Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Slouching towards Columbus

Ahead of its state convention next month in Columbus, the Georgia GOP is — depending on where you stand — either a party in flux or in turmoil.

Last week’s announcement that Donald Trump will travel to Columbus to attend address the convention sets the stage for a remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, scene in the annals of Georgia politics: a former U.S. president will address the convention while the state’s top Republican, Gov. Brian Kemp, won’t.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has also declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, is also set to attend. 

Some Coastal Georgia Republicans insist that any internal tensions that beset the party are either misunderstood or exaggerated. Young Turks v. the Old Guard? MAGA v. RINO? Establishment v. grassroots? Nonsense. No identity crisis, at all. Just normal organizational churn, they say. Young faces replacing tired old ones a little too set in their ways.

Maybe. Yet Trump’s appearance on June 10 and what else happens at the two-day state convention — in particular, the outcome of elections to the state GOP’s executive committee and debates over party rules — is certain to shed more light on the contours of Georgia’s dominant political party and its chances to help return the White House to Republican hands next year, The Current’s Craig Nelson writes.

Diets, kitchen renovations, clean cars

With every passing hour leading up to the unofficial deadline of June 1 for raising the federal government’s debt ceiling, the goalposts shift. Trial balloons darken the sky. Finger-pointing escalates. It all feels too much.

To aid the bleary-eyed and confused, analogies are offered up to those unversed in the intricacies of the deficit and the budget.

To underscore that raising the debt ceiling is necessary to pay bills for things that Congress has already approved, Kevin Riley, editor-at-large of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, offers the story of a spouse, faced with unexpected costs of car breakdown, who announces he’ll stop payment on the already completed kitchen renovation.

But that’s not the real world, Riley says. “We don’t get to have a tantrum over the family spending and refuse to pay our bills.”

Then there’s renowned University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bulloch, who spoke along with Riley last weeks as guests on GPB’s “Political Rewind.”

Bulloch derides the budget process, likening it to a person declaring that they’re going to go on a diet then gorging for months or years. Finally, at one point, they say, “My gosh, we got all this extra weight. We have to literally just cut if off.” We weren’t rational and avoided it in the first place, he says.

Finally, there’s U.S. Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter. In a recent weekly newsletter, under the heading, “Clean v. Responsible,” Coastal Georgia’s congressman compares President Biden to a person who decides one Saturday morning to take their car through the car wash but fails to roll up the back window. The driver is posed with a choice:

“Clearly, it’s worth the additional time and effort to quickly roll up the back window and prevent what is supposed to be a routine cleaning from turning into an expensive mess. In this situation, no rational person would choose cleanliness over responsibility. Yet, that is exactly what our president is doing.”

Take your pick.

The outside of the Georgia state Capitol
Credit: Maggie Lee

‘A fix looking for a problem’

Since the Georgia General Assembly adjourned in late March, Coastal Georgia lawmakers have been debriefing their constituents on the legislature’s work during the latest session. A few comments caught our eye.

“Making it to every vote on the Senate floor is nearly impossible if you’re at all engaged,” Sen. Mike Hodges (R-St. Simons) told a meeting of the Brunswick Kiwanis Club, bemoaning the time constraints of a 40-day session, according to the Brunswick News.

Hodges said the failure of the legislature to expand mental health services across the state was due less from opposition to the bill than to lack of time in committee to discuss it. Still, the legislative process, while “messy,” is “effective and it works,” he said.

North of Brunswick, in Liberty County, Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) said it wasn’t the lack of time but “politics” that scuttled legislation expanding the mental health system, which he described as “awful.” He didn’t elaborate.

Speaking last month to an eggs and issues breakfast sponsored by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, Williams described the latest session as probably the most difficult in his two decades in the General Assembly, the Coastal Courier reported.

Decorum has diminished and partisan division is rife, he said. Consequently, the legislative process is “crazy.”

“We get legislation that is a fix looking for a problem,” he said, citing bills to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Georgia schools, even though, “it wasn’t necessary because it wasn’t being taught.”

A bill to prevent defunding the police? That wasn’t necessary, either.

“It hasn’t and will not happen,” Williams said. “But it is a good talking point. Everybody wants to say something that will get them their 15 minutes of fame.”

Trump Campaign Rally, Savannah Convention Center, Sept. 16, 2020


Georgia GOP slouches toward Columbus

Last week’s announcement that Donald Trump will travel to Columbus to attend address the convention sets the stage for a remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, scene in the annals of Georgia politics: a former U.S. president will address the convention, while the state’s top Republican, Gov. Brian Kemp, won’t.

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Legal shifts allow humanitarian groups to help migrants as expression of religious faith.

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“Health checks” in all 159 Georgia counties will examine election management systems, ballot marking devices, and scanners to verify that the software used in last year’s elections has not been changed.

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Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...