The anxieties of Georgia’s Republican majority

Georgia Republicans, including party chairman John Padgett (center), participate in their 2015 convention in Athens on Friday. (AJC Photo / Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia Republicans, including party chairman John Padgett (center), participate in their 2015 convention in Athens on Friday. (AJC Photo / Brant Sanderlin)

For a group who mocked the pundits by setting another high-water mark just six months ago, Georgia Republicans are an angst-ridden bunch.

It showed at the party’s convention in Athens last week. Start with the contest for chairman, which the incumbent John Padgett won with a majority (just shy of 55 percent in a two-man race) that was awfully skimpy for a man who presided over such a victorious election cycle. Just 12 hours before formal nominations were taken, and after a campaign that had been going on for months, there were genuine conversations about recruiting a third candidate.

But that election was in part a proxy for a deeper rift. For much of the anti-Padgett sentiment stemmed from a belief the Georgia GOP has been very successful at electing Republicans who don’t always govern like Republicans when they get to the Gold Dome.

This went beyond the usual complaints about RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). It spoke to the tepid response most statewide constitutional officers received from the crowd, and the handful of boos that greeted Speaker David Ralston. It turned up in the resolutions delegates approved, which mostly chided legislators for bills they haven’t passed.

It reflected a sense of exasperation I’ve noticed during recent legislative sessions. For example: Social conservatives say party leaders have sold out to the chamber of commerce; chamber reps say the trial bar gets anything it wants and nothing it doesn’t; trial lawyers say … well, not much, because the chamber folks are right about that.

This sense of exasperation surfaces when legislative leaders flex their muscle to pass bills that make the grassroots uneasy (medical marijuana) or mad (raising taxes for transportation) but not those the base favors (religious liberty).

Some of these complaints are legitimate. Others are more indicative of the distance between the kind of Republicans who attend party conventions and even those who reliably vote for Republican candidates.

But all of them are exacerbated by a relatively recent turn toward legislating only in big chunks. “Relentless incrementalism” is a phrase often cited by legislators, but unfortunately it is mostly observed in the breach.

The need to shore up transportation funding, for instance, morphs into a $1 billion-a-year problem when it goes largely unaddressed for more than a decade. School-choice advocates tire of gearing up for, and using a lot of their political capital on, big constitutional-amendment fights every couple of years, only to watch as smaller measures die quietly in between. One area in which legislators are relentless incrementalists, the handing out of small tax breaks, undermines the party’s stated goal of broad tax reform.

It all adds up to the kind of anxieties on display last week in Athens. Maybe it was just the location, but the scene was reminiscent of Georgia football fans who know their team is talented but fear it will struggle to beat the weaker teams or flail against the stronger ones.

In both cases, frustrated fan bases start clamoring for a change at the top.

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29 comments
bu2
bu2

Is it just me?  Or does it seem that almost all the people using the term RINO are former Democrats?

Capt Tom
Capt Tom

On one hand, you have the folks who are willing to elect an openly gay (and extremely qualified) man as one of the party officers.

On the other hand, you still have folks (like the first of Alex Johnson's speakers) who don't even want an openly gay man IN the party, much less in a leadership position.

While those in the latter category are, fortunately, losing relevance, they still provide fodder (and comic relief) for the detractors of the GOP and shift the conversation away from the real issues upon which the vast majority of conservatives agree.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"This sense of exasperation surfaces when legislative leaders flex their muscle to pass bills that make the grassroots uneasy (medical marijuana) or mad (raising taxes for transportation) but not those the base favors (religious liberty)."


Sometimes, being a legislator is about making hard decisions that may be unpopular with the base, and sometimes that's better for the state. (Like medical marijuana or funds for transportation.) 

Glad they actually made those decisions because it looks like they were making the state the number one priority and not the grassroots who seem to be much more to the right than the state should be. 


Good article, Kyle.  I didn't realize the state was in such flux.  Most of the conservative posters on the board seem to have a unified "Georgia is red and that's great!" message. 

TicTacs
TicTacs

Reasonable people can come to reasonable conclusions under reasonable conditions, unless you are a republican...



This is what you are saying here, right ?

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

Good points, but social conservatives are uneasy more because they're being left behind by reality.

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@Aquagirl I'm not a social conservative, just a regular conservative, but I have serious ideological issues across the spectrum with the GAGOP's positions. Particularly with ethics and corruption in our leadership, as well as a serious concern that the party leadership is more responsive to the Chamber of Commerce than to the taxpayer.

