This has been a maddening primary season. With all the different races I’m sure many can share at least one frustration in common: the endless robo calls both day and evening, cluttered mailboxes, countless emails, and some interruptions at the front door. But I am glad that we live in a country where all of these means are available for candidates to get out their messages.
It is the messages, though, from the Republican candidates that are puzzling unless you are cynical enough to realize that party affiliation has become only a label, and the Republican label happens to be the one that gets you elected in Georgia today. (Since the Democratic primary is all but meaningless, I am avoiding mention of it.) The senate race is probably the best example of what I am talking about. With only one moderate who no one has ever heard of, each of the candidates is doing everything possible to highlight their conservative credentials. Phil Gingrey brags about being the most conservative member of congress, but his opponents counter that he voted in support of some things that strayed from someone’s version of being a true conservative. I have yet to see one definition of a “true conservative “with an itemized list that all conservatives could agree to and that even Ronald Reagan could pass.
David Perdue has had mixed success in business. Jack Kingston is exploiting Perdue’s leveraged buyout of a company that made him millions while laying off hundreds of factory workers. Karen Handel and Kingston both attack Perdue as the millionaire who lives in the gated community and trying to buy the election. Paul Broun is targeted for being too far to the right---if that’s possible---and having no legislative accomplishments. Actually, Broun sounds like a version of Ted Cruz who knows how to go after his enemies but is totally ineffective at governing.
Only Broun served this country in uniform. That doesn’t make him qualified by itself to be a congressman or senator, but it does say that he walks the talk on giving back to his country. How could I pass up an opportunity to once again point out that the “most conservative member of congress”, Phil Gingry, not only took advantage of a tax paid education at Georgia Tech and the Medical College of Georgia, but then didn’t think it worth his time to give back and serve in the Medical Corps of one of the military branches during Vietnam. For all of his tough talk on Iraq and defense, Gingrey’s personal decision to avoid serving his country when his medical skills were needed should be enough for voters to reject him.
The strangest irony of all will come after May 20th. The losing Republicans will line up behind the eventual winner of the June runoff. Then all of a sudden the internecine arguments about class warfare, being too rich, not strong enough on defense, supporting taxes, etc. will be turned on the Democrats. One of my favorites is the Republican mantra of cutting spending and no more stimulus packages to help create jobs. Yet the Republicans have their own stimulus for jobs called by another name: unneeded defense spending to keep obsolete bases open, and to build weapons systems that the Pentagon says we don’t need. If you follow the money into the campaign coffers, you can figure out what’s going on, and the national interest isn’t exactly the first priority.
Today’s Democrats don’t resemble those of the 60s or 70s any more than today’s Republicans resemble those of the same period. Sure, there are ideological differences, as there should be in a two party system, but the primaries of the past few years have really highlighted some craziness. For the Republicans to attack each other like their opponent(s) is a Democrat, then later rally around that winning opponent against the opposition Democrat using the same arguments from the primary, should reveal a lot about whether the Republicans really have a sincere ideology.
One platform no Republican has run on is campaign finance reform, to include a constitutional amendment if necessary to end the money wars for influence. Only with a level playing field in politics will the middle class have a meaningful voice. Until then apathy will reign, and only about ten percent of the voters will turn out for this important primary (even fewer in the runoffs). If my personal survey of the electorate is any indication, the vast majority could not name more than one or two candidates for the senate race, who Governor Deal’s primary opponents are, and have no knowledge at all of who’s running in the many local races. Something is very wrong with our current system.