Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — ruffled by the backlash against the Peach State's new voting law — might as well have climbed up into the bed of an old pickup truck this weekend and popped worn red suspenders to make his race-bait messages more Eugene Talmadge-like.
Oh, wait. Yeah, Kemp did do something like that back in 2018 when he campaigned for governor in a plaid shirt with a long gun and a pickup truck "in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself."
But on Saturday, after Major League Baseball announced it would move its July 13 All-Star game out of Atlanta to make it crystal clear to the Peach State that its new voting limits law is over the limit, Kemp was in full Southern sarcasm mode again.
"Yesterday, Major League Baseball caved to fear and lies from liberal activists," Kemp sputtered, pouring extra syrup on his Georgia drawl.
"In the middle of a pandemic, Major League Baseball put the wishes of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden ahead of the economic well-being of hardworking Georgians who were counting on the All-Star game for a paycheck.
"Georgians and all Americans should know what this decision means. It means cancel culture and partisan activists are coming for your business. They're coming for your game or event in your hometown, and they're coming to cancel everything from sports to how you make a living. And they will stop at nothing to silence all of us."
No, Gov. Kemp. You and your vote-scared, Trumpy-pretender Republican legislators have "caved to fear" and are invoking "cancel culture" to come for the rights of voters. And now you're embarrassed that you didn't think on the front end about Georgia businesses that might be collateral damage.
It is you and Georgia's GOP lawmakers who are going out of your way to thwart free and fair elections.
Major League Baseball isn't alone in thinking that the Peach State is wrong to put new restrictions on voting by mail, allow sweeping voter purges and give state lawmakers control over how elections are run instead of the elected state elections commissioner — all while also making it illegal to provide food and water to long lines of voters in districts where draconian manipulation of polling places created those hours-long lines in mostly minority precincts in the first place.
Coca-Cola and Delta also are calling out the new law as racist and backward. Delta called it "unacceptable" and "based on a lie." Coke has paused political donations to some of the bill's sponsors. Each day, new corporate entities are being pressured to speak out. And well they should be.
President Biden has called the new law "a blatant attack on the right to vote, the Constitution and good conscience." He's also termed it "un-American" and "Jim Crow on steroids."
Many critics say the measure violates the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as parts of the federal Voting Rights Act. By the weekend three groups already had filed a lawsuit over it.
Kemp has insisted opponents have mischaracterized what the law does, and he defends it as needed to prevent fraud. Yet there was no widespread fraud, and as Kemp signed the bill into law last week, he was flanked by white male legislators and seated beneath a painting of a plantation.
The law includes a new photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail. It also expands weekend early voting, but not in all precincts. Republicans had earlier proposed limiting it statewide.
Look just at the photo ID requirement for an absentee vote, for a moment. How many middle-aged, ailing, elderly or poor voters do you know who have available home scanners, copy machines or even printers to be able to make a copy of their license to tuck into their mail-in vote?
And let's talk about voting fraud. There largely wasn't any except by some of the Republicans pushing that very conspiracy theory.
There was Sidney Powell, who claimed — among many other things — that software used by Dominion Voting Systems had been created at the behest of dead-for-nearly-a-decade Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez to rig the election for Joe Biden. Yet in a court filing in March, attorneys hired by her to defend her in a defamation suit filed against her by Dominion argued that "no reasonable person would conclude the statements were truly statements of fact."
Then there was Lin Wood, Powell co-campaigner in the so-called voter fraud conspiracy theories. Wood now is under investigation by the Georgia Secretary of State and the State Bar of Georgia for moving to South Carolina before the 2020 election yet illegally voting in Georgia anyway. Wood now plans to run for chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
Certainly there's more at stake here than Peach State voting rights. Georgia is just one of 40 states, including Tennessee, that have introduced bills involving voting restrictions after the GOP lost the presidency and the Senate.
Texas, Florida and Arizona may be next in line to restrict voting. And as the GOP shifts strategy from election lawsuits to laws, voting rights advocates worry the entire nation could soon look a lot like Tennessee — the state where voter turnout and registration figures are among the lowest in the nation.
We should all be afraid that people won't exercise their right to vote — not that they will vote.