Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan wants to use his GOP 2.0 movement to rebuild the Republican party with the goal of winning elections with empathy and real leadership. He sees a vacuum of leadership in the Republican party and realizes that many conservatives see the divisive tone and strategy from de facto party leaders – including former U.S. President Donald Trump – as an unsustainable solution.
The last eight months show that Duncan may be right. Last November, Trump lost the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden. Roughly two months later, Republicans lost control of the Senate by losing both run-off elections for Georgia’s senate seats to Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
After the three elections, Trump and other Republicans said the losses resulted from voter fraud, and in March, Georgia, with a Republican-controlled legislature and governor, became one of 17 states to enact an election overhaul law in 2021.
The new law received massive backlash from critics, who said it was tantamount to voter suppression. For example, in early April, Major League Baseball protested the law by moving its All-Star Game from metro Atlanta to Denver.
However, In the last eight months, the drama that has unfolded has not dampened Duncan’s hopes of creating change in the Republican party. He sees these events as part of a bigger problem – divisive partisan politics are ruling political discourse rather than helping solve real issues.
“Some will argue that’s just the way politics is played,” Duncan said. “I just don’t agree with that; I just don’t feel that helps the state or the country.”
Duncan wants his new organization, GOP 2.0, to be a safe place for common sense conservatives where they can understand the policies that positively affect the most Americans possible, even those who don’t vote for Republicans. He said that it’s necessary for him to work with people whose political views are more progressive than his own.
“There’s a silent majority that sits on the outside edges of both sides,” Duncan said. “That wants to see adults in the room show up and make big decisions about the greatest country in the world.”
In practice, Duncan is using this GOP 2.0 philosophy outside of politics. In a public display of bipartisanship, he teamed up with his friend C.J. Stewart recently hosted a baseball game to teach young boys the importance of working with people different from them.
Stewart is the CEO and co-founder of LEAD Inc. The nonprofit uses baseball to teach at-risk Black boys how to succeed in adulthood by overcoming social hurdles like crime, poverty, and racism. Duncan’s son, who is white, plays for the Georgia Bombers, a traveling team based out of Alpharetta.
Duncan felt the circumstances were ripe for collaboration.
Called the Breaking Barriers Classic, Stewart’s team of primarily Black players would travel to South Forsyth High School in Cumming to play in an exhibition game against the Bombers. Stewart and Duncan both felt like the absence of the MLB’s All-Star Game provided a perfect opportunity to showcase sport as well as a spirit of inclusivity.
To add to this spirit, the teams would not play each other in the traditional sense. Instead, players would be pooled together and new teams would be selected composed of athletes from both sides.
In an interview with Atlanta Civic Circle, Stewart said that the idea behind drafting new teams was to teach the players how to develop as leaders and problem solvers by working with people from different racial and economic backgrounds.
“We believe that there’s a lot of innovation that can come by way of our differences, not our similarities,” Stewart said.
Duncan hopes that the Breaking Barriers Classic starts a new tradition that brings communities in metro Atlanta together. “This game is not about politics,” Duncan said. “This game is about community.”
Duncan’s aspiration with this game, just like GOP 2.0, was to remind people that the U.S. benefits more from inclusion than division.