Moderated by Rick Badie
Today, a Cherokee County Republican encourages black conservatives to become more active in local and state political issues, saying there’s a home for them in the GOP. A state lawmaker offers the opposing view and writes that the Georgia Democratic Party naturally appeals to diverse demographic groups.
Black conservatives must act politically
By Eric Johnson
Recently, the Cherokee County Black Republican Council and Cherokee County Republican Party held a roundtable discussion, “Race in American Politics: Will It Ever End?” The consensus of the panelists was that race will always be a part of our political environment and discussion.
I am not ashamed to admit that, even though I did not vote or support him, something wonderful did happen in 2008: The people of the United States of America elected its first black president. He was able to aspire and obtain the most powerful political position in our country and world.
My glee lasted only a few minutes. We now realize that electing a “warm and fuzzy” president in an economic crisis only makes things worse, not better. Today, most conservatives are unhappy with the way the president and the Congress have led our country. So let’s refocus our efforts on where we can make the greatest impact — the local level.
In our recent meeting, we invited 500 black Cherokee County Republicans to hear a panel of black and white conservatives. There was a diversity of black and white citizens whose simple desire is to ensure that life in our county, state and country will be at its best when African-Americans know that it is their opportunity and responsibility to participate in the political process even if they are conservative and live in Cherokee County.
The following summarizes their comments: The race issue is a learned human behavior for all of us; we need to firmly remind ourselves that we are all representatives of one race — the human race; we will rise above the issue and make this country even better and stronger; and, things have improved, and we should never give up.
As each person reflects upon this and keeps emotions in check, humbly addressing facts without emotional attachment, such panel discussions and water-cooler conversations can happen more frequently. By doing so over time, we will establish relationships with one another, understand one another and sympathize with one another, leaving absolutely no time for trivial behavior such as racism.
This type of outreach I believe to be the most effective, and this will be the type of outreach I personally advocate for and ask the Republican Party to participate in more often. As Bob Barr eloquently said: “We can talk about figures, taxes, etc., etc., but the crucial action to take is to go into the communities and to build relationships.”
So my appeal to black conservatives who live in Cherokee County, every black community, in any community, you must increase your role. It is not enough to simply focus on being responsible leaders in your families, businesses and churches. If we do not participate and take a leadership role in our political community, our schools, homes and families will continue to be compromised directly and indirectly by the most bombastic leaders we like to criticize, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Eric Johnson is acting chairman of the Cherokee County Black Republican Council.
Democrats are inclusive
By Pedro “Pete” Marin
Georgia Republicans have a serious problem. They continue to alienate huge swaths of the electorate. This alienation has been so intense that, after the 2012 election cycle, specialists were brought in to help reexamine the Republican platform and reframe its message.
Rather than take the advice they were given and change their offensive policies toward women, people of color and young people, Republicans have continued their pattern of superficial changes, hiring a few minority outreach staff and training candidates how to appear politically correct.
If the Georgia GOP’s “new” engagement plan sounds familiar, that’s because Republicans promised to listen to key constituencies and change their ways in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Georgians are smart enough to know this maneuvering is merely window dressing.
This year, Republican lawmakers authored and passed a bill to further restrict women’s health care decisions. Republicans chose to strip away their privacy rights.
Immigrants remain a favorite target. This year, a majority of Senate Republicans pushed legislation that would deny driver’s licenses to immigrants who have been granted legal presence under deferred action or who held temporary driver’s licenses. Senate Republicans also proposed an amendment to Georgia’s Constitution that would mandate the written portion of the driver exam be printed only in English. Not only is this kind of fear-based legislation mean-spirited—it’s an assault on free speech.
There’s also the matter of disenfranchisement at the ballot box. Over the last several years, the Georgia GOP has continuously eroded one of our most fundamental rights. In 2005, Republicans led the charge to pass voter ID legislation. Just this year, they tried to shorten early voting time from 21 days to six days.
My party, the Democratic Party, is one of inclusion.
Democrats trust women to make their own decisions. This year, 10 of our 15 candidates for the state’s executive branch are women. Roughly half of my Democratic colleagues in the state House are women. Seven of 18 Democrats in the Senate are women, compared to just one Republican woman on the GOP caucus. Many of these Democratic women are in positions of leadership.
Democrats have fought and will continue to fight to expand ballot access. We believe voter restrictions disproportionately harm African-Americans, Latinos, elderly, women, the poor and young people.
Democrats have learned that inclusion and diversity are not boxes to be checked off, and they certainly aren’t marketing programs to be handled by a few hired specialists. Appealing to a diverse citizenry means you stand up for and respect the things they believe in. Trying to retrofit diversity into a stale and exclusionary agenda will not work. Only through meaningful dialogue and a party platform that looks like 2014, not 1914, will the GOP be successful in its experiment with diversity.
State Rep. Pedro “Pete” Marin is the Democratic Party of Georgia’s vice chair for constituency groups.
What to ask of our leaders
By Gina Mangham
Now is our time to stand up for ourselves, our communities and what is right. We have allowed the political process to shape and even control our fate. I refuse to believe that we are powerless. I speak with people every day who are frustrated, even cynical, but still share my belief that now more than ever, we cannot afford to let others continue to make decisions that are not in our best interests. We must restore our innate sense of self-determination by refusing to accept politics as usual. Regardless of our perceived differences, we can certainly come together on three basic principles:
• Unity, not division. It is incomprehensible that some of our leaders blame disagreement as an excuse for inaction. In reality, rarely does any group agree on everything. Though we may not agree on every issue, we can and must respect and consider the views of all of those who have the passion and temerity to speak out. We should welcome opinions that lead to discourse. Only by examining all sides of the issues can we come to a full understanding which can lead to consensus.
• Public service and servant leadership over politics. We must seek out, promote and support leaders who serve our interests and not just themselves. Elected officials work for us. Yet, if we do not hold them accountable, we have only ourselves to blame. Let your elected officials know what they are doing right, as well as what you would like to happen differently. If they are unresponsive, seek someone who is willing to be a true public servant, who will respect your vote and actually do the work. Rhetoric without solutions is meaningless.
• Transparency, ethics and integrity. Right is right and wrong is wrong. If an elected official breaks the rules, there must be swift and appropriate consequences to restore the public trust. Processes must be open and transparent. It is time to end backroom deals where the way decisions are made is known only to those making them. It’s easy to do the right thing when it’s popular. Our integrity is determined by whether we stand publicly for what is right, even when we seemingly stand alone.
Now is our time to show the citizens of DeKalb County and metro Atlanta that we stand for our collective good. I am committed to continue the kind of leadership which displays integrity and a sincere desire to restore communities to a positive reflection of all of us. Will you join me?
Gina Mangham is a DeKalb County attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the District 5 commission against Lee May, the county’s interim CEO since July.