The mud will be slinging all the way to November

Well, the preliminaries are over. Bring on the main event. The primaries are done, the votes are cast and counted, and from the looks of things we are in for a bare-knuckle brawl from now until November on just about every political level.

I love politics and always have, but I think I would enjoy the coming general election campaign season if the stakes weren't so high.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when winning the primary election was tantamount to winning the election, period. Back in the days of gothic politics in the Deep South, Georgia was a one-party state - and that would have been the Democratic party, thank you very much.

Some of you remember those days of late-night debates in smoke-filled rooms. Back in the day, more legislation was brokered in the old Henry Grady Hotel on Peachtree Street than under the Gold Dome down on Capitol Avenue.

Now, I am not naïve enough to believe that it is different today, but politicians are generally not as honest about being corrupt as they were back when Gene Talmadge admitted, "Sure, I stole, but I stole for you!"

The primaries were held much later then, of course, because candidates didn't have to worry about mounting a November campaign. If there was someone radical enough, back then, to run as a Republican, they were way too radical to have any chance to be elected. Many a campaign was jump-started on the Fourth of July, and "who served the most barbecue" was about as accurate as political polling got.

It's not that way anymore, of course. Now we are a full-fledged two-party state - and I know that Bob Barr is the Libertarian candidate for president and that Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party candidate - which brings a whole new meaning to the term "laughing stock" - but we are a two-party state, nonetheless. And it is good to have choices. Make no mistake about that. After all, it's the difference of opinion that makes horse races. I think Mark Twain said that first.

Mark Twain said a lot of things that made sense, by the way, and we'll talk about some of his more accurate observations real soon. But right now, we are still talking about party politics.

For too many people, politics is all about the party nowadays. The decisions we make in the voting booth have too little to do with issues or the integrity of the individual office seeker. That's just my opinion, of course, but mine is the only one I have.

So get ready. For four months, prepare to be inundated with political messages at every turn. The yard sign is already a staple in virtually every neighborhood - speaking of which, it will be interesting to see how punctual yesterday's losers are about removing their signs. But there's one thing about it. If they leave them up for more than a few days, at least we will know that we did the right thing by not nominating them, because who wants a candidate who is above the law?

And there will be name-calling, mudslinging and maybe even a legal challenge or two about who lives where or who promised what to whom. You might as well give up on eating supper without being disturbed by a phone solicitation - especially when October gets here.

There will be print ads, radio spots, television commercials, town hall meetings and great debates, and the talking heads will be in their element.

All that's just for the local races.

The presidential race is certain to be a knock-down, drag-out affair, right up until the final accusation of voter fraud is levied on the Wednesday or Thursday after Election Day.

But think of all the drama we have to look forward to in the fight to see who gets to reside on Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years. We are already embroiled in rampant speculation over potential running mates. Then will come the conventions, and when those are done, we'll have all sorts of drama.

Accusations will fly and promises will be made that everyone knows will be broken, and eventually we will wring our hands, hold our noses and cast our votes; a little over a quarter of the population will gloat, and a little less than a quarter of the population will wring our hands and sigh - certain that the world will come to an end.

Half the people - the half that didn't bother to vote - will wear a stupid grin, like Alfred E. Neuman on the cover of Mad Magazine, and say "What? Me Worry?"

The primaries are over and it is general election season, y'all. Buckle up and get ready for a bumpy ride.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.