OPINION: Crazy is as crazy does in Georgia post-election dystopia

Gabriel Sterling, Voting System Implementation Manager with the Georgia Secretary of State's office, speaks during a news conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Gabriel Sterling, Voting System Implementation Manager with the Georgia Secretary of State's office, speaks during a news conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

This is where we are these days.

On Tuesday, Lawrenceville police got a call from a “very upset” man worried that votes were being stolen in Gwinnett County as they spoke.

The caller told police that a blue Toyota SUV was “leaving the elections building filled with, what he believed to be, computers containing data for the 2020 General Election,” according to a police report.

How did the caller, a man who happened to live in Oklahoma, know this? He was watching a livestream on Twitter that showed the getaway car carrying the suspected purloined computers.

A cop was dispatched to the county elections office and found a small group of people in the rear of the building keeping an eye on suspected skullduggery. The election’s director said the group was loitering in an unauthorized area and harassing county workers.

The officer then watched the Twitter livestream that the Oklahoma man was calling about. It was shot by a man driving behind the suspicious SUV, following it from the elections office to the county’s water plant. The driver shooting the video was then approached by a couple of other cops because he had driven into a secured area.

The man shooting the video told officers “he believed the vehicle contained computers that had data on the 2020 General Election still on the hard drives,” according to the police report.

One of the officers at the water plant — while still being livestreamed — inspected the boxes in the SUV. It turns out the driver of the suspicious SUV was, in fact, a tech guy installing new phones throughout the county’s offices. Phones, not election computers, were in the boxes.

Workers recount ballots at the Gwinnett County election warehouse in Lawrenceville on Nov. 16, 2020. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Workers recount ballots at the Gwinnett County election warehouse in Lawrenceville on Nov. 16, 2020. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

The Twitter livestream has been removed from the internet but Channel 11 got a look at it before it disappeared. On it, the self-deputized investigator who shot the Twitter feed told the police that he traveled from out of state “because nobody was monitoring the voting facilities.”

The officers let him go, telling him, “Be mindful of what you’re doing (and) who you’re following, because you’re liable to get in trouble.”

A thread of Twitter comments responding to the video shows all sorts of people posting suppositions and interlocking conspiracies of election fraud in real time, a crowd feeding its own version of mass delusion.

Welcome to our New World of elections.

At about the same time that cops in Gwinnett were muddling with this nonsense, an angry Gabriel Sterling was at the state Capitol calling out President Donald Trump and Georgia’s two U.S. senators for fanning the flames of anger and then standing by as wackos do dangerous stuff.

Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, said he and his boss, the embattled Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have received threats and have police guarding their homes. Raffensperger, one of the few Republicans who has actually pushed back at Trump, was called an “enemy of the people” by the Commander in Chief — on Thanksgiving, no less.

But what really irked Sterling (and he’s no left-winger, he’s a longtime GOP operative) was that a young contractor for the voting machine company was getting death threats for his part in helping with the recount effort in Gwinnett. Video of the young man was circled on the internet as keyboard “patriots” concocted false theories that he was manipulating election data.

“There’s a noose out there with his name on it. That’s not right,” Sterling said in comments that have gone international. “This. Has. To. Stop.”

Of course, it didn’t. Trump and Georgia’s two fainthearted senators dutifully released milquetoast statements condemning violence, and then the president kept at it with a 46-minute rant about fraud.

This came after Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, was quoted saying there was no there there when it came to systematic election fraud. And retired general Michael Flynn, the guy recently pardoned by Trump, called for martial law so Trump can redo the election. I mean, that kind of strategy worked for the likes of Saddam Hussein.

Then on Wednesday, more than 1,500 mask-free Trump backers squeezed into a COVID-19 superspreader event in an Alpharetta park to listen to attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell opine about their theories on how the election was stolen.

Sidney Powell addresses supporters of President Donald Trump during a "Stop the Steal" rally in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Sidney Powell addresses supporters of President Donald Trump during a "Stop the Steal" rally in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Wood urged the passionate crowd to encircle the Georgia governor’s mansion and demand that Gov. Brian Kemp order a special session of the Legislature so the election could presumably be overturned. Then Kemp should resign “and as far as I am concerned, they can lock him up,” Wood said.

The crowd immediately launched into a chant of “Lock him up! Lock him up!”

Powell, the lawyer of Kraken fame — and theories of “communist money,” George Soros, fraudulent election machine algorithms, and the deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez — then pushed the dial to 11 by urging angry conservatives to boycott the January runoff election unless the system is “secure.”

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are running in tight races, respectively, against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, must have cringed upon hearing that. The two Republicans last month called for Raffensperger to resign because of unspecified “failures” in the election. (Mostly for counting the votes that kept Trump from winning.)

The senators must tiptoe and play along with Trump’s delusions for fear that the nation’s soon-to-be-ex-president might go all ballistic on them and kill their re-election chances. They are being held hostage, as is the entire GOP. Republicans must nod and jump when the president says so or his base will turn on them.

Elected Republicans remind me of bank customers being held at gunpoint as an increasingly maniacal bandit demands that his hostages tell him he’s good-looking and smart.

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I spoke with former Republican legislator Buzz Brockway, who dodged a bullet in 2018 when he lost his race against Raffensperger to become secretary of state.

“My former House colleagues say the volume of phone calls and emails they are getting is off the charts,” he said. ”If you have to rely on these people (Trump supporters, that is) to get elected, then you worry about sticking your neck out.”

And most politicians, it is clear, value their own necks.

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