Members of The Times editorial board include Publisher Dennis L. Stockton; General Manager Norman Baggs; Executive Editor Mitch Clarke; and Managing Editor Keith Albertson.
For many Georgians, the 2012 election season has been a three-act play — part tragedy, part comedy — that is moving toward a final curtain much too slowly.
Act I goes back to March, when we went to the polls to make our choices known in the state’s presidential preference primary, an event with a sizeable cast of Republicans that set the stage for November’s curtain call.
It’s hard to believe that just five months ago we were choosing from a broad field of contenders hoping to be the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Would-be stars such as Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, as well as others, were still contenders at that point, but have since faded into black as other actors have claimed the final stage.
The curtain on Act II was raised in May, when qualifying opened for local, state and congressional elections. While the drama of the presidential election continued to drone on in muted tones in the background, the attention of many turned to candidates closer to home.
The noise of campaigning built to a crescendo at the end of July, with the primary elections which, given the one-party dominance for much of Georgia, was tantamount to a general election. For most of the state, what used to be a given for Democratic candidates is now true for Republicans — win the primary and you win it all.
The curtain on Act II did not completely fall with the counting of ballots three weeks ago, as some races were forced into runoffs due to the failure of any candidate to garner more than 50 percent of the vote in their respective races.
In Hall County, five races remain, and all are important: 9th District U.S. House representative, Board of Commissioners chairman, sheriff, tax commissioner and probate judge. Of those, only one, the House race, has a Democrat waiting to face the GOP winner in November.
Tuesday, voters will bring Act II to an end. Sadly, this particular part of the election play is generally sparsely attended, meaning that small percentages of the total electorate are making decisions with which we all have to live. We can only hope that participation in this year’s runoff exceeds that of previous years.
Once the runoffs are complete, voters here and nationwide then will be able to give their full attention to Act III. This year’s final act is a biggie, perhaps the most important of any on the national political stage in decades.
Atop the ballot for the November election is the final vote for president, the end result of national campaigns that have been under way for years for the final combatants.
The results of that November balloting will set a direction for the nation for at least the next four years, possibly longer. The number of characters on the most brightly lit of stages now is minimal, Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as a vice presidential candidate bringing the number to four, with Barack Obama and Joe Biden completing the cast.
The contrast between the two factions in this ultimate political drama has been clearly delineated, and much of the discourse between now and November will be geared toward defining those delineations for the voters.
Like a Shakespearian scene on some fog shrouded cliff, the Obama forces will push for more government for all while fostering class warfare between the haves and the have-nots, while the Romney ticket will counter with a call for reduction in government and the need for faith in capitalism and renewal of the spirit of individualism.
It is impossible to overstate how important it is that the nation’s voters pay attention to the election year’s final act, and become involved as participants rather than just curious onlookers.
When dawn breaks Nov. 7, this year’s election play will have come to an end, and we will, at least for the immediate future, live with the choices made by a majority of those who find the time to cast a ballot.
But a good play should offer its audience a moral. So what moral should we take from this month’s long excess of campaigning and politicking?
Perhaps none more important than this: The end result of our political dramas are dictated not by those who script the words to be spoken by the political actors, but rather by the audience of voters themselves.
Whether you are filling a local office or choosing a president, picking sides and joining the verbal debate makes no difference if you don’t cast a ballot. The core foundation of our system of government is not the candidates, but rather the voters.
We get to decide what sort of government we want. We get to decide which candidates we believe. We get to decide which issues are of importance to us. But we only get to let our decisions be known by taking the time to vote.
And the next chance to do that is Tuesday.