Icarus is a lucky man.
I was blessed to be born into a home that had two loving parents, a community that valued education, and a country where opportunity was limitless.
Throughout the 90’s and for the first half of this decade, my personal and professional life seemed to follow the trajectory of the Republican Party fairly closely. Through hard work, a proper foundation, and seizing the right opportunities, I remained upwardly mobile by capturing success and quickly moving on to the next goal. During this time, the Republicans managed to seize control of Congress for the first time in over a generation, and 6 years later, the White House as well.
I helped the Republicans build their state presence during this time as a member of the grass roots, an officer of the county party, an occasional delegate to District and State Conventions, a campaign operative, and even as a candidate myself.
At the beginning of this decade, I began to dedicate more time to my business affairs, mostly in real estate development and construction, and spent less time with politics. With my party firmly in control at the national and state levels, most of my political goals had been accomplished, and the Republican Party and I continued separate but similar paths.
Forgetting the strengths that got us where we were, and a bit blinded by arrogance, we each began believing our own PR instead of making sure we were really taking care of the things that needed our attention. Our failures were swift and dramatic. Those of the Republicans are fairly self-evident, though many of our own are still in denial. Mine was a total collapse of business and personal financial interests, loss of virtually all material possessions and many friends, a strain on most remaining personal and family relationships, and at the risk of sounding trite, a true appreciation for the term “rock bottom”.
I had an advantage that the Republican Party did not, as I was able to lower my public profile, regroup, and re-establish myself in relative anonymity. The Republican Party continues to struggle to find itself publicly.
“Icarus”, named after the Greek who had a pair of wax wings but died because he chose to fly too close to the sun, was born on this site as an outlet for expression during this time, as well as a way to stay involved in the political process when my personal, professional, and financial circumstances weren’t conducive to active participation. What began as a wisecrack-dropping alias has morphed into a vehicle that enables me to own up to the mistakes of the past, from both myself and the party, and insist on better performance in the future.
By refusing to discuss my occupation, college degrees, or most personal details about myself, I have been able to focus political discussion on the ideas themselves, where they must live or die on their own merit, and are not buttressed by any extraneous resume credentials. I further discovered that by stripping away most other labels – Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative – that people of differing ideologies can come together and discuss pragmatic solutions and find common ground.
When you lose everything, you find out what you really have. And in my anonymity, I have found I have a voice. It is a voice that is now used to challenge my party to choose solutions over sound bites, faith over fear, perseverance over pandering, and humility over hubris.
The American people are a forgiving people when you own up to your shortcomings. For that I am grateful.
I am a lucky man.
But that still doesn’t answer the question of “Who am I”, at least in the sense of “who writes Icarus?”
My real name is Charlie Harper. Most of you have never heard of me, and I would guess that very few of you even know more than one or two people that know me. My days of involvement in the Republican Party structure were when we were the party was a deep minority party in the state. Those that wanted to curry favor didn’t suck up to us. In fact, we were often outright mocked by them.
I did a little political work on the South side of Atlanta, centered around my home county of Fayette. I served various levels within the local party structure up to First Vice Chairman. In 2000, I primaried a sitting Republican State Senator because I didn’t think he was conservative enough. That race resulted in Mitch Seabaugh being elected to the State Senate. I’ve worked on many campaigns from local levels to Presidential campaigns, but always in a volunteer (or at least, unpaid) capacity.
I graduated Fayette County High School in 1987 (Go Tigers!) and the University of Georgia with a B.B.A. in Economics in 1989. I spent 7 years as a retail and commercial banker, and had great success in that field, but wanted self-employment. After about a year of various consulting assignments with former clients, I started a building and development firm with my Dad, who had been among the original builder’s group of Peachtree City with his Dad over 30 years prior. It was great being able to spend the last couple of years of Dad’s life as his partner and his friend, but I continued on after his passing in a field I really didn’t want to be in. I fooled myself into believing that I was invincible, ignored all of what I knew about sound lending from my banking career, and made several crucial mistakes and lapses of judgment for which I’ll be paying for a long time.
Along the way, I picked up a Masters in Economics at Georgia State University, and occasionally teach Econ as an adjunct professor. I also kept consulting for various clients, mostly in the field that bridges management consulting and government affairs. Many of my clients were small businesses that did business with the government, but didn’t understand the environment, or were otherwise having some sort of problem that they needed outside help in overcoming.
I am not a lobbyist, nor do I currently plan to become one. I only point this out because the occasional question has arisen as to my unknown identity versus my motives for my post. I’ve kept Erick informed when I had a client working in a certain area or field, and my general rule of thumb has been to avoid certain topics altogether. This has not been so much out of fear of being accused of posting for pay, but so as not to have some of my more “over the top” comments come back to bite my clients in the butt.
As of January of this year, I accepted a full time position with a mid-sized IT outsourcing company with regional offices here in Atlanta. Though the role was originally thought in concept to be somewhat of a Government Affairs role, we’ve taken a different turn with it. I have the title of “Capture Manager” in a proposal development group.
While most of my target customers are Government entities, my role is not political in nature. Most of my days are spent playing a sort of internal “traffic cop”. My company does have a specific blogging policy, which actually encourages blogging. The caveat is that, and let me make this clear, all opinions expressed are mine and mine alone, and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
So what’s next for Icarus?
Short answer is, I’m not sure. Being Icarus has been a great experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself, a lot of you, and politics in general. In a weird way, Icarus has had a higher profile than I ever had as just me, and I’ve also frankly just enjoyed having an alter-ego. Thus, at least for now, I’ll keep writing as Icarus.
But while being Icarus has opened many new doors, it has also been quite limiting. During the debate over SB 31, I wasn’t able to just call the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and try to work through the issues there. I look at that as part of a major opportunity lost. I’ve fielded inquiries from various media outlets that wanted a “real name” to be quotable. And believe it or not, I’ve actually turned down speaking engagements (?!?). This is a whole weird world that I had little appreciation for what I was starting when I decided my screen name in less than 1 minute in order to drop a wise-crack here two years ago.
So while there is relative safety in staying somewhat anonymous, there is new opportunity in stepping out from behind the moniker and being “me” again. With that comes new direct lines of attack, as any idea I post going forward now comes from an admitted failure. It’s taken some doing, but I can live with that. After all, I don’t believe I have ever claimed to be an expert on anything here. I’m not about to start that now.
So, there it is. Apologies to those of you who are disappointed, or feel that you were misled into thinking I was “somebody”. That wasn’t my intention, though I will again admit to enjoying that. I’m just a nobody, and am content to stay a nobody. I have no political aspirations, either within the party, or as a candidate. None.
But I still have strong opinions. And those I’m willing to continue to share.