Like Republicans in Washington, Democrats in the state Capitol may have just learned of the power behind the word “no.”
Similarly, Georgia Republicans may have just experienced the first consequence of their plan to render the Democratic opposition irrelevant in the state.
Removal of Democrats from the political equation on Wednesday resulted in a GOP paralyzed by a clash between its two dominant factions – a tea party opposed to new taxes under any circumstance, and business interests who see slow-moving disaster in Georgia’s stubborn failure to invest in its own infrastructure.
By now, you know of Gov. Nathan Deal’s announcement late Wednesday that he – and leaders of the state Capitol – have abandoned efforts to shift the vote of next year’s regional transportation sales tax vote from the July primary to the November general election.
Look for business leaders and political strategists today to express confidence that the shift can be accomplished when the Legislature reconvenes in January. Even if it isn’t, they’ll say, they can work with the July date.
But make no mistake. The collapse of the T-SPLOST effort in the Capitol on Wednesday amounted to a vote of no confidence in the referendums’ fortunes next year – and a demonstration of the fragility of the coalition behind the campaign.
The Democratic boycott was one ingredient – a consequence of mixing the no-quarter process of redistricting with transportation policy legislation. Republican efforts to assume control of local legislation in Democratically controlled counties such as Fulton sparked such anger that even Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed – an intense advocate of increased transportation funding — dared not intervene.
“It would be a bitter irony for Democrats and African-Americans to help Republicans pass a TSPLOST change when they have treated us so brutally in the redistricting process,” Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said from the Senate floor on Wednesday. “It is unfathomable that Republicans can work to destroy African-American voting strength and then ask us to pass this.”
Republicans likewise were hesitant to cross tea partyists, who declared victory early Wednesday when the governor agreed to their demand that all SPLOST votes – regardless of purpose – require a November general election vote.
Atlanta Tea Party Patriots – the most active group of its kind in the Capitol — declared an even greater victory later in the day when the entire deal collapsed. Members credited Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, with advocating their position during Republican internal debates.
In an e-mail this morning, they, too, predicted a larger fight in January – but with some unsettling language that harkens back to the 1970s:
The pro T-SPLOST MARTA Republicans will be back when the Legislature convenes in January to push for the date change. We will oppose it unless they also add the mandate that all future SPLOST votes be held in the general election, beginning in 2011. We understand that there are many local SPLOSTs that will be expiring in 2013 and we believe the “renewal” of those should be held in the general election.
One thing that tea partyists and Democrats need to keep in mind, however, is that “no” only prevents. It doesn’t construct. And ultimately, voters become as impatient with stagnation as they do with taxes or power grabs.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider