This week’s Courier Herald column:
Georgia is once again the epicenter of national politics. The vehicle of choice this time is a bill to codify changes to Georgia’s voting laws.
An objective observer would find it important to delineate the word “codify” because many of the procedures used during the 2020 elections were done outside Georgia’s written laws. With the state of emergency presumed to be over before our next elections, voting procedures would have otherwise returned to those that existed before Covid was a household word.
This begins to answer the question as to “why now?” for those who have questioned the timing and motivation of the bill. It’s also important to remember the debacle of Fulton County’s 2020 primary where local elections officials were still trying to hire poll workers the weekend before election day.
Lines were hours long in most precincts there. The county also failed to get many voters absentee ballots, exacerbating the problem. Despite being pushed into a memory hole, there is still evidence that less than one year ago, many of those questioning the need and timing of Georgia’s bill were demanding changes and accountability at that time. Existing state law limited the power of the Secretary of State or others to intervene with local elections management.
These are facts. Despite rightful and massive pushback to the Trump administration’s’ use of the term “alternative facts”, it seems many are now willing to live in parallel universes of their own construction on this issue.
This doesn’t absolve Republicans from sharing blame on the perception of what was done. Too many legislators and party leaders were willing to buy into the lies spread by President Trump and his minions – lies that have landed in court with the defense that “no reasonable person” would have believed them. And yet, they were believed. Many bills were filed in the legislature to act upon them from legislators that fear backlash from operating outside of former President Trump’s directives.
This brings us to perhaps the biggest news in all of this story, and that is the role of the business community. Georgia has a deep legacy in the civil rights movement. It is one that leaders of major corporations have helped unify disparate factions behind the goals economic progress and shared prosperity. A state divided between black and white, red and blue, has always been able to unite around the pursuit of green.
Leadership of both parties has always been able to count on the business community to apply the pressure when needed to smooth rough edges demanded by partisan bases throughout the legislative process. Their influence was wielded openly and often as legislative leaders turned many ill-advised proposals into a bill that, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “the net effect was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them.”
Atlanta’s top corporations – the ones with international brands and ties to Georgia’s civil rights legacy were involved at the highest levels of shaping the final bill. They insisted on changes and helped refine it into something that – while not removing all reservations – was still a bill they signed off on, according to legislative leaders.
A week later, facing national media scrutiny, CEO’s of these same companies began to denounce the law. Despite claims given a “four Pinocchios” grade lie from the Washington Post for his assessment of Georgia’s bill, President Biden was still willing to double down and support the move of baseball’s All Star Game to Colorado.
There’s collateral damage here beyond the immediate economic fallout. The public reversal of major corporations has created “trust issues” and has given the appearance that they’re no longer the neutral force driving disparate fringes toward the middle. A half-century of corporate political capital may have been consumed in this exercise.
It’s hard to find the winners here, and by here I mean in Georgia. We are now pawns in a high stakes national and international political game. It would be easy to say a pox on all the houses, but every one of these homes is in our neighborhood.
We’re in the middle of a battlefield. If the current course isn’t quickly and dramatically altered, we all stand to be collateral damage.