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Trump blasts Georgia's new voting law (but for the wrong reason)

Voting-rights advocates abhor Georgia's new voter-suppression law. So does Donald Trump, but for a very different reason.
Image: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump in Atlanta
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on July 15, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

In general, the dividing lines on Georgia's new voter-suppression law are unambiguous. Republicans support it; Democrats oppose it. Voting-rights advocates hate it; voting opponents love it. As political disputes go, this couldn't be clearer.

There is, however, one notable exception.

Donald Trump yesterday criticized Georgia Republicans yesterday for passing a "watered-down" anti-voting bill, and he blamed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) for not going "further."

Later in the day, the former president took another rhetorical shot at the new Georgia law his party has scrambled to defend:

"Georgia's election reform law is far too weak and soft to ensure real ballot integrity! Election Day is supposed to be Election Day, not Election Week or Election Month. Far too many days are given to vote."

In the three-paragraph statement, Trump proceeded to criticize early voting, allowing voters to return ballots through the mail, ballot drop-off boxes, and weekend voting. "Hope the RINOs are happy," he added, referring to the derisive "Republicans in Name Only" acronym.

In other words, as far as the former president is concerned, Georgia's ugly voter-suppression bill, reminiscent of Jim Crow-era tactics, is just too liberal. While mainstream critics are appalled at Georgia Republicans' wildly unnecessary crackdown on voting access, Donald Trump is appalled that the crackdown wasn't quite harsh enough.

There is, of course, a larger context to this. Kemp and other state GOP officials balked when Trump demanded that they overturn legitimate election results, and as a result, the former president is determined to end their careers. Trump was likely to condemn the new anti-voting law as "far too weak and soft," no matter what it included, because he doesn't want to agree with anything Georgia's Republican governor does.

But NBC News' Benjy Sarlin raised an important related observation: "When the main problem the bill is attacking is rooted in one person's lies, there's no policy 'solution' beyond the whims of that one person."

Exactly. Georgia Republican leaders boasted that the 2020 election cycle in the state was, for all intents and purposes, flawless. There was no fraud; there were no security lapses; there was no reason whatsoever to question the integrity of the results.

These same GOP officials nevertheless agreed to attack voting rights in the state, not because of flaws in the system, but because Donald Trump concocted a ridiculous fantasy about winning the election he lost -- and Kemp and other Republicans were eager to be seen playing along with the lie, as if it were real.

What they're discovering now is the folly of the effort. Trying to address made-up nonsense through legislation does not and cannot work, because the capricious clown responsible for the made-up nonsense will never be fully satisfied.