Ouch!! -- Tom Crawford on "Uninspired Choices"
When you look at the ballot for this year’s race for governor, you almost find yourself wishing there was some way that both of the candidates could lose. Georgia is one of the fastest-growing states, with challenges that get bigger by the day: under-performing schools, overcrowded highways, shrinking water supplies, and a burgeoning population of undocumented immigrants. If you still believe, as some do, that these are the kinds of issues that should be thoughtfully addressed by those who aspire to lead our government, then you’re headed for a big disappointment as the weeks tick down before election day.
What are your choices here? You have a Republican incumbent, Gov. Sonny Perdue, who spent his first four years in office doing as little as possible in hopes that he wouldn’t make any voters angry. That turned out to be a smart strategy for Perdue, who went into the general election campaign with a healthy lead in the polls and enough money from corporate contributors to choke a South Georgia mule.
The drawback of being an inactive governor, however, is that the problems you ignore don’t go away. They just get worse. You also find yourself without much to talk about when you ask the voters for another term in office. Perdue’s record is so lackluster that he’s been reduced to holding news conferences to brag about the “fantastic” development that Georgia high school students skyrocketed all the way from 49th place to 46th place in the national ranking for SAT scores.
Perdue’s TV spots for the general election ask the rhetorical question, “Why would we ever want to go back?” That leaves unanswered the question of whether Georgia actually went forward during the last four years.
With Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, you’ve got Tweedledum going against the Tweedledee of the Republican incumbent. One fat guy from the rural part of the state is running against a slightly less fat guy from the rural part of the state. Now there’s a choice that will inspire you to get up on election day and go to the polls.
Taylor has been tirelessly chanting the same mantra since he was first elected to Georgia’s second-highest office eight years ago: HOPE scholarships - good. PeachCare - good. Republicans who try to mess with them - bad. That’s pretty much the extent of any policy ideas he has for the future. No matter what else pops up on the political radar, you can count on Taylor to default to the same old talking points about HOPE and PeachCare. That would be an effective strategy if Taylor weighed 150 pounds less, was named Zell Miller, and was running in the 1990 governor’s race. But he’s not.
If you’re wondering which of these candidates is the best person for tackling the knotty issues facing our great state, it really doesn’t matter. You could vote for either one, or neither one, and the results would be pretty much the same.
If Perdue wins another term, which it seems he will do, it won’t make much difference. He achieves lame-duck status as soon as he takes the oath of office, while the politics of the next four years is dominated by Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, Speaker Glenn Richardson, and the likely lieutenant governor, Casey Cagle, fighting for position in the 2010 governor’s race. I suspect that Perdue wouldn’t mind that very much. He’s always seemed to be a politician who is happier when he’s pulling on football jerseys or donning motorcycle helmets for the TV cameras than when he has to do the icky stuff we call governing.
If Taylor somehow pulls off a miracle and wins on Nov. 7, so what? He will be a Democratic governor gridlocked by a conservative Republican legislature that won’t even bother to look at his policy proposals. Another four years down the drain.
Those are your options: a man with no vision versus a man with no future. You would think that Georgians deserved a better choice than this when they decide who will be the next governor. But then you remember that it was the voters who put these two guys on the ballot in the first place.