Earlier this year, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the most nationally scrutinized “election integrity” bill in the country. The Republican governor plainly hoped this would atone for the sin of being insufficiently corrupt on Donald Trump’s behalf, by insulating him from Trump’s attacks on his refusal to help overturn the 2020 election.

In this apparent calculus, while Kemp wouldn’t destroy his reputation by engaging in full-blown corruption to help overturn U.S. democracy and keep Trump in power illegitimately, at least he’d be seen championing one of the worst voter suppression bills in memory. That would count for something, right?

Oddly enough, this doesn’t appear to have had its desired effect.

CNN reports that Kemp is now facing the prospect of a serious primary challenge from David Perdue, the businessman and former senator. He very well may have Trump’s backing, and Republicans in the state say Kemp could lose if it happens.

In much of our discourse, Trump-backed GOP primary challenges to sitting Republicans tend to be cast mainly as retaliation for personal disloyalty to the former president. There’s something to that, but the full truth appears to be darker.

What this really suggests is that large swaths of Republican voters appear to want to elect people to office who would have been willing to overturn the election on Trump’s behalf, and will be willing to overturn a loss in the future.

After all, much of the energy behind a challenge to Kemp appears to flow from his refusal to overturn the election. As CNN reports, Trump has “vowed to back a primary challenger” to Kemp precisely because Trump is “still angry” with Kemp “for not contesting the results.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Dec. 30, 2020, called President Trump’s personal lawyer’s criticism of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation “a joke.” (Reuters)

One GOP operative told CNN that Kemp could lose: “David Perdue with Donald Trump's backing is dangerous.”

Nothing is sating Trump’s anger

Notably, Kemp is vulnerable despite taking extensive steps to shore up his support with GOP voters on the issue of election fraud.

In the wake of Trump’s loss in Georgia, Kemp bent over backward to demand additional audits. Then last spring he signed the “election integrity” bill, which made voting harder in numerous ways and will have a serious impact on Black voters.

None of this has sated Trump or his supporters in the slightest. Despite it all, Kemp was booed by Trump supporters at a party gathering this year, and soon after he fielded angry questions from Trump backers still furious with Kemp for failing to overturn the election.

Trump himself has remained in such a rage at Kemp that he recently suggested Stacey Abrams, the voting rights advocate who might run for governor herself, should perhaps replace Kemp.

If you can’t have someone in office who is willing to overturn U.S. democracy on Trump’s behalf, what’s the point of having a Republican in office at all?

Perdue sides with Trump

On top of all that, Kemp even released a new ad this week boasting that he’d “passed a tough new election integrity bill” that “makes it hard to cheat.” For good measure, the ad depicted scenes of rampaging leftists burning down cities.

Greg Bluestein reports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Kemp is doing much of this because his “once-reliable” GOP base has come “unmoored” over Trump’s anger at him over 2020. Bluestein also reports that a Perdue challenge is a real possibility.

This is striking because there’s nothing particularly Trumpy about Perdue. As you’ll recall, Perdue, who lost his seat in a January runoff, is less a Trump-style populist than a corporate, chamber-of-commerce-style Republican.

But when push came to shove, Perdue did side with Trump in refusing to accept his loss. Now Perdue is flatly declaring that one rationale for a primary challenge run would be that Kemp “caved” in 2020.

In case you doubt being willing to subvert elections makes you competitive with GOP voters, note that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who rebuffed Trump’s demands that he rig the election, is also facing a primary. His challenger’s rationale for running? He’d use his official power to challenge results in a way Raffensperger would not.

It’s getting worse

In the background, GOP voters may be growing more eager, rather than less, to be told the 2020 election was fraudulent. A majority of them now says the fake Arizona “audit” found cause to doubt President Biden’s victory, which is exactly what it was designed to make them think.

Meanwhile, there has been a wave of threats against elections officials across the country, and there’s simply no doubt who’s to blame. As Zack Beauchamp writes:

Trump and his allies are, in essence, singlehandedly responsible for convincing many Americans that the 2020 election was stolen and that election administrators were part of a vast conspiracy to rig the vote against the former president.

We’ve been told for months that all these Republican “audits” and “election integrity” laws were needed to assuage doubts among GOP voters who “believe” the 2020 election was dubious and merely needed their “confidence” reassured about the integrity of our system.

Yet strangely, none of these things is quite doing the trick. As Richard L. Hasen has noted, such “confidence” can’t be shored up by actual real-world measures by definition, because doubts about the election are not grounded in what actually happened.

Indeed, the truth may be even worse: What many Republican voters really appear to want is people in office who will subvert elections that they lose, and they’re preparing to vote accordingly.