With the national Democratic and Republican conventions behind us, there is both optimism and opining about candidate performance. And in Georgia, the age-old political anthem of the GOP that the Democratic platform is “too liberal” has begun.
Post-convention, Democrats are enjoying the favorability ratings bump for President Obama, whose performance (and those of his surrogates) in Charlotte exceeded expectations.
Republicans, in their efforts to burst the joy bubble and stop the slippage of their lack-luster presidential nominee, warn that any forward movement by Dems will be short-lived – particularly in Georgia.
With a penchant for using scare tactics and other emotional ploys to woo the electorate, GOP pundits say Georgia will likely remain in the hands of Republicans for the next few election cycles. They like to remind Georgians’ that our values are different and we like things on the conservative side.
While it is accurate to say that Republicans will remain in control of the state legislature for the next few election cycles (the sheer number of GOP state House and Senate members make a flip nearly impossible), is not accurate to suggest Georgia will remain that way.
It’s also not accurate to suggest the “average voter” in Georgia is a conservative Republican. If that were the case, Obama would not have collected 47 percent of the vote in 2008. Recent polling suggests the 2012 numbers for Obama are similar.
The average voter in Georgia is changing. The 2010 census shows that 43 percent of Georgia’s population is of Latin, African-American or Asian descent. Fifty-two percent of the population is women. The upward tick in these numbers will continue and with it a changing political landscape.
The GOP prefers a rearview mirror look at the politics – their love affair with Ronald Reagan bears out this phenomenon of clinging tightly to the past.
The problem with claims that Georgia will remain a conservative state is a short game perspective rather than a long view of how Georgia is changing. It is a failure to recognize the role and growth of women and minorities in the political game and it is a failure to acknowledge that people remain the same. It is also a failure not to recognize that with their close-to-super-majority control of the state legislature, the GOP has no whipping boy in Democrats. Republicans alone will rise or fall on their own fiscal and social policy at the state level.
Whether Georgia climbs out of its abysmal jobs deficit is in the hands of Republicans. Whether or not Georgia is competitive in business and transportation relies on Republicans’ ability to carve out a path forward. If 2011 and 2012 are any indicators, we will, as a state, continue to see slippage in our ability to compete regionally. Should Georgia continue its insular focus on conserving the past and its love affair with advancing social policy over fiscal policy, the state will continue to be left out of the national and regional conversations – and money – on a range of programs and issues.
At the national level, the GOP has proven already its failure to connect with voters beyond white, middle-aged folks. Fifty-nine percent of Romney’s support is from white men.
In Georgia, Democratic candidates (think Roy Barnes in 2010) understand that women are the game changers in elections. Barnes spent a great deal of time courting the white male vote, when a focus on female voters would have provided the votes necessary to propel him to victory.
Short story: middle-aged white men are not the ticket to the future.
Democrats DO understand voters across the spectrum. But rather than focus on the short game, Democrats are focused on the future of Georgia. In their current minority role, Democrats’ job is to continue to provide strong alternatives to GOP proposals. These proposals must speak to an ever-changing population.
If Republicans want to be viable in Georgia beyond 2020, they will need to learn the social issues of an evolving electorate, not the other way around.
To the ears of many, the make-believe state anthem of “Too Liberal for Georgia,” sounds like a skipping needle on an old phonograph.