Mandingo
Mandingo

The base elects  hand picked stooges they can't control once  elected. Seems like they need to get them to sign some type of " Grover Norquist " type pledge so they can sue them in civil court when they don't perform/behave as anticipated. Or better yet , party members could just move to Mississippi and bless that state.

bendedknee
bendedknee

Kyle- can you explain your comment " [C]hamber reps say the trial bar gets anything it wants and nothing it doesn’t; trial lawyers say … well, not much, because the chamber folks are right about that." 



As an attorney, I have no idea what you are talking about. This state has some of the toughest   tort reform laws.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg There has been a series of bills the past couple of years the chamber and trial bar have butted heads on, and the trial bar has won almost all of them. I don't remember a lot of examples off the top of my head, but I seem to remember something about e-discovery rules last year. Their conflict also came up in the Hidden Predator Act this year (that one, as far as these two parties were concerned, was kind of a wash).

Note as well that, after a court decision wiped away the state's charter schools commission, legislators came back with a constitutional amendment to restore it. It has been several years since the court threw out some elements of the tort reforms of the mid-2000s, and there's been no legislative response at all.

In all, I'd say what I described in the post is more of a recent phenomenon.

MANGLER
MANGLER

That photo show's the biggest problem for the GOP.  Ideas from someone who isn't an older, white male are what is lacking at the highest levels of State government (on all political sides).

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MANGLER LOL, "that photo" shows one older, white male and two women, one of whom is black.

SmartAleck
SmartAleck

@MANGLER Out of 6 offices elected on Saturday, there was one black, one gay, two women elected. 

Just proves you don't know what you are talking about,, Mangler.  

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Wow - is there no one under 40 in this group?

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@HeadleyLamar @Ralph-43 Right, which is why 19 year old Republicans are getting elected to state houses in New Hampshire and West Virginia, just to name two. You don't know what you're talking about.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The silvered haired GOP should worry. I can hear the wringing of hands from here.


At the very least their brand of Conservatism wont run this state much longer. 


Or the state goes blue. 

BakerOwens
BakerOwens

@HeadleyLamar If by "silver haired GOP" you mean Tea Party/further to the right types, I've got good news for you, they haven't ever been running things. 

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@HeadleyLamar Really? Because last time I checked the GOP owned state government, and the last election wasn't even close for Democrats. What are you going to do, find 100,000 extra dead voters?

PinkoNeoConLibertarian
PinkoNeoConLibertarian

I think the lack of "Relentless incrementalism" is something that infects all spectrums of the political prism. It seems nobody is willing to settle for a slice of the pie, they want the whole thing right now or nothing. Thus the deadlock we see all too often.

Caius
Caius

"In both cases, frustrated fan bases start clamoring for a change at the top."

Maybe a change at the bottom is long overdue.


Some of we conservatives are small government conservatives and the demands for big government from the Republican base in Georgia, and nationally, is unsettling.

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@Caius Yep, way too many 'grassroots' folks I meet are incrementalist big-government supporters, they just don't realize it even after you explain it to them. It's an effective propaganda war the state GOP and Chamber of Commerce have waged. And because of our ridiculous ballot "access" laws, our only options are evil and slightly less evil.

DogTheMan
DogTheMan

Maybe they should ask the PEOPLE what issues they are concerned with.. @Ivg  you are right on the money!!!

MarkVV
MarkVV

There is not much to say in favor of the Republican legislators, but the one small, less dark side is their occasional reluctance to pass some of the most obnoxious measures the conservative “grassroots base” demands.

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

These things happen when you answer to the media instead of We the People.

bendedknee
bendedknee

This is what happens when the circus under the gold dome goes through a session with no pro-gun legislation and no ant-abortion legislation.Small tax breaks will not appease this crowd.Violating Grover's rules on increased gas tax and hotel tax is heresy. These conservative delegates probably Do not consider transportation and schools a priority. Do not even dare mention public transit in their presence.

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@lvg Education spending is the #1 most expensive item in the state budget, every year. How exactly are schools not a priority? Because they got 18 billion this year but not 19 billion? Shut up. These taxes wouldn't be necessary if the original spending hadn't been done in the worst ways imaginable. Your answer is always more money when the problem is how the money is spent in the first place.