Nearly a week after primary elections in Georgia, I am still contemplating whether I'm happy or disappointed in the voter turnout. Here in Bartow, with 50,051 registered voters, only 16,326 (32.6 percent) came out on Election Day to cast a vote. In Bartow, for all intents and purposes, July 31st was the general election, because we have only two Democrats countywide running for any office, and both are running against immensely popular incumbents. In nearly every race, the winner of the Republican primary will be, by default, the winner in the November elections.
Think about what that means. In a county of approximately 105,000 people, with about 14,500 (89 percent) of the voters casting ballots on the Republican ticket, the decision as to who will be our next County Commissioner, Tax Commissioner, Sheriff, Chief Magistrate, and Clerk of Court, would all be decided with a mere 7,251 votes cast in their favor; and that assumes every voter cast a ballot in every race, which is not the case. Races representing smaller districts in the county were won with as few as 603 votes cast for the winner.
Overall, we had a great selection of candidates on the Republican Party ticket. It was hard to think of even a few candidates that could not make a compelling case to the voters for why they should be elected. In the highest profile race, that to replace Commissioner Clarence Brown, who has faithfully served the people of Bartow County for more than two decades, we had five candidates who were each able to point to a depth of experience in private business, community service, government, and a variety of skills and knowledge that would help them serve well in this office. It was then incumbent upon the voters to read the campaign literature, research records, attend candidate debates and forums, and question each on their experience and philosophy of government.
While many did that, I was also disconcerted at the number of times I overheard a voter say something like, "I am voting for Candidate X because we go to the same church," or "I'm voting for Candidate Y because we played on the same team in high school and he's a good guy," or "I'm voting for Candidate Q because she is just as sweet as can be." (By the way, I can attest that Candidate Q is, indeed, just as sweet as she can be.) As Republican Party chairman in Bartow, I had an opportunity to get to know most of the candidates over the last six months or so, and can attest that they are all "good people." But being "good people" does not always translate into serving well in office, and that is why we must, as voters, perform our due diligence in selecting the best from a group of very good candidates. Our county has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and that growth brings many challenges. If we fail to select the best candidates with the right combination of vision and experience, it can have a detrimental impact on our future growth.
Luckily, we were blessed with very good, qualified candidates to choose from. I am just disappointed with the criteria used by some in selecting whom to vote. Would we use these same criteria in other areas? Would we, needing open heart surgery, select the guy that was a goof-off in school but extremely popular, over the girl that was shy and awkward but incredibly intelligent and skilled? Would we trust our finances to the high school beauty queen, even though she was horrible at math? Would we turn over the controls of an airplane to someone without the proper experience and credentials simply because we go to church with them? Of course not! So why would we be any less diligent in selecting those who hold government office, those which will make decisions that literally impact every facet of every day of our lives? We're lucky that we had good candidates; because the vast majority of citizens did not perform their civic duties. These candidates worked their tails off to make their case to the voters. I'm just disappointed so many voters did not bother to listen.
In 2008, America elected a president whose resume was thinner than Keira Knightly after a month on Weight Watchers. The richest, most powerful nation in the world elected a man because he was a smooth-talking community organizer who bloviated a stream of platitudes like "Hope and Change" and "We are the change we've been waiting for (what does that even MEAN?!!)," and other such inanities. We elected him because we were tired of war and tired of bitter partisanship, and he promised to be the post-racial, post-partisan president who would heal the nation's divide. We were willing to overlook the fact that he had virtually no private sector experience, had never run so much as a lemonade stand. He was an academic that dealt in theories instead of reality, but hey, he was a nice guy, right?
So here we are, nearly four years of unemployment averaging over 9 percent, $16 trillion in debt, a takeover by government of the health care industry, the domestic auto industry, and large swaths of the financial sector. Nearly everything he has tried has been an unmitigated disaster. His record has been so bad that he can't run on it, instead reduced to attacking Mitt Romney's wealth, and saying Romney can't relate to the average person, which is rich coming from a man who himself has enjoyed more than his fair share of privilege.
You see, when we don't take time to educate ourselves on our history, the principles on which our government was founded, the basics of our economy, or the background and philosophy of those seeking office, we end up electing people like Barack Obama and his goofy, gaffe-prone sidekick, Bumblin' Joe. We end up with a wrecked economy and a weakened military. We end up with our constitutional rights being trampled.
When we are uneducated, we buy into such lunacy as "the rich don't pay their fair share," or claims that Republicans want dirty air and dirty water, and want to throw old people out into the streets, or grandma over a cliff. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently claimed that, although he can't prove it, he knows that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes in 10 years. This supposedly comes from a "secret source." Well, I have a secret source that tells me that Harry Reid likes to frequent transvestite prostitutes three times a week. I can't prove it, but trust me, it's true. See how ridiculous it all gets? But we let them get away with it!
For too many years we have let politicians of both parties play us for fools. We accept the rhetoric and promises from "our team" while rejecting opposing viewpoints, without ever seeking to verify the claims of either side. We do a poor job of studying the claims, and distilling them down to the facts. That leaves us as ignorant pawns at the mercy of those in power, and that is a dangerous place to be. Or, to quote the great Thomas Jefferson, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.