OPINION: Kemp decries ‘cancel culture’ because he’s playing for keeps

Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp has gassed up his pickup truck and grabbed his shotgun to battle an enemy laying waste to America: “cancel culture.”

The Gov these days is putting on his stern face and happily making the media circuit to say he’s furious that Major League Baseball nixed the All-Star Game in Cobb County. That happened, of course, after the state’s GOP legislators and Kemp tightened up election laws to help protect their shrinking margins.

Now, there are few things as infuriating — and worrisome — as the woke Twitter mob coming after you. I’ve felt its bite a time or two. But Kemp stands unafraid. And he is not going to waste any time looking a gift horse in the mouth, which is exactly what this is. A gift.

“Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden and the left, but I am not,” he said in a press conference over the weekend after MLB’s announcement. Delta Air Lines and the Coca-Cola Co. had already come out against the law, yielding to pressure to do so.

And Kemp merrily made the rounds, especially on Fox News, using it as a golden moment to worm his way back into the Republican electorate’s heart, which is still unhappy with him for not being strong enough in the #StopTheSteal movement.

“This is a message to all of us. They’re coming after you next,” he said on Tucker Carlson’s show. “They’re going to boycott your business next. We have to stand up.”

The Gov hopes a certain ex-president who spent months trying to cancel an election — AND cancel Kemp — is watching television down in Florida and perhaps rethinking his animus against Georgia’s chief executive.

Brian Kemp and President Donald Trump wave from Air Force One at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon on November 4, 2018. as Trump arrives during his Make America Great Again Rally to support  Kemp, who at the time was the GOP gubernatorial candidate. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)
Caption
Brian Kemp and President Donald Trump wave from Air Force One at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon on November 4, 2018. as Trump arrives during his Make America Great Again Rally to support Kemp, who at the time was the GOP gubernatorial candidate. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

In fact, as Kemp extolled his fortitude in not being scared of Abrams (who actually came out against the boycott), Donald Trump was singing from the same hymnal: “For years the Radical Left Democrats have played dirty by boycotting products when anything from that company is done or stated in any way that offends them. Now they are going big time with WOKE CANCEL CULTURE and our sacred elections. It is finally time for Republicans and Conservatives to fight back,” Trump said on Saturday. “Don’t go back to their products until they relent. We can play the game better than them.”

It has often been said: The best defense against canceling is to employ your own canceling.

To jump on this bandwagon, eight Republican state representatives, most of them new and obscure, stood up boldly ― and very publicly — to demand that Coca-Cola products be “immediately” removed from their offices. The fact that the Cokes are provided to them for free is beside the point. Somehow, they believe, Coke will learn a lesson.

GOP conservatives have used the term cancel culture as a foil for a couple of years because, well, most everyone hates the idea of being canceled. That is, unless cancellation is really necessary, like against Nazis or sexual predators or those folks peddling car warranty robocalls to your cellphone. The idea of America being an independent society where ideas can be robustly debated has faded as folks have cocooned themselves in their own information echo chambers.

As a result, since we no longer have stocks and pillories for public shaming, we are left with canceling, which involves jumping on social media to join in on a feeding frenzy when someone steps out of line and must be punished. Such efforts, whether done by the left or by the right, lead to conformity of thought.

Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Atlanta on Saturday, April 3, 2021, as he and his supporters blast Major League Baseball's decision to move the All-Star game from Georgia over the state's new voting law. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)
Caption
Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Atlanta on Saturday, April 3, 2021, as he and his supporters blast Major League Baseball's decision to move the All-Star game from Georgia over the state's new voting law. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The activity is worse on the far left. They seem to go after their own with a special relish. But those on the right can feed off being “canceled.” It helps build street cred and also allows those who’ve been canceled to cloak themselves in the robes of victimhood. I must add that the right is up to the task. Just ask the (no longer Dixie) Chicks.

The reason the right has embraced being offended by cancel culture is that most Americans are offended too. A recent Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found 64% of respondents said cancel culture posed “a threat to freedom” in the U.S. That’s 80% of Republicans and 48% of Democrats. Of course, “canceling” is a loaded, pejorative term. If the pollsters asked about “boycotting” or “expressing disapproval” or “using one’s First Amendment rights,” the results would have been different.

This year, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) called its annual convention “America Uncancelled.” The gathering laid out the template that many Republicans will use going forward, and it was a coming-back party for the ex-president. But before the first anti-canceling speech could bring the crowd to applause, CPAC disinvited (or canceled) Young Pharaoh, a rapper who, it was learned, liked to spew anti-Semitic and QAnon posts on Twitter. It was the former, not the latter, that got him sent packing.

Speaking of Q, Georgia Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene went after cancel culture while on the campaign trail and later blamed it after she was stripped of her committee assignments because of her previous online wackiness. Instead, she should look at the glass as half full: She raised $1.6 million after portraying herself as a victim of the left and now doesn’t need to be bothered with the mundane work of congressional committee service.

During the November 2020 general election, WNBA players (right) urged Georgians to vote for Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, and against Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler (left), a Georgia Republican who was running to keep her Senate seat. (AJC file photo)
Caption
During the November 2020 general election, WNBA players (right) urged Georgians to vote for Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, and against Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler (left), a Georgia Republican who was running to keep her Senate seat. (AJC file photo)

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Georgia’s former Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue employed the term during their losing campaigns, including in December when they declared that the Atlanta Braves should not “cave to the demands of the cancel culture and the radical left” and change the team’s name. This was in response to the Cleveland Indians’ announcement of an impending name change for the team. (The Braves said they are committed to their name.)

In her final address from the Senate floor, Loeffler decried cancel culture as one of the reasons she was about to become an ex-senator, although it might be more accurate to say the spirited primary campaign waged by fellow Republican and former congressman Doug Collins, as well as a conspiracy-spewing president and Loeffler’s own wooden stage presence may have had more to do with her defeat.

POSTSCRIPT: The New York Times recently published a story that said many Trump supporters were duped by a company that processed his online campaign donations. The company, called WinRed, used an old marketing trick by making donations recurring unless the contributor read through the fine print and unchecked a prechecked box to opt out.

It turns out Perdue and Loeffler also deployed prechecked boxes during their runoff campaigns. The story said Perdue and Loeffler refunded $4.8 million to WinRed donors, more than triple the amount refunded by their Democratic opponents, even though Dems raised more money online.

I guess this would be a case of “hard-to-cancel culture.”

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