Disclosure: State Rep. Jason Spencer is my firm’s client and former State Rep. LaDawn Blackett Jones and I have appeared on TV together, usually doing a back-and-forth on election nights. I’m familiar enough with both to know that I shouldn’t try to change the mind of either.
But when Spencer and Jones got into a little spat on Facebook over Confederate memorials and statues, I decided to chide both of them for their tone, as you can see below.
Not that it did any good.
That part of the thread was not included in Greg Bluestein’s piece in the AJC, which has gone as viral as smallpox, but it probably should have been, since Jason and LaDawn are not angry at each other, even though they vehemently disagree about the removal of memorials to Confederate generals. They were seatmates in the legislature, and in spite of their different opinions, have a special, pointed relationship.
They squabble, like a long-married couple that gripes at each other about where to set the thermostat, but doesn’t get divorced. Jones told me she “appreciates Jason’s perspective,” and that she “learned a lot from him.” Via text last night, Spencer said they were “…two old colleagues who get along and admit they have biases can banter back and forth on a touchy issue… She is still my seatmate!”
Let’s also be clear about something that’s important –Spencer was not threatening Jones. He was warning her that in some places, attempts to remove statues could be met with violence, and after Charlottesville, that’s just obvious.
And while they clearly did not take to heart this post on bipartisan civility, they both believe that a good step forward would be to privatize the memorials. Rep. Spencer believes “…state and local authorities [could] sell these Confederate memorials and parks to private interests that have an interest in preserving the history… I think private owners should be able to purchase them from the state. Then you remove the taxpayer funding issue of the memorials altogether…. [and they] become protected under private property rights.”
On this, Jones agrees with Spencer. “It’s the taxpayer dollars that makes it an issue,” she said. “If somebody wants to use their own land and their own money, they can put up the biggest memorial to Robert E. Lee -or whoever they want to.”
A white male Republican from south Georgia and an African American female Democrat from Atlanta agreeing on a step forward in the current debate about what’s racist and what’s worth knowing about our nation’s history is remarkable. Probably even newsworthy. But apparently not for the AJC, or Raw Story, or any other media outlet choosing to amplify the “outrage” angle. A testy discussion on Facebook is really good clickbait, and drives pageviews, and stirs the pot of anger everybody seems to want to drink from these days.
It’s not fake news if you can take a bunch of nothing and make it news.
UPDATE: Rep. Spencer Issues Statement on Recent Facebook Post
ATLANTA – State Representative Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) today issued the following statement regarding a recent social media post:
“I respect former State Representative LaDawn Jones as a colleague and as my former seat mate in the Georgia House of Representatives. I respect her for her passion, her willingness to engage in debate with me, and her ability to advocate strongly for what she believes. She has always done so aggressively and without any fear. She’s never backed down from me in any of the debates we’ve ever had, even if those debates might have appeared to others that we were being hostile or rude to each other. LaDawn and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I am glad that she wants to learn how people with different worldviews think. It’s a rare trait in most people, and she deserves praise and respect for having it.
“I regret that my choice of words in warning LaDawn about the possibility of violence has been misinterpreted as a threat against her, or anyone else who would like to see historic monuments to the Confederacy removed. I was trying to warn her that there really are people who would harm others over the issue. In light of the recent tragic murder of a woman in Charlottesville, I believe that a certain degree of caution is necessary. I still do.
“I condemn racism, ‘white supremacy’ and any group from the yesterday’s Klan to today’s neo-Nazis, who espouses such vile beliefs. They should not be tolerated. Provoking such hateful people is to deliberately invite violence with them, and that should not happen in America in the 21st century.
“The racial division in our nation is terrible and is going to get worse if my colleague and I cannot have the kind of conversation we had on social media and will continue to have face-to-face. It is a painful conversation that we need to have, in our communities, our state, and our nation. I’m grateful that LaDawn Jones is willing to start that conversation with me, and I hope that our experience will start similar conversations among others.”