Republicans should learn lessons Democrats taught. -- If you don't believe an attempt at redistricting is coming, you must believe in the tooth fairy.
11-05-04 Macon Telegraph editorial:
It's been a long time coming - 137 years to be exact. Republicans have been waiting, as the minority party in Georgia, to assume power, and their time has come.
Since Gov. Sonny Perdue's surprise election in 2002, state governance has not always been quiet between the divided Legislature and Perdue's office. Now, most of the reins of government are in Republican hands, but that doesn't mean the fighting is over. The GOP must still figure out how to govern - everyone.
Several powerful offices - the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, labor commissioner and attorney general - are held by Democrats. And while the GOP swept the state, there are still large numbers of voters who would count themselves in the blue column. How the new state Republican leadership handles its priorities will set the tone and determine how quickly we progress together as a state. If the battles start by reopening the redistricting fight or other divisive, wedge issues, we will be in for a long, hard haul.
There are lessons to be learned from the 1868 state Legislature, when Republicans last controlled state government, that could be useful as the gavel drops for the 2005 General Assembly session. In 1868, the Civil War had just ended and state government was controlled by moderate and radical Republicans. The state's political structure was in shambles. Georgia had been controlled by the Union army until the 1868 state Constitution, which included conditions required by the federal government, was enacted.
Two years later, the Republican dominance of state government had disappeared. Republicans tried to back away from reforms forced on them by federal officials, namely giving African Americans basic rights.
There were 32 African Americans elected to state offices in 1868 - all Republican. And on the very day Georgia was readmitted to the Union there was an attempt, according to documents in the Georgia Secretary of State's archives, to oust three black state senators. Though that effort failed, by year's end almost all African Americans in both houses had been expelled by their own party, including Henry McNeal Turner from Bibb County. The 1870 Democrats successfully used the past diversity of the Republican Party as a wedge issue to wrest away control of state government.
If the Republican Party of Georgia attempts to marginalize into extinction representatives elected under the Democratic flag, they will run the risk of setting themselves up, just as the 1870 Democrats did, for eventual failure. The state cannot afford to get bogged down in polarizing partisanship issues. There are too many other problems waiting to be solved.
Why my comment on redistricting?
It has been in making -- if Nov. 2004 was like Nov. 2002 -- ever since the nakedly partisan 2001 reapportionment courtesy of our Party.
My wife Sally is a teacher, and as such she always deeped resented Gov. Barnes telling the teachers -- as they perceived it -- they didn't know what they were doing, and needed to be accountable.
Teachers perceived the message as personally delivered by Gov. Barnes as a slap in the face, and couldn't wait until Nov. 2002 for payback time.
As a school board attorney, I knew Gov. Barnes' educational reform was just that, reform, something that was long overdue. But if you do the right thing in the wrong way, it becomes the wrong thing.
But the redistricting made me mad. It was as if we didn't realize that what goes around comes around. It was right; the courts agreed; and it was not the courts that redrew the lines. It was the courts because the legislature could not agree how to clean up its own mess.
I started to post the next post last month. I refrained, and the best I could, tried to put a positive spin on the disaster candidate that we dealt ourselves.
As with the teacher comments, voter anger at the obvious gerrymandering of Georgia's congressional districts was one of many factors that helped sweep Barnes out of office, and now I can understand how the Philitines consider it to be payback time.
Why couldn't we have been better students of history, and learned from the GOP's gross miscalculations in redistricting to reflect the 1990 census?