This week’s Courier Herald column:
At least we’re fighting. It’s all we seem to know how to do these days.
The fights of each party take on different tones and use different weapons. Today’s focus is the fighting nature of Georgia “conservatives”. Air quotes are used because the word seems to have as many meanings as the number of people who claim they are the only true conservative.
The root of many current fights begins and ends with former President Donald Trump. He’s a polarizing figure and knows it – and knows how to rile up his base to start and maintain a fight. His former Attorney General William Barr claims President Trump told him that the secret to a perfect tweet was to have “just the right amount of crazy”.
Writers who trade in satire or sarcasm know the perils of this. I once wrote a blog post on April Fool’s Day claiming that Atlanta’s rapid transit system MARTA had been extended to then GOP strongholds Cobb and Gwinnett County by language added to a gun rights bill in the late hour conference committee before the bill’s passage.
It, too, had the “right amount of crazy”. It mentioned that trains would begin rolling into those counties within months – though the planning and construction would have taken a decade. There were – or should have been – obvious clues that it was “fake news”, the publish date of 1 April chief among them.
Later that day, I got a call from a Gwinnett County legislator. The problem wasn’t actually with his constituents, but he was getting calls from Representatives in two other counties not mentioned in the article. Emergency meetings of the local GOP were being planned so that legislators in those counties could explain to “the base” how they were going to stop this encroachment of MARTA from happening on their turf. The internet had spoken, and action had to be taken.
Some people are so close to the fight, and have been fighting for so long, that they refuse to take a step back and see the ridiculousness of the situation. Instead, too many become a part of it.
Let’s look at a few real-world examples in our own little corner of the world.
In a year when expanding parents’ choices for educating their children has been center stage of election concerns, race-baiting grifters managed to hose up Republican support for a bill granting a limited number of $6,000 scholarships to fund alternatives to local schools. The charge that money would go to “illegals” managed to garner 8 no votes from Republicans with 4 other leaving the floor before the vote.
Over in the House, a bill overhauling Georgia’s long troubled and underfunded mental health system has been a profile in broad-based, bipartisan legislation. The bill is sponsored by the House Speaker himself. The first co-sponsor is Representative Todd Jones of Forsyth County. Jones’ conservative credentials include sponsoring a bill to allow the Buckhead Community to secede from the City of Atlanta. It’s hard to find a lot of “RINO” in his resume.
On the other side of the aisle, Longtime Democratic Representative Mary Margaret Oliver is the third signer of the bill. Minority Leader James Beverly’s name appears fifth on the list of co-sponsors. Not surprisingly, the bill passed with only 3 members voting in opposition.
Signature bills, however, are targets of opportunity. Opposition to the bill grew suddenly, with various conspiracy theories drowning out legitimate debate about wording and implications of the actual bill.
Senator Dean Burke, a physician chairing the committee that would advance the bill toward the Senate floor for passage, pleaded with a large crowd of protestors lined up to speak against the bill for actual concerns in the bill and “not just something you read from the internet.” Jill Nolan of the Georgia Recorder also reports that co-sponsor Oliver noted “There are some things being said that are simply not accurate, bordering on ridiculous” but that the process will move forward with the “real work of compromise.”
Then there’s the big man himself. Donald Trump is returning to Georgia to rally his supporters against Brian Kemp and an almost full slate of Trump candidates challenging incumbent Republicans. Trump – still upset that Georgia’s elected officials didn’t discard both the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions in his effort to overturn a perhaps flawed but legal and certified election – will have a nationally televised temper tantrum March 26th in Commerce Georgia.
Trump said everything Georgia Republicans need to know in Perry in September of last year. He said of Stacey Abrams who also knows about claiming legal election results don’t matter, “Stacey, would you like to take (Kemp’s) place? It’s ok with me.”
This fight isn’t about what is best for Georgians nor even Republicans or “conservatives”. It’s about Donald Trump.
“At least he fights” you say? Yes. Yes he does. But who are he and those following him fighting?
They’re fighting the people they elected. They’re fighting the people that they expect in a Republic to make the decisions on behalf of those who elect them.
Who is winning these fights? Not the advocates for school choice. Not the citizenry who desperately need a better mental health system in Georgia. And not the elected leaders who held the line for the last two years to ensure Georgia’s economy would bounce back quickly and higher from a Covid-shutdown while fighting the many overreaches of federal power being cranked out of Washington on a daily basis.
Competition is good. There will be primaries to officially (if only temporarily) settle these differences. Democrats, meanwhile, can watch and smile while sitting on dry powder. Why do they need to fight Republicans right now when they’re so good at fighting among themselves?