Charlie Harper: Georgia GOP Anger At Fever Pitch
Friday, May 13th, 2016
Last week was a rough one for many longtime Georgia Republicans. Ted Cruz suspended his quest to be the Republican nominee for President, all but ensuring Donald Trump will arrive in Cleveland with well more than the 1,237 votes needed for nomination. Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a “campus carry” bill that would have allowed 21-year-old college students to carry guns in some places on Georgia’s college campuses. And that was just 3 hours of Tuesday.
A popular GOP Governor vetoing a bill that expands gun rights in the face of an earlier veto of a bill dealing with religious freedom has many Republicans are down right angry. Of course, the entire theme of the 2016 election cycle has been one of anger.
The new headlines from the home front won’t do much to quell the fires of anger from those lighting torches who are ready to storm the GOP gates – or at least vote anti-incumbent during primaries in a couple of weeks. There’s little that can be done with the currencies of logic and reason to extinguish burning blind rage.
It was bad enough when the GOP base thought the Governor had attacked God himself with the veto of the religious freedom bill. But when he doubled down with the veto of campus carry legislation, many felt he was going after their religion.
The Governor has two major advantages on his side as we gaze upon the precipice of unprecedented intra-party civil war in Georgia Republican political circles. His tenure as an elected official has long been a determined fate. He is term limited in his role for another two years, and has stated he has no intentions to run for another office. His only remaining judgement will be by history and his maker, and that’s something he doesn’t need to win a 24-hour news cycle in order to handle.
The other is time. The seven months remaining between now and when he stands before the legislature to provide the State of the State address at the beginning of the next meeting of the general assembly will contain a national partisan debate that should take some energy of angry Republicans and redirect it toward Hillary Clinton and a newly confident progressive agenda that is proudly veering toward socialism.
Embedded in the advantage of time is the fact that blind rage is hard to maintain at a fever pitch. If and when that fever breaks, there will be an opening once again for logic and reason. When that time comes, the advantage switches back to Governor Deal.
The coming storm from the national level to curtail the Second Amendment will make the negotiation in Georgia look almost silly by comparison. Georgia’s gun advocates who are currently claiming treason may want to look at the fight coming in DC, and decide if the Governor they have is a needed ally against the President they’re likely to get.
For those that read that statement and dismiss it on a stand of principle, one may ask them to look at the bill that was vetoed. The bill specifically prohibited guns in dorms, frat houses, and sporting events. The Governor wanted those exemptions extended to on campus day care centers and student disciplinary hearings. Which exemption covers the the vast majority of students (and a general public likely to come in contact with students who are packing)?
To paraphrase the old joke, we’ve already established the squishy compromise of principle. Now the Governor is just negotiating the price.
The same is true with a potential religious freedom bill. The Governor has made clear he would sign (and much of today’s opposition would accept) the provisions of this year’s “Pastor Protection Act” that shields religious ceremonies from government intrusion. It is the double talk by some of the religious freedom bills’ sponsors that is causing the confusion. They continue to tell critics the bill has nothing to do with commerce (i.e, baking cakes for gay weddings) while soaking up adulation from the professional evangelical class who is demanding the same bill be passed for that reason. No bill will be signed by this governor until the language matches the sponsor’s claims, and they are honest with those cheering them along about what the bill does – and more importantly, does not do.
In the interim, the Governor will be a convenient punching bag for some. In the longer term, he retains a veto pen for two more years. Perhaps extensive use will not be necessary however. A bitter, national partisan election may be the prescription needed to break the fever.
Charlie Harper is the Executive Director of PolicyBEST, a public policy think tank focused on issues of Business & Economic Development, Education, Science & Medicine, and Transportation. He’s also the publisher of GeorgiaPol.com, a website dedicated to State & Local politics of Georgia.