GOP-business split in Georgia is reminiscent of you-know-who

A Georgia version of Trumpism was unmasked during the 2016 legislative session. (AJC Photo / Brant Sanderlin)

A Georgia version of Trumpism was unmasked during the 2016 legislative session. (AJC Photo / Brant Sanderlin)

The Trumpification of our state politics is ahead of schedule.

Major statewide offices won’t open up until 2018, and Sen. Johnny Isakson has only token primary opposition before facing a Wall Street Democrat in the fall. But the just-ended legislative session showed the three-way schism among GOP leadership, rank-and-file members and the business community is already a gap of Make Georgia Great Again proportions. Like the political crisis — yes, that’s the word for it — that has engulfed the GOP nationally in recent months, there’s plenty of blame to go around. There will be no state-level correction until all parties accept their share of it.

The central issue here is not illegal immigration, but religious liberty. What began a couple of years ago as a renewed effort on an area of previously bipartisan agreement became an increasingly bitter fight between entrenched factions. Critics first branded the effort unnecessary, then counter-productive; before long, if you took the same position the Clintons did not so long ago, you were a “bigot.”

The bill’s backers, meanwhile, came to see their traditional business allies as enablers of their opposition — led by some pols only too happy to ride anti-establishment sentiment until they are the new establishment. Top elected officials were in a bind they did not want and from which they could see no way out.

Here, the analogy to Washington’s handling, or non-handling, of immigration falls apart. Unlike in Washington, D.C., Georgia’s proposal erred on the side of the grassroots at the potential expense of business — maybe a sign of how different things are in the age of Donald Trump than when the Gang of Eight produced its immigration bill just three years ago. But this time, the chambers of commerce didn’t have their backs. The rift between the party and its “establishment” supporters from industry was wide open.

There are starkly divergent accounts as to how Gold Dome leaders and the CEO set wound up so far apart on the final version of House Bill 757. The former claims the latter sang a different tune behind closed doors than once the bill emerged publicly; the latter vehemently denies that and says some of its red lines were ignored.

What’s clear is two-fold. First, there was a fatal lack of salesmanship for the bill. Had the final text not been revealed unexpectedly and passed by the House and Senate within hours, but rather explained in detail and sold to those executives with the power to mitigate concerns with the measure or to create pressure for a veto with their denunciations, the bill might have been seen as the defusing of a political bomb. Not by all parties, of course, but by enough that we wouldn’t be talking about boycotts.

Second, the split may have been foreordained when the Metro Atlanta Chamber set out its two pre-session priorities: more money for transit, and no RFRA, as the most common of religious-liberty bills is known. There could have been no clearer signal to the two-thirds of GOP legislators who live outside the 10-county metro region: We aren’t one of y’all. Trust between the two never recovered.

In the session’s dying hours came the response from lawmakers who felt jilted: A pair of study committees to reconsider their preferential treatment of they’ve given industry over the years. Then, the real coup de grace: a bid to make corporations’ PR-friendly non-discrimination policies subject to class-action lawsuits if they aren’t upheld. It was a two-bladed dagger. Companies would either risk devastating lawsuits (not exactly a traditional GOP principle) or they’d have to betray their LGBT allies by dropping such policies. It was eventually withdrawn, but not before sending a chill throughout the Capitol.

In the climate of 2016, it had the patina of a certain Republican front-runner who last month said a wealthy family giving to his opponents “better be careful, they have a lot to hide” and just this past week threatened to “spill the beans” about his chief rival’s wife. It was unmistakably Trumpian.

And so we head into a primary season less likely to change the bent of Republicanism in Georgia than to solidify it. The GOP soul-searching desperately needed nationally will have to happen here, too.

Reader Comments 0

50 comments
carterjoseph1950
carterjoseph1950

The bill was not only mean-spirited, but unnecessary. We already have religious freedom. You are free to worship or not worship as you see fit. Why do those on the right seek solutions to non-existant problems? We have enough to do without this vicious distraction. Liberty and justice for ALL.  Better late than never, Governor. You should have summoned up the integrity from the start and vetoed it immediately.

conorsen
conorsen

@kwingfieldajc Yeah, I suppose the Chamber of Commerce vs grievance politics debate in the 2018 GOP primary is fairly predictable.

Bruno2
Bruno2

Gov Deal: "The measure “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people,” the governor said Monday in prepared remarks."

Three cheers for Deal.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

No law required.  It is just a misuse of religion and folks need to be told they are acting stupid.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

At one time social conservatives called themselves "yellow dog democrats," but now they are just " republican dogs chasing their tails." 

midtown-Mark
midtown-Mark

I have been a loyal Republican voter for 30 years.  My wife has largely voted for Republicans as well.  By pushing this stupid insane piece of legislation, it's doubtful either one of us will ever vote for a Republican on the state level again.  From talking with some others at work, we are hardly alone.  The Republican Party in Georgia may not as yet realize it, but they are committing suicide.  

