Bookman: Making Hice state election chief like handing safe keys to robber

May 27, 2021 3:00 am

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Greensboro Republican, objects to Georgia’s election results hours after the Jan. 6 Capitol mob riot. Northwest Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene stood alongside him. Screenshot

Jody Hice poses a test of character and patriotism for Georgia Republicans. It’s a test that many of those voters proudly insist they will fail.

At the moment, Hice remains a congressman, representing the state’s 10th Congressional District. In that role, he has been a prominent, vocal champion of the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election, claiming that massive voting fraud both nationally and here in Georgia stole the presidency from Donald Trump.

More specifically, Hice has claimed that Dominion voting machines were fixed in Joe Biden’s favor, that some 700,000 votes were cast illegally here in Georgia, that a fellow Republican, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, worked “arm and arm with Stacey Abrams to deliver the presidency and Senate to the radical left.” Hice has never produced the slightest bit of evidence in support of those and other silly claims, because no such evidence exists.

Nonetheless, Hice cited those claims when he joined 125 other Republican congressmen in demanding that the Supreme Court throw out all 5 million votes cast by Georgians in the 2020 presidential election. Your vote, my vote — all of our votes would have been rendered absolutely meaningless if Hice had gotten his way. And when the Supreme Court refused to even entertain such nonsense, Hice tried to get Congress to do the dirty work. Hours after the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, Hice stood on the House floor and demanded that votes from his own home state not be counted.

None of that makes Hice unique, of course. Most of his Republican colleagues in the Georgia congressional delegation have taken similar stances on the election. However, Hice has taken his rhetoric a step further, announcing that he will not seek re-election to Congress but will instead run for Georgia secretary of state.

That’s right: The man who wanted to toss out ALL the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election here in Georgia wants to be the person who oversees the 2024 presidential election in Georgia. The man who wanted to silence five million voters and allow the state Legislature to decide the presidential race here in Georgia wants the job of ensuring those votes will be counted fairly next time. The man who makes wildly irresponsible, fact-free claims that undermine the legitimacy of our democratic republic wants to be responsible for guaranteeing the legitimacy of that republic going forward.

That’s a very bad idea. Putting Hice in charge of fair elections would be like giving a bank robber the keys to your safe. The only people who would think that’s a good idea would be those who want the bank to be robbed in the first place, which is exactly where too many Republicans find themselves these days. They don’t want fair elections, they want elections in which Republicans win, and that’s what Hice seems to be promising them.

The current secretary of state is also a Republican, but as Raffensperger demonstrated in the aftermath of the election, he’s a Republican who feels bound by law, duty and the Constitution. When Trump demanded in a phone call that Raffensperger produce the 11,800 votes that would give him Georgia, when U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham called to suggest that he throw out votes from counties that went for Joe Biden, Raffensperger refused. For those and other actions, Raffensperger has been attacked as a traitor, a collaborator, or as Hice put it, a “back-stabber.”

The 2022 Republican primary is scheduled for May 24, now less than a year away, but if it were held today, it’s pretty clear that Raffensperger would lose to Hice. He has become the party scapegoat, the excuse that Republicans use to tell themselves and each other that they didn’t really lose.

Up in Washington, GOP leaders are trying to pretend that the January 6 attack and the attempt to overturn the election never really happened or wasn’t that serious or should be left safely in the past while we look to the future. But in truth, no one is more obsessed with what happened than the Republicans themselves. In Arizona they’re conducting an incompetent, farcical “audit” of ballots already counted and recounted multiple times, and here in Georgia they’re attempting to do the same in Fulton County. They ousted Liz Cheney from House leadership for the heresy of telling the truth, and the entire basis of Hice’s campaign is that if the time came again, he would do for Trump what Raffensperger would not.

If Georgia Republicans make Hice their nominee for secretary of state, they will confirm to the world that they are abandoning the American experiment, and the irony is that by doing so they would almost certainly lose the office of secretary of state to a Democrat. With Hice on the November ballot, they would also ensure that the biggest issue of the 2022 general election is what happened in the 2020 election, and from a purely pragmatic point of view that would be a really stupid thing to do.

But frankly, doing stupid things has become the Republican brand.

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Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman

Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.