NewsPub Notes

Does Gene Talmadge Rule Georgia Through Trump?


These are not Flagpole’s leaflets, but we’d like to know whose they are.

In a classic use of the wrong medium for the wrong message, somebody has been inserting confusing leaflets into random Flagpole boxes. (See illustration.) We’ll let the police handle it, but meanwhile, if any of our readers believe that these weirdly worded intrusions into our Flagpole distribution are approved by this newspaper: Nope!

This is just one more indication of how our political climate responds to our president’s heated invective. He would say these are good people, and their views are no worse than Bernie Sanders’.

The good people I know are appalled by the president and his Ku Kluxer mentality, as he thumbs his messages at us. We watch the daily horror unfold on “Morning Joe” and wrap up with Rachel Maddow. Then some of us endure the alternate, Trumpian universe as brought to us by Fox and our local radio station WGAU 1340 AM. We stagger around wondering if it will all play out somehow, or if this is the new normal from now on.

In these circumstances, it is difficult to comprehend how people we know and love can stomach this Mussolini of a man, but here in Georgia it has always been pretty much this way, with a few respites to make us think there is such a thing as progress.

Historians like our esteemed Cobbloviator remind us that our state has, in modern history, usually been ruled by what we might call the Trump mentality, as embodied in the long reign of the Talmadges in Georgia. (See Jim Cobb’s latest on that subject in the Feb. 28 issue at

Eugene Talmadge grew up on a farm, attended UGA and got his law degree here. In those days, rural areas controlled Georgia elections, which were decided in the Democratic primary, where African Americans were prohibited by law from voting. The few people who called themselves Republicans were mainly confined to the cities, except for some eccentrics in small towns and the occasional postmaster, when the president was of that party.

Eugene Talmadge didn’t need his Phi Beta Kappa key to unlock the door to success in Georgia. The county unit system gave political power to the rural counties. Most rural people lived in economically depressed areas, since the boll weevil was chewing up our cotton economy. There was little support for education, and less if you were black, but that was OK, because you couldn’t vote anyway.

So, there you have it. Keep taxes low, and receive the thanks of the big landowners and the corporations. Champion the cause of the farmer, and give him his $3 tag for his worn-out auto to drive to town from his worn-out land. Above all, keep the Negro in his place. Assure the poor whites and the country-club whites alike that no Negro will ever go to school with any white child, and no Negro will ever take a job from a cotton mill worker, and no Negro will ever drive a better car than the poorest white person, and Georgians who can vote will vote Talmadge every time. Ol’ Gene perfected the formula and handed it on to his son, Herman, and it works just as well today for their heir, Trump—with refinements.

But some of y’all forgot what Ol’ Gene told you, and look what has happened. A black woman uppity enough to go off up to Yale University and get herself a law degree thinks she can be elected governor of Georgia. We’ll see about that. Her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, is a Trumped-up caricature of Ol’ Gene and Herman, drawlin’ and blowin’ up stuff and snappin’ his shotgun in a kid’s face and runnin’ around in his big pickup. But that’s just role-playing. The reality is that Gov. Kemp will continue to block the billions Medicaid would put into Georgia’s health care, while doing his part to oppose Obamacare and encourage religious discrimination against Georgia citizens and basically keep Georgia a fertile ground for the Southern Co. and all the other corporations by keeping taxes and wages and support for education low and profits high.

It’s the Talmadge formula, and it’s the same one Trump employs with such good results in Georgia and many other states: Divide and conquer. Demonize the opposition. Call the critics fake. Make the super-rich great again while making the poor in body and spirit think they’re great. That formula has always worked in our state. Is there any reason to believe it won’t this time?

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