I greatly respect religious people and find that in general, religious people in Georgia are many of the nicest and most personally giving people I've ever been around.  But this bill is really not meant to cater to good religious people, plenty of whom are informed enough to know that their religious liberty is not even remotely being threatened.  

In my opinion, Governor Deal has been a fantastic governor  who has worked relentlessly to bring jobs and opportunity to Georgia.  But way too many other elected Republicans on the state level in Georgia have shown themselves to be completely without vision and wisdom, and IQ for that matter.  Though low IQ is not what's wrong with someone such as Josh McKoon.  He strikes me as being quite intelligent, but just so incredibly lacking in vision.  I've no doubt he possesses the critical thinking skills to actually come up with creative solutions to problems which will improve the lives of most Georgians, yet he chooses to waste the majority of his time and intellect in pushing a destructive bill which will destroy opportunity for many Georgians.  Why?

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

Your religious liberty is not under assault, Kyle. It never has been.

My religious liberty is not under assault. It never has been (at least not in this country).

Nobody's religious liberty is under assault. (In this country.)

These religious liberty bills are a total waste of taxpayer money and legislator time and resources.

These religious liberty bills serve one purpose and one purpose only - discrimination.

Maybe if the GOP gets the Drubbing to End All Drubbings this November you guys will finalize realize this. 

Starik
Starik

@Eye wonder The GOP as presently constituted is a slow learner.  The people want immigration reform, the "base" does not.  The people accept homosexuals, the "base" does not. The hard-core Southern Baptists are dwindling in numbers and political power.  They need to stop pandering to the 'base."

Caius
Caius

@Eye wonder Yes religious liberty has been under assault in this country, and from day one.  It has been under assault from government

That is why the SCOTUS has had dozens of cases where they have prevented intrusions on religious liberty, all from government.


Because of the SCOTUS this bill was not needed in Georgia or any other state.


Will that change going forward?  We shall see.

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

"if you took the same position the Clintons did not so long ago, you were a 'bigot'"


What Kyle and others fail to mention is the federal RFRA was a response to Native Americans being oppressed while following their religion. Nobody at the time (save probably some wingnuts) ever thought of it applying to say, a taxpayer-funded adoption agency denying somebody because they don't like their lifestyle. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Aquagirl And the RFRA portion of this bill didn't apply to your example, either, which is why it was mentioned separately.

omark
omark

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/26/politics/guns-petition-republican-national-convention/

Well it would seem that the only cure for bad politicians with guns, is good politicians with guns. Try taking the nomination from the Donald now. We don’t have enough guns, we don’t spend enough on defense and our poor billionaires are so heavily taxed, they can barely afford to buy congressmen.

Seriously I get it. Without guns, some gay guys might sneak up on you, and force you to marry them. 

lvg
lvg

Does GOP soul searching include fast that freedom of the Press is now under attack by government officials in Georgia with physical assault and criminal prosecution for political dissidents who dare videotape GOP  events that are open to the public. Kyle  never comments on the blatant assault on freedom of the press by GOP goons and Dawsonville Sheriff manhandling a female  reporter at a public event with entire GOP  hierarchy present including governor and attorney general. (See today's metro section)


Castro brothers would be proud- Obama should have given that Havana speech to Georgia Legislature

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

As libtards are fond of pointing out, Our First Amendment only prevents government from infringing on free speech. Campaigns aren't the government.

Ironically, the left is quite anxious to give politicians the ability to regulate speech. They call it "overturning Citizens United", and it would require rewriting Our First Amendment.

Keep your liberal fascism off our liberties.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Link please.

Speech is speech. You're not familiar with the specifics of Citizens United, apparently. It was about speech and banning books and movies.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Newt discredited this volunteer firefighter who had to get married to survive until a money bags gave him "free speech?"

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

No.

I've made contributions to candidates and never once been asked what I wanted. Do you really think candidates can be bought for the $2700 max contribution?

Starik
Starik

@Lil_Barry_Bailout So you were just being patriotic?  Maybe. But the big donors unleashed by Citizens United, I'm quite sure, expect something for their money.  Speech is speech, but when backed up by money and media some speech is much more effective than other speech.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Well, I donate to conservatives, so yes, I was being patriotic.

And there really isn't political speech without money to broadcast it. Do let us know how you're going to outlaw citizens banding together to speak, to publish leaflets or books, or to produce movies for the purpose of speaking politically without infringing their rights. Spoiler alert--Democrat politicians think they'll have to amend Our First Amendment to give themselves the power to regulate speech.

jefgee
jefgee

HB 757 is a pointless act, intended only to offend and to prevent local governments from enacting non-discrimination ordinances. No religious liberties are threatened by same-sex marriage. All of the "protections" supposedly offered by the bill are already in place. The only purpose served is to express disdain for the SCOTUS ruling and for those who welcomed it.

Caius
Caius

Peace be with you. Happy Easter to all!


Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Business has survived decades of inferior leadership of Georgia's largest city. They can survive people being free to participate or not in faux weddings.

Ed Hallman
Ed Hallman

We Americans are going to help make America great again. You paranoid thieving career politicians need to get over it.

MarkVV
MarkVV

It is about time the main subject in Georgia state politics ceased to be the anti-LGBT (euphemistically called “religious liberty”) House Bill 757, hopefully with the Governor’s veto. The incomprehension shown by the supporters of the bill is neatly shown in the following Kyle’ words,

‘ if you took the same position the Clintons did not so long ago, you were a “bigot.”

Yes, Kyle, the world is changing, and it is changing very rapidly. What used to be a huge majority opinion in this country has quickly become a minority.  It is not the first time in history that institutional religion is trying to stop progress. In this particular case, its efforts are particularly hopeless because it faces the most formidable opponent of all: the nature itself. 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Sometimes things that are fashionable blow up in your face. For example, it was once fashionable in certain European capitals to encourage unlimited immigration from countries teeming with Islamofascist terrorists.

Fashionable doesn't always mean wise.

LDH2O
LDH2O

What is left unsaid is that the GOP thought they could undermine the Democrats in power by slamming government. Now that they are in power, their actions have come back to haunt them. They show no intellectual integrity here in complaining about government when it is the other guy but not taking responsibility of criticism when it is them. The GOP meltdown just shows the falsehood of GOP values.

Russ Kilgore
Russ Kilgore

Good. That means things are getting better.

Dawn Gibson
Dawn Gibson

Really? As if Georgia's state politics haven't always been harmful to the people and reactionary before Trump and the Tea Party?

Kvinnan2
Kvinnan2

Less than 2 percent of the overall population is homosexual, according to the Centers for Disease Control. (Though readers can only conclude that, among AJC writers, the number is way, way higher.)

Illegal immigration may thus be less an issue than the RFRA around AJC water coolers, Kyle, but it certainly isn't among Georgia's Republican rank and file.

LDH2O
LDH2O

@Kvinnan2 While less than 2% are homosexual, a majority of Americans (55%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who oppose it. That is the real statistic to be considered here.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Kvinnan2 I'm talking about state-level issues. The state has already enacted legislation to deal with illegal immigration; it's a federal issue.

omark
omark

What if the founding fathers told us what they really thought? Well actually they did.

“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away all this artificial scaffolding...

{Letter toJohn Adams, April 11, 1823}”
Thomas Jefferson

Kvinnan2
Kvinnan2

@omark 

Theist and slave owner Jefferson, on the other hand, also defended the Reign of Terror by the political left during the French Revolution.

omark
omark

@Kvinnan2 @omark Still one of my heroes. Nobody's perfect. I'm told Hamilton had small hands.

omark
omark

The Renaissance began in the Islamic world. It came to us much later. Today the numbers we’re taught in school are Arabic Numerals. With their cute little zero idea, they’re much easier to work with than their Roman counter parts. Most the visible stars in the sky carry Arabic names.In science, medicine, music and the arts, Arab culture was much more advanced than our own.

What went wrong? Mohammed didn’t create a church. He established an Islamic state. Church and state are one and the same. It’s done wonders for the Arab world. Perhaps it will work as well for us. Like it or not, the founders did intend a wall of separation between the church and state. That’s why we put men on the moon, and the Arabs didn’t. My America has always been great. I’m sorry about yours.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Don't worry, Obozo has repurposed NASA to focus on Muslim outreach. They might put an ISIS member in space soon.

ChristopherATL
ChristopherATL

So this is what they spent their days doing?  Dressing up like Donald Trump and finding ways to temporarily hurt a HUGE TAXPAYING LGBT community through unconstitutional bills instead of fixing the damn schools in Georgia?

Got it.  We will be voting in November!

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

Atlanta's chamber of commerce people are the same ones who have enabled criminals in DeKalb and tried to hide the APS scandal.  Some of them should have been tried along with the teachers for obstruction of justice.  Atlanta just has a sleazy group of business leaders.  They have no credibility.  And then they get self-righteous in opposition to a bill?

coolray
coolray

I'm just happy that the session is over with minimal permanent damage to the state's image. The "in your face" defiance to the supreme court's ruling is reminiscent of the days of George Wallace and Lester Maddox who also attempted to act in response and defiance to the law of the land.


Georgia's national image was never good but at least the state was seen as business friendly, that "might" be over. Only time will tell how much damage the last two legislative sessions have done to this state. It only proves that the ghost of Lester still roams the halls of the capitol and haunts this state to this day.


Governor Deal what say you?


TheCentrist
TheCentrist

Some how, the Clinton, Trump, and business names appear in this blog article with no connectivity.  This is strictly a social conservative bill that will be added to the list of "dumb bills."

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

No soul-searching here!  We are too busy with our guns, sweetheart tax breaks, and self-serving legislation!

332-206
332-206

Overdue.

But under recognized.