I’m sitting here in the kitchen Sunday morning like a handcar on a siding waiting for the Crescent to roar by. The eminent Southern historian James C. Cobb is working on his Cobbloviate column about the late election, which you can read here, but I haven’t seen yet. What can I write that he won’t say with far more pith and moment? Such is journalism.
For starters, the infamous Pete’s Cheat Sheet, occasionally found in this column, recommended an all-Democratic vote this time around, and every Democrat lost the statewide election. One hundred percent for Pete! On the other hand, every Democrat on the ballot got more than 60 percent of the vote here in Athens-Clarke County, confirming that the blue dot still glows here in spite of all the Republican legislature has done to herd local Democrats, black and white, into ghetto districts, where we are forced to fight among ourselves in local elections. Athens-Clarke County still votes Democratic, a small consolation in the face of the red tide that inundates the state. Still, we are an irritant and an embarrassment. Do not be surprised to see the zealots in the legislature finally end our Democratic vote by putting Athens-Clarke back together with Oconee—to the great dismay of both counties.
The election was a disappointment of the kind I have lived with most of my life in Georgia. I grew up in a segregated state where the only issue that mattered was keeping the Negro in his place. The Democrats knew how to do that, and they ruled the state with the same kind of majorities the Republicans enjoy today for the same reasons. In fact, they’re the same people. Only the label has changed, certainly not the politics. What was the issue this time? Obama. That was all they had to say. Obama, Obama, Obama. We all know what that means, don’t we?
Georgia will never get away from race as the determining issue, and one of these days it will cut the other way, sometime in that far-off future when African Americans and Latinos gain a majority and actually turn out and vote. Meanwhile, the white Republicans are doing everything they can—just like the white Democrats did—to manipulate the voting rolls and the districting and postpone that future as long as possible.
The scariest thing about the election is that now we’re not only a blue dot in a red state but in a red nation. The same kinds of people who control our state legislature now control our national legislature, with only that same Obama standing between them and the dismantling of our fledgling health insurance program and our scant protections for the environment, personal liberties, economic justice, education and public safety.
So much of that is beyond our control locally, but we can at least assert ourselves here to address the problems that beset us, that we can do something about through our local government. We do not have to succumb to gridlock and partisan bickering (we’re non-partisan). We do have to start doing more to alleviate poverty, shore up our transportation system, support our schools, get the university even more involved in local partnerships, hammer out a plan for how we want our city to evolve, protect our neighborhoods, preserve our environment and do everything we can to enhance the climate for independent, locally owned businesses. All this takes is local leadership, and we’ve got plenty of people in our local government with the experience and dedication to make Athens an even better place to live for everybody, no matter what is happening in Washington.