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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rush to the Right in Georgia

I don’t quite know what’s going on among Republicans in my home state of Georgia. First you had Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine conspicuously endorsing a crazy state senate resolution that asserts the right of states to nullify federal laws they don’t like (maybe Oxendine will officially change his name to John C. Calhoun Oxendine). Now Secretary of State Karen Handel has issued a fiery demand for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And these are the two supposed moderates in the GOP gubernatorial race next year.
Handel’s tirade (for the text, see the link above) is confusing, or perhaps reflects some confusion. She seems to be calling for a repeal of the entire Voting Rights Act, although her main ire is aimed at Section 5, which requires “preclearance” of election or districting changes in certain states, mainly in the South. She refers to the VRA as a “vestige of Reconstruction,” which is about a century off.
Most interesting, though, is Handel’s claim that the sole purpose of the VRA these days is to give Democrats an advantage in elections; it is, she says, “pure politics in its worst form.” That insight would have probably come as a surprise to the 192 Republican U.S. House members and 53 Republican Senators who voted for the VRA extension in 2006. The Senate vote, in fact, was unanimous, and boosters of this terrible partisan scam included both of Georgia’s Republican senators.
More relevant, probably, is the fact that as election administrator in Georgia, Handel’s only real avenue for appealing to hard-right conservatives is to tout her championship of the God-given right to rule of the perpetually persecuted white Republicans of the South, who are oppressed by Washington bureaucrats and elitist judges who want to let hordes of shiftless black people and illegal immigrants vote. She’s a big-time stalwart in the battle against the phantom of “voter fraud.” So why not raise the specter of a an African-American Democratic president manipulating the VRA to help his supporters help him? So what if that notorious big-spending liberal George W. Bush, whose sell-out moderate ways righteous Republicans are now struggling to exorcise, supported the VRA extension when he was president!
The bigger picture here is that Georgia Republican candidates are behaving as though the only election that matters is their primary, so there’s no downside to moving to the right of Jimmy Dean Sausage. If that attitude persists, Democrats in Georgia will have an opportunity to pull a surprise next year.

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