Before the recent elections lose focus in the rearview mirror, a disturbing thread ran through the political discourse during the campaigns. Gov. Brian Kemp won handily with his message aimed at “hardworking Georgians.” Is this some kind of buzzword? Some kind of “us against them” dog whistle?
“Hardworking Georgians” conjures images of families working two jobs to make ends meet, of farmers toiling long hours to bring in the crops, of business owners working overtime to keep things on track, and their employees humping to get the product out: Hardworking Georgians all over Georgia taking care of business and electing a hardworking governor.
Who could disagree with this picture? Who would not want to be in it? Do we not all consider ourselves hardworking Georgians? Certainly, the governor appears to be the most hardworking of all, considering how often he shows up on TV cutting ribbons, breaking ground, opposing Medicaid. For all we know, he naps through most days, but on TV he at least plays a hardworking Georgian.
But let’s be honest: A lot of Georgians are not hardworking, at least in the sense of the governor’s whistle. For one thing, we have a tremendous number of rich people here in Georgia, with the time and resources to jet off to California every time Georgia plays for the national championship and enjoy a few more days in the sun before flying back to their gated communities. Many of them worked hard to get there, but they’re not plowing many furrows now, and of course many of them just, you know, inherited it all. I’m sure they understand that even though they’re not now hardworking Georgians, the governor respects them and their contributions.
Then we also have a tremendous number of ordinary retirees—people who worked hard for their pensions and Social Security and Medicare—who are not working now, or at least are not working as hard. Does the governor not represent them? Does he scorn them in favor of all the currently hardworking Georgians?
And what about all the people who would like to be hardworking Georgians but lost their jobs or businesses during the pandemic and the recession? Are they not worthy of representation?
What about all those people now working from home? Are they hardworking Georgians? How can you tell? It’s true that working from home can be more demanding than sitting around an office or standing up in a store, but does the governor trust all these remote workers to be worthy of inclusion in his merry band of hardworking Georgians?
There should be a slot on the census: Are you a hardworking Georgian? Yes or no. Check one. That would let us all know just who the governor is talking about.
It’s interesting to note, in fact, that the governor’s strongest support comes from the approximately 130 counties in south Georgia where being a hardworking Georgian is the most difficult and the least rewarding, according to the statistics marshaled by Charles Hayslett in his Trouble In God’s Country blog.
Now this gets a little ticklish, but what about those people who want to work, but have decided that they are not going to work for insufficient wages under intolerable conditions? No doubt they’re not included in the governor’s gang of Georgians, but don’t they deserve some consideration? No?
What about artists? Throwing a pot might look like work to the governor, but what about standing in front of an easel? What about lying in a field staring at the sky, or sitting at a computer trying to phrase a sentence? What about playing a piano or bass? What about sitting in a van for hours to go make music? What about making a quilt or a bar of soap or incense or a photograph? Art is hard work, but are artists among the governor’s hardworking Georgians?
Enough of splitting these hairs. To be honest, the governor’s call to hardworking Georgians is the same old same old. We all know the mantra: You’re either a hardworking Georgian, or you’re a welfare queen. Whether you’re working hard or hardly working, what really matters is whether you’re one of us or one of them, and the governor knows who’s who.
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