November 4th was a good day for the Georgia Republican Party. We hold the Governor’s Office, every constitutional position, and overwhelming majorities in the General Assembly.
Despite the enormity of this victory, however, deep divisions were exposed among the electorate. The Georgia GOP claimed only about 11% of the African-American vote and won election by holding on to an estimated 75% of White Georgians’ allegiance. Other demographic groups were also roughly pegged into one party or another but not by as stark a division.
The only thing that is constant in politics is change. Democrats, who held a similar strong position of political power before the 2002 elections, believe that these deep divisions are the Achilles Heel for Republicans future due to shifting demographics in Georgia which they believe favors their party.
For more than mere partisan reasons, however, demographics must not be allowed to determine destiny. Politics that presumes that people will vote one way or another because they are a certain race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or zip code cheapens all of us as individuals, is injurious to the various demographic groups pigeonholed, and is corrosive to our society.
If a political party knows that a particular group will always be with it, party leaders will tend to take that group for granted and give their concerns mere lip service. Similarly, if a political party in power expects that a group will never be with it, the legitimate societal concerns of that group may be ignored.
So, what should Republicans do? Recognize the obvious. We are in charge. With our success at the ballot box, we hold within our grasp the ability to meet the challenges facing Georgians and the responsibility to do so.
In recent years, the party’s conservative principles have provided a guidepost to progress on saving the HOPE scholarship, launching criminal justice reform, improving the business environment in general and the manufacturing industry in particular, expanding school choice through the Charter School Amendment and special needs scholarships, deepening the Savannah Harbor, tackling human trafficking, conserving water, and balancing the state budget in tough economic times.
However, much more needs to be done. Small town Georgia is losing jobs. Urban school districts have a deplorable high school drop-out rate of close to 50% and are increasingly found to be corrupt. We have a transportation system that is woefully underfunded and our mass transit in Metro Atlanta is a patch work of disjointed systems. Our statewide network of trauma centers is inadequate. We have a growing legal immigrant population struggling to assimilate. We must develop an alternative to Obamacare for the neediest among us. High school students not wanting to attend college must still develop job skills to compete. The curriculum for pre-K must improve. Greater economic development attracting good jobs at good wages is needed. The list goes on.
To meet these needs, Republicans should resist the stonewalling of the forces of the bureaucratic status quo and the harsh and stark screams from CAVE (“Citizens Against Virtually Everything”).
Instead, we must be the party of reform by recognizing these compelling concerns of everyday citizens across all demographic categories and make their worries our calling. Only by having the courage to so, will we make Georgia a better place to live and solid red for years to come.