In response to Donald Trump's hysterical conspiracy theories about elections in Georgia, leading Republican officials in the state have pushed back against the presidential nonsense. For example, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) helped take the lead from the outset, while Gov. Brian Kemp has tried to explain he's unwilling to break state election law on the president's behalf.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, another conservative Republican, said about baseless claims of voter fraud, "It troubles me that some folks are willing, just for the sole intent of flipping an election, of spreading misinformation. I think we're better than this. My hope is that we move past this here in Georgia -- and as a country."
But when it comes to showing courage and doing the right thing, arguably no Georgia Republican has gone quite as far as Gabriel Sterling, a conservative who helps oversee the state's elections operations. The New York Times reported:
"It has to stop," Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia's voting system implementation manager, said at an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol, his voice shaking with emotion. "Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language." He added: "This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It's too much."
"It has all gone too far," Sterling said. "All of it."
If you haven't yet seen his unscripted remarks, Rachel featured them on the show last night, and it's well worth taking a couple of minutes to watch them. Sterling reflected on the violent, right-wing threats state officials and their families have received from misguided people who've been led to believe nonsense, which in turn has put innocent people at risk.
The conservative Republican specifically implored Trump to "step up," adding, "Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it's not right."
By any fair measure, Sterling deserves enormous credit for showing the kind of leadership most Republicans are too afraid to demonstrate. It takes courage for someone in his position to call out his own political allies for being irresponsible, and thankfully, Sterling had the strength of character to do the right thing.
The same cannot be said for Donald Trump.
Not long after Sterling's impromptu remarks generated attention, the outgoing president, unsatisfied with having inspired violent threats, doubled down on his ugly and baseless campaign, publishing a tweet in response to Sterling, falsely insisting that Georgia's election was "rigged" and marred by "massive fraud."
In the same tweet, Trump suggested Kemp and Raffensperger -- two conservative Republicans who've supported the president politically -- are part of a conspiracy against him.
The circumstances are breathtaking: confronted with pleas to lower the temperature as Georgia officials who've done nothing wrong face violent threats, the president deliberately did the opposite. Republicans in the state have practically begged Trump to stop putting people in jeopardy with his self-serving lies, and he's choosing not to care.
If responsible GOP officials want to deal with this madness before it gets worse, they could start by following Gabriel Sterling's example.