind of social proof.
You’re saying to your neighbors, yes, I will help you defend, to the death if necessary, your hydrangeas.
Kemp correctly understood that he had to fully embrace gun gooberism. That might seem de rigueur for any R politician, but it’s important to understand the pressure of the moment. At the time, it was almost unbelievably bold.
Some might also call it unethical or Machiavellian. But it was definitely bold.
Casey Cagle’s Unforced Error and Kemp’s Immediate Pounce
Kemp would go on to face Stacey Abrams in the general gubernatorial election, but all that came later. First he had to win the Republican primary and that was by no means a sure thing. In fact, at the time, for Kemp, it was a pipe dream.
Kemp was sitting in second chair to Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. Everyone assumed Cagle would take over when Sonny Purdue left the governorship due to term limits. And as far as gun gooberism goes, while Kemp might have been willing to make out with a shotgun or two, Cagle’s gooberism for guns was unabashedly pornographic.
On February 14th, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. The cry for common-sense gun legislation rose stronger than ever, and as a token nod to that sentiment, Delta Air Lines canceled their policy of offering discounts to members of the gun lobbying organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA).
It was a pretty smart and risk-free move on Delta’s part, given that many of the most staunch gun goobers were no longer NRA fans thanks in part to the bizarre antics of the NRA CEO, an expensive suit which goes by the name of Wayne LaPierre and claims to contain a human.
On February 26th, in response to Delta removing the discount, Lt. Governor Cagle threatened to kill -- his words, mind you -- any legislation that benefited Delta Air Lines saying that corporations cannot “attack conservatives” and expect them not to fight back.
This happened 12 days after all those children were shot in Parkland. Cagle saw Delta’s move as a political opportunity. It was also stratospherically tasteless but I realize that’s not a thing that matters anymore. What does matter to elected officials is business.
There are a lot of reasons to live and do business in Atlanta. One of them is Delta and the other is Coke.
Kemp correctly understood that any gain of support with the base by going after Delta on behalf of the NRA was laughably minuscule as compared with the will of Atlanta’s business community. Mind you, I’m not saying Delta responded to Cagle’s attack. I’m saying they are so big and so powerful here that they would never, ever, need to.
As an aside, you will notice that today’s gun goobers on Instagram are not tied to any brand or lobbying org. Just guns. Any guns. Lots of guns.
You might be thinking, “Wait, what about all those kids who got shot?” I am too. I think about Parkland just about every day. It was a huge moment for me in terms of friendships I used to have.
These men are not troubled by that massacre. They’re not troubled by any of the school massacres that came before Parkland, or the countless massacres we have seen since, or the countless massacres to come.
Bad to Worse for Cagle
Cagle was undeniably shook by the backlash of the business community when he went after Delta. He complained often about how bonkers the landscape of Republican politics had become, saying it seemed like a contest of who had “the biggest gun, the biggest truck, and who can be the craziest.”
Kemp realized the same things, of course. But he didn’t bitch about them. He became those things.
Cagle complained about this so often that one of his other political rivals, Clay Tippins, recorded him saying it and delivered the recording to Brian Kemp, who dribbled snippets of the recording to the public, with timing calculated to wring out every drop of political juice.
Kemp eventually won the primary. In the general election he certified himself as the winner. But that was then, and this — writing on Dec 18, 2021 — is now. What’s next?
Kemp’s Tough Road Ahead
The challenges ahead for Brian Kemp are manifold. At the risk of sounding too colloquial, while he’s been Governor a lot of shit has happened.
A small sampling of the shit that has happened:
Stacey Abrams and her coalition have grown inestimably in power.
Both Senators Kelly Loeffler (R and a Kemp pick) and David Perdue (R) lost in Georgia, to Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) respectively.
Donald Trump attempted an allmighty shitshow in Georgia, demanding that Brad Raffensperger (GA Sec. of State) overturn the presidential election results. Raffensperger, a Republican — almost unbelievably in modern R politics — refused Trump.
Kemp’s performative COVID antics (he has sued to block Atlanta mask mandates)
Stacey Abrams has now officially announced her intention to run again for Governor. That showdown, between Kemp and Abrams, if it happens, will be absolutely, mind-bogglingly epic. But first, Kemp will face a primary challenge from this guy, David Perdue.
David Perdue was publicly embarrassed in his loss as senator to Jon Ossoff, mostly because Perdue could not answer Ossoff’s questions about his insider trading during COVID. Perdue was so utterly roasted in his first debate with Ossoff that he did not turn up for the scheduled second one. Even so, the race went to a runoff and was an absolute squeaker: 47.7% for Perdue against 47.9% for Ossoff.
It must have been a particularly satisfying win for Ossoff, who previously lost his U.S. House race to former GA Sec. of State Karen Handel. Do I even need to tell you that his loss was by the narrowest of margins? Well, anyway, it was.
The Secretary of State’s office, at the time, was coming under fire over the lax security of GA voting machines and evidence of potential hacking, but those questions became moot when the Secretary of State’s organization deleted all the data upon which any investigation into said impropriety would depend. Who was Sec. of State at the time? Why, none other than Brian Kemp.
So, why does Perdue think he can beat Kemp? One word: Trump.
Perdue has nothing to lose here. He is on the sidelines. The great Republican experiment to mold America into an authoritarian state could very well succeed in the next few years. They’ve succeeded in removing the fairness doctrine, paving the way for Fox news. They succeeded in gutting voting rights. They succeeded in protecting corporations from political scrutiny, paving the way for a sea of dark money. Perdue does not want to still be on the sidelines when all of that pays off in a complete transformation of the United States.
As such, Perdue is doing all the stuff Trump loves most. Namely, suing people over bullshit and peddling Trump’s Big Lie. Perdue might be able to beat Kemp if Trump orders the base to vote his way, and he might be able to beat Abrams if the Rs can turn out enough of the base.
I don’t think it will work. I think that Stacey Abrams and her coalition are extremely powerful, and I think that regardless of how the Perdue/Kemp battle goes and regardless of how the nationwide battle goes Abrams will ultimately be Governor of Georgia. Honestly, I wonder a little bit why she’s not aiming higher, but that’s just me.
If I’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that anything can happen. I think we all know that if there is a political opportunity to be seized, Brian Kemp is ever at the ready.
If you have committed to the brand of existential nihilism, which seems almost necessary to get through the day now, buckle up. It’s going to be a ride. If you haven’t, please tell me how.