The mystery of wannabe governor Brian Kemp is the most important riddle in Georgia politics since “What’s Jimmy going to do in retirement?” Not that Kemp will ever be president, or win a Nobel Prize. Forget awards: Kemp couldn’t keep a kissing booth solvent. Instead, the big question with Kemp is: Why is he so repellent? His politics are the same as any other right-wing yahoo. But there’s some unspoken part of him that makes all decent people nauseous. Kemp makes Ted Cruz look like a Kennedy. Wait, that isn’t fair. Kemp makes Cruz look human.
Picking the worst thing about Kemp is like picking out the drunkest man in Florida — you’re spoiled for choice.
Do we go with Kemp’s predictable backstory? Do we go with his garbage taste in politics? Do we mention how he’s pledged to sign anti-LGBTQ Religious Freedom Acts? Do we discuss the commercial where he stuck a gun in an actor’s face? How about his cosplay truck, where he claimed he’d round up all the illegals? God, how do we choose?
The trail of documents isn’t flattering to the man. Many experts claim that Kemp in Georgia, like Kris Kobach in Kansas, is using his once-neutral office to strip voters of their rights. Critics say Kemp launched petty investigations into African-American and Asian-American registration groups. Pure intimidation tactics, they claim. According to these experts, the Georgia GOP is so terrified of a diverse, blue state that they’ll do anything to keep their decaying, gerrymandered majority intact.
In one recorded speech, Kemp warned that “Democrats are working hard … registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines. If they can do that, they can win these elections in November.” Carol Anderson, a voter suppression scholar, wrote a New York Times editorial titled “Brian Kemp, Enemy of Democracy.”
According to Anderson, Kemp’s bag of tricks is as deep as he is shallow: “Hackable polling machines, voter roll purges, refusing to register voters until after an election, the use of investigations to intimidate groups registering minorities to vote — Mr. Kemp knows it all.” Refusing to recuse himself during an election is the least of these. The facts say voter fraud is an almost nonexistent crime. But don’t worry: The fabulous Sherlock Kemp is on the case. Anderson said Kemp used Exact Match to put tens of thousands of voters in “electoral limbo” by faulting them for misplaced hyphens. Strange, said Anderson, that Kemp doesn’t care about the security of the voting machines. He refused federal funds to protect them against hacking.
I have to admit, Kemp appalls me on a physical level. My man looks like he got a crumpled grocery sack for a head. My man looks like he comes from central casting for the movie “Pleasantville.” My man looks like they blended twelve high-school gym coaches from Macon and poured the gunk into an melted head mold. My man looks like he writes fan-fiction about Men’s Warehouse. My man looks like he’s tried to conceive a child on Robert E. Lee’s birthday. My man looks like he’s going to cruise the food court in Dunwoody right after he pawns his saber collection. When drunk dudebros ask cops, “Do you know who my father is?” this is the father they’re referring to. Kemp’s face looks like he’s exactly one martini away from slurring the busboy at a country club.
In all honesty, picking the worst thing about Kemp is not hard. Of all the cancerous parts of our Secretary of State, the most grotesque is this: He’s a monster straight from the past. Kemp wants to drag us back into history, back to the days when Georgia meant masters, and Jim Crow democracy, and being laughed at by the rest of the world. He’s a dumber, uglier version of Trump — such a thing shouldn’t be scientifically possible, but it has happened, somehow.
No wonder polls have him and Stacey Abrams neck and neck.
Kemp is a typical clueless prep-school dunce. He’s so entitled, he thinks the governorship belongs to him. He’s so entitled, he doesn’t have to explain presiding over his own election. He’s so entitled, he thinks he can strip away the rights of others. Like, for instance, the right for LGBTQ people to exist.
How satisfying it will be in November, when he discovers what is actually coming to him: a long, sad trip back to Athens. Kemp can prance around with his shotgun and his truck and try every pathetic little gimmick in his book. But there is this thing called “the voting population of Georgia” that he can’t get around. He knows it, I know it, we all know it. No wonder he’s so scared: The numbers are not his friend. You’d panic too.
I imagine him in his political retirement, sitting next to his faded UGA cheerleader uniform, screaming about minority voters into the owl-haunted night. You have to pity him. Brian Kemp may find his supporters eventually forgive him.
Math never will.