The humiliation of the Confederate King: Why losing Georgia has consumed Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the first Republican candidate for president to lose Georgia in a general election in 28 years. Worse yet, Donald Trump is the first Republican to lose Georgia without a significant third party challenge since 1980, when Georgia voted for its home state Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

But the embarrassment of being the first Republican to lose a GOP stronghold state alone isn't why Donald Trump is trying to beg, borrow, and steal his way into overturning the election in Georgia, even to the point of committing a potential crime by trying to personally intimidate Georgia's top election official. Alternately threatening and groveling with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a call which was attended by attorneys for both sides and recorded, Trump exhibited a special kind of desperation and embarrassment that is unique, even for Trump. Now that we know that Trump had made 18 attempts to have this call before it actually took place, it only confirms how extraordinarily and uniquely humiliated Donald Trump feels about his loss in Georgia.

To be sure, Trump is desperate to overturn the results of the election overall, as his disastrous losing record in federal and state courts to challenge the election results in multiple states has demonstrated. But Georgia is unique.

Georgia is the only territorially integral state of the former Confederacy that Donald Trump lost that had not already been trending Democratic in previous elections. While an Arizona Territory was also part of the Confederate States of America, that territory is divided today between two states, Arizona and New Mexico. Trump also lost Virginia, but he had lost it in 2016 as well, and Virginia has been trending blue for the better part of the last decade and a half. Virginia has a Democratic governor, a Democratic state legislature, and two Democratic United States Senators. It's not quite California, but it's far from the red bastion it once was.

Compare that with Georgia, or at least, with Trump's perception of Georgia. With two Republican Senators, as well as a Republican trifecta in state government (control of both houses of the legislature as well as the governorship), Trump had believed Georgia to be more securely in his column than many states he won. What's more, the current Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, won his election two years ago over Stacey Abrams, a Black woman. The fact that Kemp won both the Republican primary and the general election with a substantial assist from Trump secured Trump in his fantasy that his bold and crass style of racism was well received in the state.

Trump laments in the call with Raffensperger about regretting his support of Kemp, and he is not entirely wrong about his influence as a major factor in Kemp's victory. Kemp finished second in the Georgia Republican gubernatorial primary on May 22, 2018, but since no one cleared the 50% threshold needed under Georgia law, both Kemp and his first-place finisher opponent advanced to the July 24 runoff. Trump publicly endorsed Kemp on July 18, and almost immediately polls began to give Kemp a large edge. His opponent, Casey Cagle, had led most polls before Trump's endorsement. Kemp easily defeated Cagle in the runoff. Trump campaigned hard for Kemp in the general election as well, and Kemp went on to win the governorship over Stacey Abrams by a thin margin of 1.4 points. It was the closest Georgia gubernatorial race since 1994.

While Abram's razor-thin loss turned out to be a harbinger of Democratic resurgence in the state - largely due to the organizing efforts of Abrams herself - Trump saw Kemp's victory as vindication of his own style of politics and a sign of his influence. To Donald Trump, Brian Kemp's victory symbolized a Georgia - especially white Georgia - that is firmly rooted in the Confederacy. After all, with Trump's backing, Kemp won 74% of the white vote in 2018, whereas Trump himself ended up earning just 69% of the white vote in 2020. It is absolutely unfathomable to Trump that he - the king of the confederacy - underperformed his underling by five points among those same white voters.

Underperforming Brian Kemp among both of their core constituency, white voters, highlights the second reason Trump is so aghast in his insistence that the election must be overturned: that people who he believes owe him their loyalty have failed to deliver for him. Although this a is a constant state of being for Donald Trump and is by no means limited to Georgia and Brian Kemp, it is especially pronounced in Georgia. It is especially pronounced in Georgia because while Trump supported other Republican elected officials elsewhere - notably, places like Arizona - his support was not determinative of their elections. For Kemp, Trump believes it was, and there is good reason to believe that like a broken military clock, he's right for once.

Trump believes that Republican elected officials benefited from the energy he has sparked inside the nativist, nationalist base of the Republican party - and they have - but they have in turn been unable to deliver to him some of their voters who did not belong to that base. And if they can't return his favor by delivering some non-nationaist votes, the least they owe him is to "find" a minimal number of votes required for him to steal their states' presidential votes for him, as he illegally instructed the Georgia Secretary of State to do. Anything short is a betrayal in Trump's book.

In keeping with his bruised pride as the Confederate King is the deep humiliation of losing this former confederate state to not one but two Black women. On the call with Raffensperger, Trump appears menacingly aware of how much credit is being given (deservedly) to Stacey Abrams for his loss, to mention nothing of the fact that the ticket that beat him itself included another powerful Black woman, Kamala Harris. Trump's insistence that Raffensperger was being 'played' by Stacey Abrams - and the idea that Abrams' jubilance about the results should somehow convince Raffensperger to reverse the results - was central to Trump's appeal.

All over the country, three major factors made Trump the first incumbent president to lose re-election without either a bruising party primary or a significant third party general election challenge in modern history: the massive mobilization of voters of color, the loss - albeit at the margins - of white support, particularly in the suburbs, and a revulsion against nativism and white nationalism. And to be certain, Trump has spread similar lies about voter fraud in Black urban centers everywhere.

But while all of these factors were present to some degree in every battleground state that Trump lost, they wasn't supposed to be, in Trump's deranged mind, in Georgia. To Trump, the former Confederacy itself was most accurately represented by Georgia.

That is deeply humiliating. The Great Lake states are too close to commie liberal Canada. Arizona was John McCain's state, and John McCain and Donald Trump despised each other. Virginia was never a true swing state in 2020. But Georgia? Georgia did not have any of those excuses. Georgia was supposed to belong to Trump in the same way Mar-a-Lago does.

But he lost Georgia. And he. Can't. Take it.