Well, we do have a race for Governor coming up.
To borrow loosely and shamelessly from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the political story of the 6th Congressional race now in our review mirror appears to many of us to be “a tale told by an idiot, full of noise and emotional disturbance, but devoid of meaning.” After all, more than $50 million was collectively spent by political consultants for the candidates and outside interests – most of it foolishly; a multitude of public polls were taken – almost all inaccurately; reams of press and media stories were written or aired – far too many revealing more the limited knowledge or wishful thinking of the writers than the realities of the race; and thousands of doors were knocked on by earnest volunteers on both sides – one of the few clear upsides in the contest because it is always a good thing when average private citizens get involved in politics. In the end, the suburban Atlanta voters elected a congresswoman who any clear eyed observer should have been able to predict before the campaign began – a well-known, mainstream, establishment conservative who closely reflects the views and temperament of the district she now serves.
So be it. Republican Congresswoman Karen Handel silenced the naysayers and doomsday predictors in her own party and sits triumphantly in Congress. Now, as its most junior member she must navigate through the freak side show carnival that Washington politics has become. Meanwhile, her opponent Jon Ossoff is likely still licking his wounds today but he will surely be back. Despite post-election sniping by some sideline Democrats and progressives, he has nothing he should be ashamed of from his personal conduct in the campaign. Losing sucks but it is not a sin and rarely fatal.
What now? The next campaign! Let the 2018 race for Governor begin in earnest. It is already crowded with candidates begging for and pulling in serious money, and is likely to be a wide open no holds barred campaign in both party primaries. Governor Nathan Deal is term limited but as he approaches his last year in office it is good to reflect briefly on his tenure. He navigated Georgia through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression while maintaining our AAA bond rating. On the education front, he shored up the Hope Scholarship, successfully led the fight for the State Charter School Constitutional Amendment, regrouped after a set back and successfully passed legislation to focus on low performing schools, and prioritized restoring state funding for education as state revenues steadily increased after the recession. On transportation, he first stuck his neck out supporting a regional funding initiative that only passed in three non-Metro Atlanta regions in 2012, and then successfully pushed through badly needed increased statewide funding in 2015. On criminal justice, he put Georgia at the front of the line nationally in terms of reform by pushing through legislation that recognizes the difference between folks society is afraid of for whom a prison cell should always be available, and those we are merely mad at for whom we should find an alternative to incarceration. And in terms of economic development, due in part to his actions Georgia has been repeatedly recognized as the number one state in the country to do business.
Still, we continue to face enormous challenges. Our rural areas desperately need help on a multitude of fronts from access to adequate health care to economic development and expanded broadband. New teaching initiatives must be explored because too many of our children are missing out on educational opportunities that are vital to climbing the ladder of success in our society. Adequate transit to help relieve traffic congestion and improve the quality of people’s lives must be advanced. Avenues to help job seekers obtain the necessary job skills to compete in the 21st century labor market must be expanded. Increasing opioid and other drug addictions must be confronted. Regulations that impede emerging businesses in every area of our economy must be pulled down. Respect for different personal and political beliefs must be restored.
In considering the candidates on both sides of the political aisle in the coming year, let me make three suggestions:
- Do Not Accept Bumper Sticker Labels. We will hear positive or pejorative labels embraced or hurled in the coming year such as “real conservative,” “true conservative,” “fighting progressive,” “common sense conservative/progressive/whatever,” “RINO,” “DINO,” etc. As an electorate, we need to demand more. Ask the hard question: “How will you deal with the real world present day bread and butter issues that impact our families today and in the future?”
- Avoid Candidates That Seek to Merely Frighten, Divide, or Insult. Too many candidates on both sides of the political aisle rely on wedge issues to carve out of narrow demographic groups just enough voters to get over the fifty percent line and then demonize the rest of us. They cynically attempt to first pigeon hole our interests and then exploit our fears to divide us — rich vs poor, White vs African American vs Hispanic vs Asian, Christian vs Jew vs Muslim, male vs female, straight vs LGBTQ, recent immigrant vs native born, urban vs suburban vs rural to name a few. The fact of the matter is the need for economic growth, skilled high paying jobs, quality education, good transportation options, safe streets, broadband, access to health care, mutual respect for each other’s personal principles and beliefs, equal opportunity, etc. are not peculiar to any demographic group and is a focus that should unite us all. The candidates that understand this are the ones that deserve our serious consideration.
- Understand that Candidates Don’t Change Their Spots in Office. If a candidate plays fast and loose with the facts, acts like a participant on Survivor, Jerry Springer, or a mud wrestling title fight, don’t count on him or her being any different after he or she gets elected.
So hold on tight, we are only ten months from Primary Day 2018.