Nov. 10, 2002: Looking Back on the Elections

While clearing my desk in preparation to analyze the recent elections, I received this request from a reader. Stop picking on the French, he said, and instead write about something that “fills your heart with deep and abiding joy.”

Good idea. Here is a thought that infuses me with about as much deep and abiding joy as the old ticker can stand. Now that George W. Bush has shown the world he is in charge, maybe talent-challenged actor Alex Baldwin and has-been singer Barbra Streisand will leave the United States and move to France, instantly raising the IQ level in both countries.

With that warm and fuzzy stuff out of the way, let’s see what we learned from the elections.

Georgia voters did themselves a good turn when they elected Saxby Chambliss to the U.S. Senate, replacing Max Cleland. Cleland was too liberal for most Georgians, provided poor constituent service and ran a lousy campaign. Despite what Zell Miller claimed, Cleland voted against the Boy Scouts. He deserved to lose.

After their public flogging, the Democrats have decided that they need to move further left to offer voters an “alternative.” They have chosen Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi from that bedrock of American middle-class values, San Francisco, as their new minority leader in the U.S. House. The sniggers you hear are from the Republicans.

Before the GOP gets too smug, however, they had best remember what happened in 1994 when Georgia’s Newt Gingrich led a Republican revolution that promptly fizzled and sent the Pillsbury Doughboy into exile. If Republicans think they have a mandate to make drastic changes in our lives, they will replace the Democrats on the sidelines after the next election. We don’t like extremism in this country. Obviously, the president understands that. Let us see if the rest of his party does.

Kudos to the Augusta voters who gave State Senator Charles Walker, a member of the legislature’s inner sanctum, his walking papers. To add insult to injury, Walker’s son, Champ, couldn’t win a congressional seat in a district the Legislature had created for him that stretched from Manitoba to Key West. I guess they thought voters were too dumb to notice.

I predicted Governor Roy Barnes would win reelection easily. I was wrong. I predicted that House Speaker Tom Murphy was “toast” after his squeaker of a win last election. I was right. That gives me a .500 record, which is better than most of the so-called political experts.

If Governor-elect Sonny Perdue’s future appointments are as good as his selection of retired BellSouth Vice President Carl Swearingen to head his transition team, he is going to have a humdinger of an administration. Swearingen is one of those rare business people who is as nice as he is smart.

Alas, it looks like the election has cost Bubba McDonald his seat on the Public Service Commission. Frankly, I was never comfortable with a guy named Bubba dealing with the complexities of utility regulation. A lot of other people must have felt the same way.

State School Superintendent-elect Kathy Cox says she is going to take a hard look at the recently enacted education reforms. I hope she will call my science teacher son, before the special-interest groups get hold of her. He was in the business world for 20 years prior to becoming a teacher. Some stuff he is required to do makes no sense at all to him. I’m sure he’d be happy to tell her that.

One of Governor-elect Perdue’s campaign promises was to allow a referendum on the state flag. If that happens, I hope voters will have the good sense to get rid of both the old Confederate battle flag – why do we wish to be reminded of a time when the Yankees kicked our fannies from one end of the South to the other? – and the seriously ugly new flag. How about a compromise? Let’s adopt a state flag with a picture of Ray Charles on it. I guarantee that every time you see that flag fluttering in the breeze, you will immediately think of “Georgia on My Mind” and your heart will be filled with a deep and abiding joy!