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A year later, Georgia’s Perdue blames his loss on imagined fraud

David Perdue lying about his defeat contributes to a larger trend in which Republicans pretend their defeats are inherently illegitimate.


The 2020 election cycle was filled with notable results, but among the most consequential was then-Sen. David Perdue’s re-election campaign in Georgia. The incumbent Republican was favored to win, though things didn’t go according to plan.

In the initial round of balloting, Perdue came out ahead, but he fell just shy of the 50 percent threshold. In Georgia, that pushed him into a runoff election, which he narrowly lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff. If the Republican had performed just 0.3 percent better in the first round — roughly 88,000 votes — Perdue would’ve won another term and avoided the runoff race.

And if that had happened, Mitch McConnell would’ve been Senate Majority Leader, and every Democratic legislative victory of the last 14 months almost certainly wouldn’t have happened.

Nevertheless, when he came up short, Perdue conceded the race, thanked his supporters, and congratulated his Democratic rival. It seemed little more needed to be said.

But 14 months later, Perdue is back on the campaign trail — this time, taking on incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in a GOP primary — and as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, the former senator has some new thoughts on his defeat.

Republican David Perdue is cozying up to Donald Trump ahead of his Saturday rally in Georgia by embracing one of the former president’s favorite lies: That the 2020 election was “stolen.” The Trump-backed challenger to Gov. Brian Kemp has long promoted the falsehood that rampant fraud in Georgia’s 2020 election led to Joe Biden’s victory. But this week he began claiming that his defeat to Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff was also tainted.

“Most people in Georgia know that something untoward happened in November 2020,” he told conservative radio host Brian Pritchard. “I’ll just say it, Brian. In my election and [Trump’s] election, they were stolen. The evidence is compelling now.”

To the extent that reality matters, there is no such evidence, compelling or otherwise. Perdue lost fair and square 14 months ago, which is probably why he never contested the results.

The Journal-Constitution’s article added, “The election wasn’t stolen. Three separate tallies of the roughly 5 million ballots upheld Biden’s narrow victory, court challenges by Trump allies were squashed, and bipartisan election officials have vouched for the results.”

So why is Perdue lying? The Georgian is probably motivated, at least in part, by an eagerness to make his benefactor happy: Trump is backing Perdue because the former president is desperate to defeat Kemp; Trump wants people to believe the Big Lie; and so Perdue has an incentive to read from Trump’s deceptive and conspiratorial script.

It’s a pitiful dynamic, to be sure, but it helps explain why the former senator would embarrass himself this way.

But just as notable is the larger context: The more Republicans attribute their losses to imagined election irregularities, the worse it is for democracy.

This comes up more than it should. Two months ago, a Republican got crushed in a south Florida congressional election, failing to even garner 20 percent of the vote. The GOP candidate nevertheless refused to concede, filed a pointless lawsuit, and vowed to release “stuff” that would call the results into question. (No “stuff” was ever produced.)

As we discussed at the time, he had some company. In the state of Washington, for example, the Republican who badly lost the state’s gubernatorial race refused to concede, pushed bogus voter fraud claims, and “attempted to sow doubts about the election results“ — despite losing by more than 545,000 votes.

In Maryland, a GOP candidate who lost a congressional race by more than 40 points nevertheless alleged that the race had been “stolen“ from her through political improprieties.

And Trump, of course, stands out as the biggest sore loser in American history.

The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum asked in November 2020, “What if every losing Republican behaves the same way from now on? Once the ‘respect the voters’ norm is gone, then it’s gone for good.”

It’s against this backdrop that Perdue has joined the ignominious club of those pretending their defeats weren’t legitimate, reality notwithstanding.

What matters is not just conspiracy theories, pointless litigation, and partisan whining about voters’ verdicts. Rather, the far more unsettling concern is the establishment of a new normal in Republican politics — one in which the only election results many in the GOP consider legitimate are the ones in which Democratic candidates lose.