At first glance, Georgia seems like a pretty hard-core Republican state. It hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential contest since 1992, (and 1980 before then.) Every statewide office is held by a Republican. 10 of our 14 congressional districts are Republican, and eight of them have a partisan rating of R+14 or higher. Conventional wisdom assumes that on issues from gun control to abortion to gay marriage, Georgia voters come down on the most conservative side of every issue, and as political shorthand goes it’s not completely wrong.
But it is at least a little wrong, if a recent and extensive poll by the AJC is to be believed, to try to stereotype Georgia voters as unbending. On the contrary, they’ve shown themselves to be far more open minded than the blue-nosed reactionaries they’ve often been pigeonholed as.
It’s a similar story on other issues. School choice gets 61% support –and that support goes up to 69% even if ‘choice’ means government vouchers to private schools. Casino gambling is supported by 56% of voters –that’s right, a majority of the voters who supposedly took a tee-totaling Baptist’s stance on the Sunday sales of alcohol now support casino gambling, right here in River City.
That shouldn’t cause any cognitive dissonance –Georgians understand that they weren’t allowed to keep their plan even if they wanted to, and that their insurance costs have not decreased by $2,400. Obamacare didn’t work as promised and they want it gone. But that doesn’t mean they want poor folks to die in the street.
The 2016 election results and the recent AJC poll show an electorate in Georgia that’s more thoughtful and flexible and concerned about its neighbors than the conventional political shorthand indicates. And delivering flexible, practical solutions in 2017 will bring real rewards in 2018.