It’s about state’s rights.
Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican, has announced his upcoming retirement due to health reasons, and the Republican Governor of the state, Brian Kemp, has the authority to appoint his replacement. He has been seeking input from all sides as to who the new Senator should be, ranging from polling Georgians to asking the President. He has, per multiple sources, come to a decision and has chosen Kelly Loeffler, the CEO of Bakkt, a financial services company.
Loeffler is a very wealthy Republican donor. She’s also a middle-aged woman in good health who would be one of only six Republican Senators who was not an older white male, and the only one from what is traditionally called the Deep South (West Virginia’s Shelley Capito is the only female Senator from south of the Mason-Dixon line.)
Kemp’s reason for picking Loeffler is officially unstated, but can reasonably be assumed to be a combination of these factors and a friendly demeanor, a belief that he can have a working relationship with Loeffler which will encourage, if not guarantee, that as a Georgia Senator she will pursue Georgia’s interests above any others.
This is the way the American political system was designed to work, by the Founders.
Kemp’s decision is not sitting well with President Trump’s supporters. For months, Trump has been encouraging Kemp to select Representative Doug Collins, a staunch supporter of the President. Loeffler, it is argued, is not necessarily solid in her backing of Trump, which could have implications during an impeachment trial. Moreover, it indicates that wholehearted support for Trump throughout any scandal may not be a pathway to advancement within the Republican party… a very dangerous message for Governors to send, in the mind of party leadership.
The Governor, in this case, is not meant to be an executive guiding his state forward, but rather a rubber stamp for a President. Kemp’s embrace of his autonomy threatens the mechanism by which Trump exerts his power.
The response has been clear. Collins has threatened to run in a primary against Loeffler if she is appointed, and Florida Representative Matt Gaetz has been the designated Team Trump attack dog on the subject, relaying a message that Trump will promote a primary opponent against Kemp if the Governor dares to defy his will.
For those who are unfamiliar with Gaetz, it should be stressed that he is a Florida Representative, and therefore should have no direct influence on a Georgia appointment… at least, if conservative political theory is embraced. His role here should underscore to even the most hardheaded of Trump supporters that Trumpism is authoritarian, not conservative.
Under such pressure, why is Kemp defiant?
The answer is in the polling.
Morning Consult‘s monthly tracking has Trump’s net approval rating at -3 for October, and slowly trending downward. He has ranged as high as a +7 during the last two years, but has been floating around zero for most of the last six months. As information has been coming out about the impeachment, it has been hurting Trump with independents and what remains of the moderate and the classically conservative wings of the Republican party.
This is why Trump’s demands of Kemp are, as yet, being rebuffed. Even if Trump retained the full support of the Republican party, as he has falsely claimed in repeated statements and tweets, that body will not be enough to carry Kemp back to power in his 2022 race. Kemp has likely decided he may gain inroads to disaffected but traditionally non-Democrat voters both by showing some independence and by promoting a woman into a prominent office. Trump’s poll numbers – his support – across the populace are not strong enough to carry close elections for the Republicans. Kemp seems to realize this, and is responding.
It is expected that Loeffler will vote against impeachment, and it is recognized that even should she not do so, there are enough other Republican Senators who disregard the rule of law and their Constitutional duty to likely keep the President seated. This is, to Team Trump, about the image of having no Republican Senator vote for his removal, about the ability for Trump to elevate his chosen supporters, and, not least, about his ability to override the decisions of state leaders. It’s not about federal supremacy over state’s rights; it’s about Trump’s supremacy over state’s rights.
They are furious that anyone is challenging the President on that topic, not least because it may encourage other political leaders to do so.