August 3, 2000: Only Four Things We Can Count On

There are only four things in this world we can count on with absolute certainty:

Roy Barnes making astute political moves.
Republicans clueless on how to respond.

The appointment of Zell Miller to succeed the late Paul Coverdell as senator provides an interesting commentary on the current state of the two political parties.  Many have said, including some in the media, that the “fair” thing would have been to fill Coverdell’s seat with a Republican.  Does anyone in their right mind think that a Republican governor would have replaced Max Cleland with another Democrat?  Poppycock!  Besides, if voters don’t like the governor’s appointment, they can boot Miller out in September, which is about as likely as the sun rising in the west.  The new senator already has amassed a sizeable war chest for the race, thanks to a business community anxious to ingratiate themselves with the governor and the United States Senate has an unabashed liberal Democrat sitting in place of a truly compassionate conservative.

It is safe to say that Zell Miller and Governor Barnes aren’t fishing buddies.  Miller is a hot-tempered, my-way-or-the-highway person who bloodied Barnes good in winning the Democratic nomination 1990.  That hasn’t been forgotten by the current governor or his pals.  In addition, some of Barnes’ loyalists are getting a bit weary hearing Miller continually referred to as the “education governor” because of his success in creating the lottery and the resultant HOPE scholarship program.  His shadow still looms over the state and over a governor determined to secure his own place in history.  Yet, when the time came to name a successor to Coverdell, Barnes and Miller put aside any personal feelings for the good of their party.  At 68, Zell Miller has left what he enjoys most – teaching – to go to Washington as the 100th-ranked senator in terms of seniority.  He had more influence when he was lieutenant governor.

How does the state GOP respond?  The best they can do is to recycle tired old Mack Matttingly, of St. Simons.  He couldn’t even win reelection as an incumbent senator because he was too busy honing his backhand on the tennis courts of Georgetown to come back home and campaign against the eventual winner, super liberal Wyche Fowler.  Lewis Jordan, the former chairman of ValuJet, has also entered the race.  Jordan’s claim to fame seems to be the way he conducted himself after one of his planes nose-dived into the Everglades in 1996.   By the time you read this, there may be others.  It doesn’t matter. They all will be duck soup for Miller.

The only thing Republicans seem united on was seeing that Sixth District Congressman Johnny Isaskson, who is the class of the party, didn’t run. The right wing of the party doesn’t like his stand on abortion and Isakson refuses to be held captive by zealots who put ideology before governance.  If he were in the Democratic Party, Isakson would be another Sam Nunn.  And that is the difference in the two parties.  Democrats can put aside their differences if that is what it takes to get elected.  The right wing would rather be ideologically correct than get elected.

Remember the Republican Revolution of 1994?  Newt Gingrich was crowned Speaker King, Democrats were back-pedaling and we were promised things would be turned upside down in Washington as befits a revolution.  Alas, the exercise was a flop.  The Republicans found out too late that Americans desire their politics in moderation.  They don’t like Jesse Helms any better than they like Jesse Jackson.  Republicans lurched too far right and have been paying the price ever since.

Six years later, Gingrich is just a memory.  The GOP is trying to keep slim House and Senate majorities and is continually being put on the defensive by Bill Clinton, who threatens to veto anything they bring to him.  Amazingly, his threats seem to work.

George W. Bush is going to win the presidency this November but it won’t be because of any politically attractive ideology coming out of the Republican party or any promises of another sweeping “revolution.”  He will win because the American public has grown weary of a skirt-chasing president who thinks a good economy – not of his own making – will cover his excesses, including an overactive libido.  Bush represents much-needed style and stability.

We vote for people, not ideologies.  That’s why Bush will be elected president and why Zell Miller will be in Washington for as long as he wants.