There is of course a tendency, for an individual or political party in a position of power to want to try and hang on to that power. What may be more important to remember, as we live in a democratic republic, is that the real power is in the hands of voters and our citizenry ... if they actually make USE of that power.
After losing Congress to the GOP during the mid-term election of 1994, Democratic President Bill Clinton reached out to new Speaker Newt Gringrich (R-GA), to craft several pieces of more centrist legislation, including Welfare/Workfare reform, which resulted in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and other programs that Clinton had not championed earlier in his first term. He would be re-elected in 1996, by a wider margin than his first victory.
During the same time frame in Georgia, the House Congressional Caucus had shifted majority Republican (including Gingrich). Then-Gov. Zell Miller and his successor Roy Barnes both noted the shift to the GOP, first in the metro Atlanta suburbs, and fast-migrating out-state, next into Miller’s home country of the North Georgia mountains. Barnes would be a powerful one-term governor, but changing the state flag and political conflicts with Georgia educators, along with shifts in demographics and voting trends, would result in an upset victory by then-State Senator Sonny Perdue, elected Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction in 2002.
In a last gasp attempt at hanging on to power, Georgia Democrats had used the 2001 reapportionment of Congressional and legislative districts to draw maps more favorable to Democratic incumbents. But the new maps did not do the trick. Losers in 2002 would include then-House Speaker Thomas B. Murphy, the longest serving Democratic State House speaker in the nation, as well as members of Congress and the Georgia General Assembly. It would be Georgia’s State Senate, following Perdue’s election, that would be first to flip to majority GOP.
That red tide would continue, consistently spreading, up until about 2016. Those same metro Atlanta suburbs, and particularly women voters there, began to recoil from some of the expanded GOP’s social agenda. In a state without required party registration, independents, swing voters, Libertarians and a lot of formerly Republican women, began to take a look again at Democratic Party candidates up and down the ticket.
Which brings us to today. Former State Rep. Stacey Abrams effectively weaponized the issue of voter suppression as a rallying cry, and then has demonstrated in now three election cycles its attraction to a broad coalition of Democratic voters. This despite a GOP governor, Perdue, signing into law Advance Voting, No Excuse Absentee Voting, Motor Voter Automatic Registration and Republican Secretary of State’s creating and expanding online registration, absentee ballot drop boxes and a host of changes that actually expanded voter participation.
And now a combination of terrified GOP incumbents, surging Democratic vote in the suburbs and the majority of Advance and Absentee ballot has those who believe the 2020 contest stolen to try to prescribe DOWN voter access and methods of voting among those likely to be Democrats. A raft of legislation has been proposed, ranging from removing the drop boxes and all but ending no-excuse absentee voting to shortening the time frame for early voting. And some supporters of the current governor have started a self-styled PAC called, “Stop Stacey,” ahead of any announced campaign for governor or other office.
If you think Ms. Abrams was effective in touting the evils of Georgia voter suppression previously, just sit back and watch when she is handed ammunition and a club by the fading GOP ... actually engaging in suppression.
Additional security and virtual or voter I.D. in the absentee ballot application process is warranted and has broad support. Adding a four digit identifier, such as the last four of a driver’s license or Social Security number to the cast ballot is a relatively simple modification, identifying the actual voters on the front and back end of that process.
There are GOP leaders, principally House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who view more heavy-handed changes as ill-advised. If they are joined by like-minded caucus members who remember that a path to victory comes in broadening bases ... not in narrowing them ... the Georgia Republican Party may extend its reign. But when others are listening to that little Red Devil on their shoulder whispering conspiracy theories and suggesting closing doors and shutting down access is the way to go, I have only three words. Don’t do it.