Election season is like one of those summer thunderstorms you feel coming. It builds slowly, beginning as a far-off rumble and a few flashes of lightning. Then the sky suddenly darkens, the wind picks up, the smell of ozone permeates the air and, before you know it, you’re getting nightly calls from a robotic pollster named “Steve.”
The storm is now upon us. The TV ads are in full bore and early voting begins this week leading up to the Nov. 6 Georgia election. It will gain strength over the next several weeks until the Halloween candy is down to a few unwanted taffies.
You know what’s at stake by now: Races for governor and other statewide offices, U.S. Congress, state legislature and county commissioner. There’s no presidential race to overshadow the rest this year, but each of these carries its own level of importance in our everyday lives. Also at stake is national control of Congress, which could determine the balance of power for the next two years of the Trump White House.
Accordingly, the level of the rhetoric continues to rise as the election approaches. Just last week, the leading candidates for governor were joined by big-name campaign partners: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren stumping for Democrat Stacey Abrams, and Donald Trump Jr. attending a rally for Republican Brian Kemp.
The race is among the highest profile contests in the hotly contested midterm campaigns across the country and has drawn a lot of attention and money from outside Georgia. Both candidates have been raking in the cash: Kemp piling up $11.6 million during the year’s third quarter, Abrams' $10.2 million, with some $56 million raised overall through the end of September. Both have war chests of more than $16 million left. Abrams, in particular, has received the bulk of her donations from outside the state from individuals and groups active in national Democratic politics, and she has kept a high profile on TV talk shows.
It’s worth noting that neither Warren nor Trump, nor Seth Meyers or Samantha Bee, nor all those PACs outside of the state providing all that cash have a direct stake in the contest other than zero sum politics. Those encamped in Washington won’t benefit from either candidates’ policies or ideas; they’re only seeking another victory notch in their parties’ belts. The true effect of this and other races will be felt by the voters of Georgia, which is why it’s your say in these races that truly matters.
To that end, we all should tune out the hype and hullabaloo from celebrity campaigners, forget the screeching from extremists on both sides and turn our laser focus to the real meat of the election: Who has the best long term ideas for our state?
National politics right now is a battle of extremes, the two major parties each pulling so far from the center in a quest for victory that moderate voices of reason have been left without a home. That gap is highlighted by cable TV and talk radio chatterfests and niche social media gathering spots that don’t entertain anything but pure orthodox views, be they conservative or progressive.
The squeaky wheels always get the most attention after all, as they march and chant, scream at a U.S. senator on a crowded elevator (note: it’s an elevator, and he’s right there; use your inside voice) or work themselves into a frenzied froth at rallies. Whether they’re wearing red ballcaps or pink knitted “kitten” hats, what pours from the faces underneath often is pure noise.
But when we turn off the screeching screens, we still find that most people, the normal ones we know and talk to every day, hold beliefs somewhere south and north of those polar outliers and only want common sense solutions to our public challenges.
For instance, many conservatives who hold strong free market views might be more tolerant on immigration or same-sex policies than some who share their party affiliation. And many young progressives who believe in government-provided health care still respect the military and law enforcement. Not everyone fits the stereotype.
This isn’t to say everyone is in lockstep in their views or that all the differences can be bridged, but the distance between us is not as great as the images seen on TV. And even when disagreements are obvious, there is mutual respect to be found in our hometowns, if not on our screens.
This election, and all of them, comes down to deciding what we expect from our elected officials. We don’t necessarily need government to inspire us in every aspect of our lives and dominate our public discourse 24/7. Even if views on the role of government vary, there are certain expectations in common. We want the city and county to fill the potholes, manage growth, pick up the trash and keep water coming out of the faucet. We need school boards to manage growth to ensure a solid education for everyone. We need state leaders to support and grow the state’s economy, spend tax money wisely and manage vital infrastructure, including education, transportation and public safety. And we expect national leaders to project strength and human values throughout the world and maintain peace and prosperity.
It’s good to see that interest is high and turnout could be above what is often seen in midterms. Voter registration in Georgia is at a record high, and if all those new and old voters cast a ballot, the new leaders will enter office with a strong consensus, not the sparse numbers seen in the primaries.
It’s worth noting, yet again, that folks seeking office are applying for a job. We decide who to hire, and we hold them accountable. They work for us, not the other way around. If we keep that in mind as we examine the candidates and choose wisely, we’ll get the choice we deserve, and certainly not a candidate anointed for us from shadowy figures outside of our state.
This is a Georgia election. Let’s make sure Georgians decide it.
Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Executive Editor Keith Albertson and Director of Content Shannon Casas, plus community member Brent Hoffman.