by David Shields

The New Year is off and running and there is some reason to believe it may be a year filled with surprises. Certainly everyone was surprised that West Virginia kicked UGA’s butt in the Sugar Bowl 38-35. The Mountaineers rolled out to a 28-0 lead but had to hang on to salvage the win as the Bulldogs came roaring back and possibly would have made it had Mark Richt not gotten in the way – AGAIN!

Speaking of ‘again’, it’s another election year. There may be some surprises here in Georgia in November even though the Republicans are feeling pretty good about themselves after taking over the reigns of Georgia’s government in 2002 in one of the biggest political surprises in the state’s history when Sonny Perdue unseated Roy Barnes in the last gubernatorial race. Perdue, a turncoat Democrat, was the first Republican governor to be elected in Georgia in something like 130 years.

Perdue duped a number of voter blocs to pull off the upset that surprised even him by promising things that he apparently never had any intention of delivering on, not the least of which was a vote on the state flag that Roy Barnes and a coalition of self-serving misfits had stolen from the state against the overwhelming will of the majority of citizens.

The flag referendum was offered up but it did not include a choice for the 1956 flag that Georgia had been flying and that Barnes and cronies had replaced with America’s ugliest state flag ever and that Perdue, despite his later denials, had promised would be a choice. Perdue had carefully constructed a scheme of ‘plausible deniability’ by shoving the blame off on the General Assembly who sold out for a tobacco tax increase. Perdue has been telling voters since that he tried to give them the vote that he promised, but every one sees through Sonny’s Big Lie. In fact, that Big Lie will continue to haunt Perdue during his upcoming bid for a second term.

Some pundits, especially those in the Dupester’s corner, will deny it, but it was the flag vote that propelled Perdue into the Governor’s mansion and he may very well not have those votes come November. Throw in the state educators and state employees to whom he promised things and failed to deliver on also, coupled with the mess he’s made of their health insurance plan that has resulted in their having to pay a lot more for less coverage, and Perdue may not have the votes to stay in office even though he’s worked diligently to build another base among the rich and powerful.

Of course, this being an election year, the Republican’s will avoid like the plague any controversial bills and legislation during the upcoming legislative session. In fact, they’ve been busy testing legislative ideas and concepts and already tabled those that did not pass muster in the voter focus groups and test markets. All we’ll see from the Republicans this year will be nodding approvals of Democratic ideas and passionate endorsements of everything that they know already has wide voter approval.

And you can be assured that large pay increases for school teachers and state employees will be heralded in the headlines and in Republican news conferences in coming months. The idea being, of course, that educators and state employees, with a few bucks added to their paychecks in 2007, will forget the previous four years of program cuts, diminishing health insurance coverage, deferred pay increases and other slights handed out by the Perdue administration.

We doubt, however, that people will forgive Sonny Perdue as quickly as he thinks. The one thing the Republicans have demonstrated since their surprise move to the top of the dung heap in recent years is that they think voters are fools and cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, democracy be damned.

The legacy of this first term of Republican control of the Georgia government in 130 years are the lies they told to get elected in the first place and the secrecy they’ve tried to shroud themselves in since they got there. In other words, the Republicans have done very little to distinguish themselves in the past four years. What positive things in state government that have happened would have clearly happened anyway and a plethora of negatives lie squarely at the feet of Sonny Perdue and his cohorts in the Republican Party.

They clearly overestimate their accomplishments and apparently believe the voters are sheep to be herded in one direction or the other. It very well may be that Sonny Perdue and many of his Republican friends are in for a surprise of the same magnitude that the Barnes crowd suffered in 2001. While there may not be very much on the table to commend the Democrats — the one exception being the Lt. Gov’s race where Jim Martin, a Democrat, is emerging as the rare gem in an otherwise detestable pool of politicians — the surprise may come in how many anti-Perdue votes will be in play. In other words, we believe the number of voters betrayed by Sonny Perdue in the last election may be significant enough to sink Sonny’s ship. In fact, many of them would vote for a communist before pulling the trigger for Perdue again.

One thing for sure, it is doubtful another group large enough to swing an election one way or the other who hasn’t already been lied to by Sonny Perdue exists. Republicans will have to run this time on their record. We doubt seriously anybody will put much stock in what they say or how they say it. Let the games begin!
08 January 2006