A Break For Easter – And Then We Have Campaigns

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The time between the General Assembly leaving town and Easter provides most that work in and around the area of state politics a bit of much needed down time.  There is an exception for those running for office this year, especially those with primary opposition.  It seems campaigns are a permanent 24/7 event these days anyway.

This year, the span for those not involved in campaigns lasted roughly two weeks.  This allowed one week for The Masters – a Georgia Tradition like no other which also serves as a showcase for the state’s economic development efforts – and then some quiet time for Easter.

Personally, I started even earlier.  It’s the only time after years of trying I successfully gave up social media for Lent.  During the actual post-session break, I managed to fit a quick and long overdue trip with my mother to the beach.  She can report that Georgia shrimp are still among the best in the world, even if our collards fall short of those from her native North Carolina.

As I’ve grown older – some would say old – I’ve learned to appreciate the quiet time for what it is.  In the non-stop and never ending world of political gamesmanship, spin, and even the occasional real problem that needs to be solved, there is real value of stepping away, taking a deep breath, and regaining some perspective.

You don’t have to work in or near politics to understand, appreciate, or need the same break.  Heavy consumers of cable news or talk radio would be well served to spend some time away from their outrage machines of choice.

Those living in the bubbles of their own making would be wise to spend some time away from the news outlets on the right and left that serve to foment mob like action against those with whom they disagree.  As Easter cedes into wide open primary season, it will get harder and harder to find those who are willing and able to inform, or for viewers, listeners, or readers to take the frequent deep breaths needed to process what they are consuming with much needed perspective.

Easter provides us a great lesson here in both the pitfalls of advance public opinion polls and the dangers of the powerful to stoke mob action.  Easter week began with Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem as a King.  It ended – the only time Jesus was on a ballot – with him losing the election to Barabbas. 

Public anger mob action is always seeded with assurances of righteousness and appeals to virtue.  Too few in the crowd ever have any idea that they’re actually being played.

This is as dangerous today as it was 2,000 years ago.  Public debates should be settled with clear heads and sound sober reasoning.  Getting your side angrier than the other side can get their folks to maximize turnout is a short term game.  In the long run, those that turn out only to be disappointed often end up turned off.

What we’ve seen in Georgia and across the country is that the losing side is now playing a game of refusing to admit they lost.  Instead, it’s now completely accepted to tear apart the institution of voting and vote counting by the losing side. 

The caveat, of course, it this is only acceptable to the losing side each cycle.  The winning side puts their history of doing this on a shaken etch-o-sketch, shakes it, and pretends they never, ever questioned the integrity of an election.

It’s in this break that I’ve decided I must take another form of break.  I’ve tried to avoid writing about actual campaigns, choosing instead to focus on matters of public policy. I find that what is said and done in campaigns – especially primaries – is antithetical of what must happen when governing.

Unfortunately, when the policy issue of legitimacy of elections is now an election issue, then these lines have again blurred.  As such, a couple of campaigns will be highlighted here in the weeks ahead. 

I’ve had my break.  If you haven’t’ taken one, plan it.  We’ll meet again soon where hopefully I can help provide some perspective on the narratives that too many are willing to use in their campaigns in the hopes that you too can be played.

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