James Magazine Mar Apr 2020 - Page 13



If the Georgia GOP wants to
delay its demographic demise for
another decade or so, it will take a play
out of the Miller and Trump playbook.
That would be dead wrong. Populism, not pandering, spares dying parties.
The best evidence can be found in Zell Miller’s
1990 race for governor. By 1990 many pundits were
speculating that Republicans were reaching a critical
mass and could actually capture a governor’s office
that had been in Democratic hands forever. Miller was
bold in his embrace of a state lottery and a scholarship
fund to be funded by it.
At the time most Southern Baptists and other
Christian fundamentalists resided in counties outside
the Atlanta area, and they voted a straight Democrat
ticket other than for president. Miller was proposing
gambling and pastors in the pulpits hit him hard. So
Miller rolled the dice and argued that Georgia needed to join other states with a robust lottery. The
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MARCH/APRIL 2020
preachers learned that their congregations held a different opinion.
Miller not only wiped out his Democratic opponents, he defeated a great Republican nominee for
governor, Johnny Isakson. (Isakson was stuck with a
young and newbie nominee for lieutenant governor—
that would be me.) The lottery tide was unstoppable
and no matter how much we said we did not oppose it,
we did not invent it. And thus, we lost.
And that leads me to the current status of the GOP
in Georgia. Republicans have cut taxes so often that
they now have to cut the budget. They recently have
repeated the type of battles between a governor and
speaker that remind us of Miller’s and House Speaker
Tom Murphy’s wars of years past (a harbinger to the
later demise of the Democrats). The GOP legislative
majority has managed to regulate just about anything
that moves and most things that don’t. There is just
one problem: They haven’t put the pop in populism.
The rural areas of the state that now are the backbone of the GOP vote continue to languish with huge
pockets of poverty and less funds to deal with it. Their
engines of economic development have too often been
slogans, billboards and token state satellite offices.
The reality is that “the suburban female Republican
voter” who allegedly is turned off by Trump’s style, will
either not vote or vote decidedly for Trump once faced
with a Democratic presidential nominee who
inevitably will be pushing a very far left agenda this
fall. Placating and pandering is not Trump’s style.
The president, love him or hate him, is a populist
who offered tangible and controversial proposals to the
voters. It won him 2016 and will likely give him four
more years.
If the Georgia GOP wants to delay its demographic
demise for another decade or so, it will take a play out
of the Miller and Trump playbook. If not, it’s lights out
after 2020…one bulb at a time.
Matt Towery is the co-founder and chairman of James and
InsiderAdvantage Georgia.
MARCH/APRIL 2020
13

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