It would be an understatement to say that we Democrats haven’t been able to win a partisan election in this state for quite some time. And although I love this great state, it would be dishonest to pretend that I don’t think my party’s philosophy and plans for it are better than the alternative – and that I root for my side to win and am disappointed when we lose even when the Republican is a good man. When I ran for the legislature, there was certainly a desire to wield some personal power – I’d be lying if I said otherwise and so would anyone else who runs for office – but there’s also a loyalty to party and ideology and a willingness to sacrifice one’s self (win or lose) to advance that.
Next Tuesday, I’ll walk into a voting booth and decide whether to support a highly flawed T-SPLOST that nevertheless threatens to doom my beloved state’s future if it doesn’t pass. Make no mistake – for the time being and for the foreseeable past and future, this is a Republican state. The T-SPLOST is a Republican plan (part of the reason it’s so flawed, I will get to that) and the Republicans who want to yield none of their power to Democrats at the state level (unless they meaninglessly switch to their party) are counting on me and my friends to do their dirty work so that the state can succeed and they can take the credit.
And why should we help these Republicans? They – and their national counterparts certainly don’t deserve our help. At every step of the T-SPLOST process, they’ve chosen the path of least resistance – from yielding important STATE decision making powers to local officials and then crapping on those same officials when the base made any noise (see for example Chip Rogers who voted for T-SPLOST but now says he doesn’t support it when the local decision making process that he voted for allegedly didn’t produce a result his fanatical base can be happy with) to the obvious pander of taking down the GA-400 tolls to try to appease a group of voters who will never vote for the T-SPLOST in one million years but is an important constituency in the next Republican primary (I see Penn State is also taking down the Joe Pa statue – a similar gesture).
Just compare the Ga-400 gesture to the South DeKalb black Democrats who have paid a penny for MARTA for 30 years without rail and are now being asked to pay a penny more to still get no rail. I guess it’s wrong to make people that drive on 400 pay for something they use but it is ok to make other people pay for something they can’t.
Back to the Republicans. In Georgia and nationally they will champion an idea for years – see for example the individual mandate, HOT lanes or teacher tenure – only to run with their tail between their legs like cowards when they sense that a flip-flop can gain them more votes than standing with their convictions and persuading their coalition to go along. As a Democrat and an honest observer of state politics, I know that Republicans have accomplished nothing meaningful since their takeover of this state, and only this state’s powerful embrace of the status quo (we Democrats trained the voters well in this regard) and fear of the modern Democratic coalition (ditto) keeps them in power.
There would be nothing better for my party than absolute failure for the Republicans. I severely want people to walk into the voting booth in 2014 looking at someone like Kasim Reed or Jason Carter as the Democratic nominee for Governor and think to themselves “it can’t get much worse.”
And yet – unlike Republicans like Chip Rogers and Nathan Deal, who care more for their own political (and personal) fortunes than the future of this state, I love my state more than my party. So I’ll be voting Yes on a highly flawed plan that is almost certain to lose. And until Tuesday the 31st, I’ll be openly rooting for this highly flawed plan to pass, because ultimately that is the right thing to do, even though the architects of the plan from the planning stages to the campaign have taken the wrong path at every given chance. It is a plan that at times makes no sense to us Democrats and is nonetheless vital for our future.
And starting August 1st, when the T-SPLOST will almost certainly lose barring a miracle, I and other Democrats will end our short-lived coalition of necessity with the state’s Republican leaders and start plotting a return to power that their failure to lead made possible. And when the Democrat who has a real chance of breaking the hold of power that the Republicans currently hold in this state finally wins office – whether it’s 2014 or 2018 or 2028, I hope the lesson they learn from this failed T-SPLOST process is that when you’re entrusted with the great power to govern this state the most important question you can ask yourself is not what can I do to ensure I hold onto power no matter what – it’s what can I do to move this great state forward even if it means it will be moving forward without me.
The Republican emperors of Georgia have no clothes – but I’ll still be voting yes because it’s the right thing to do and because I’m confident that eventually they’ll expose themselves without my help. Democratic hands will be clean and ready to rebuild this state when the voters grant us that opportunity. And when we’re finally in power and willing to make the tough decisions, I hope the Republicans of the future will join with us, as I’m joining with their party on July 31 – but I know better. They’ll be blaming the Democrats for cleaning up their mess, maligning the Republican ideas that Democrats adopt in the spirit of compromise, and plotting their return to power so that they can continue to enrich themselves and their allies to the detriment of the people of this state. Sad but true.