The Tide - notes in the ebb and flow of news

Donald Trump has enjoyed rousing electoral success in Coastal Georgia, defeating Hillary Clinton by a whopping 15% of the vote in 2016 and Joe Biden by an equally decisive 12% in 2020.

But in the wake of Trump’s third criminal indictment this year — and with a fourth expected early next week, if not sooner, in Fulton County — local Republican officeholders seemed unsure how to play the shifting political landscape.

First District Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter treaded lightly, tweeting, “This administration’s blatant targeting of a political opponent should be eye opening to every American.” No mention of the former president by name. “Eye opening”? To say the least. Thursday’s indictment brought to 78 the number of felony charges now pending against the former president in Washington, New York, and Florida. 

What seemed like a carefully calibrated response to the last week’s indictment by the Carter of 2023 was at odds with the Carter of 2020-2021, when he joined other Republican lawmakers in 2020 in seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It was also a far cry from the responses of some other members of Georgia’s congressional delegation.

Marjorie Taylor Greene
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene worked the crowd at a late March 2022 Trump Rally in Commerce. . Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Tweeted Marjorie Taylor Greene (14th District) last Thursday: “The DOJ is going full COMMUNIST today, arresting Joe Biden’s top political opponent, President Donald Trump. This isn’t just an attack on Trump, it’s an attack on every American who stands in the way of a complete Communist Democrat takeover of our country.”

Meanwhile, Greene, Andrew Clyde (9th District), and Mike Collins (10th District) were among those Republican members of the Georgia delegation calling for cuts to the Justice Department in retaliation for the charges filed last week by special counsel Jack Smith in the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Locally, while no reactions to Trump’s latest legal woes from GOP state lawmakers Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) or Reps. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), Mike Hodges (R-Brunswick) and Jon Burns (R-Effingham) could be found online or on local media outlets, the chair of the 1st District Republican Committee, Kandiss Taylor of Baxley, was calling other Republicans to the political ramparts.

Kandiss Taylor
Kandiss Taylor speaks in front of her bus in 2022. Credit: Craig Nelson/The Current

“President Trump won’t break. He won’t take a deal. No matter how many FAKE indictments they write. He will win for a THIRD time. The people are LOUD and STRONG. We will secure our elections,” Taylor wrote on Facebook.

The responses of local Republican officeholders and conservative media were even more at odds. There, last week’s indictment was all the rage. Literally.

“When are they [congressional Republicans] going to grow a spine?” complained local conservative talk show host Bill Edwards. His co-host of the podcast “Get Real America,” Brittany Brown, chair of the Chatham County Republican Party, described the indictment as “garbage.”

“I don’t care if you’re a Trump person, not a Trump person, it’s wrong,” Brown said. “When you’ve been investigated for, what, eight years now, and this is the best you can come up with?”

For another conservative talk show host, John Fredericks (“Your blowtorch for free speech in America!”), the latest indictment was a gift (“MAGA celebrates Christmas in July: Thanks Jack Smith!”) and a challenge (“MAGA to Jack Smith: Try to Come After Us”).

One headline in a national news outlet over the weekend seemed to sum up the hopes and fears of Coastal Georgia Republicans as the indictment shrouded 2024 presidential campaign shifts to a higher gear: “2024 GOP hopefuls: Enough about Trump. Let’s talk about Biden.”

To that, one might add: Good luck with that.

The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff.

Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...