There’s still good reason to make a point of voting, of course. There are a couple of truly competitive races with candidates of known experience and sufficient caliber that citizens might well wish they could put all of them into office ... or that they were running against some of the oh-so-many others left totally unopposed.
There will also be the transportation SPLOST containing major, major road projects that could well be the economic turning point for this county and region. Plus, some entertaining purely “opinion polls” that might stun some officeholders, such as the one (on both party ballots) suggesting that citizens might prefer their elected representatives to display some ethics outside of church.
Nonetheless, if this filing season is an indication of the health of participatory government in this county then, if not on its death bed, it must certainly be in a nursing home. Young, strong and vibrant it is definitely not.
Take a look at the local scene. Depending on whether they ask for a Republican or Democratic ballot, choices are limited. Indeed, Democrats might as well ask for a GOP ballot and have some fun — they have zero competition in their primary (and not too many choices come the November general election, for that matter).
NEARLY ALL the primary “action” involves open seats — ones in which no incumbent is on the ballot. Remember the recent City Commission election when no opponents at all showed up — and then when one commissioner resigned with the post having to be filled by appointment and not election there were eight candidates? Only being interested in an office that avoids the electorate and/or partisan rhetoric is starting to look like a pattern.
That judges (four of them) would be unopposed is no big deal; that’s the norm. Similarly posts such as coroner rarely gain an opponent. Plus, to be fair, some of those unchallenged have pretty solid records of service while in office. Of course, a few of the others who are home free actually need the old heave-ho — our opinion, of course, but one likely widely shared even if the reader’s chosen targets are totally different from our own.
For Floyd Countians, there are 18 tax-salaried positions of responsibility on the ballot — plus another three school board members for which only those in the unincorporated area and Cave Spring can vote. On 11 of these, voters get no ability to make a change. On another three, whoever wins the Republican side of the race coasts into office.
That’s 14 with zero or very limited choices out of 21 positions. That amounts to two-thirds.
And therein may lie the true tale of this filing season, not only in Floyd County but apparently in much of Georgia.
THAT DEMOCRATS are few, have been redistricted into voting ghettos surrounded by Republican seas, have little money or organization is no secret. It’s also no novelty except for the name and times, Republicans not long ago having been in a similar condition in Georgia. Still, Democrats have fewer candidates on the ballot than at any time since Reconstruction, when Yankee carpetbaggers running the state made sure life was impossible for them — turnabout being fair play after Appomattox given Abe Lincoln wasn’t even allowed on the ballot in many Southern states in 1860, including Georgia.
It’s also no secret that party labels mean little in these parts other than perhaps to indicate who is willing to sacrifice principles for power. Many state Republican officeholders used to be Democrats (including the governor and his predecessor). When the Democrats held absolute power, loads of “conservative Democrat” officeholders were plainly Republicans trying to “pass.”
Remember the Dixiecrats? Subtract the race fixation of those days (much lessened but not entirely gone, either) and one could call the current dominant political party the Dixiecans. Both share most of the same tax tightwad and socially uptight attributes. To considerable degree, Georgia has long had but one party with two names.
HOWEVER, that doesn’t explain why nobody thinks they can do a better job than incumbents almost up and down the ballot line. After all, based on letters to the editor and Web comments, almost everybody out there knows they can do better. Apparently they just don’t want to try.
So here we go, headed for a July 31 ballot with extremely limited choices while the mantra of the times is that there’s a need for “change.” How’s that going to happen?
There’s not a thing wrong with the concept and principle of representative government and one-man, one-vote now that it has been broadened to include those not owning land, females, other races and even youth (the voting age used to be 21). Plainly, the mechanics are what leave much to be desired.
Between filing fees (hundreds to thousands of dollars) and the cost of running for office (thousands to millions of dollars) the seeking of elected office in which to perform public service has become something of a luxury item for most households. Some of those elected jobs pay part-time/lousy, some pay full-time wages that are pretty good. There are about 5,000 jobless folks in this county, and it is safe to assume than none of them could afford to apply ... but will be asked for their votes.
There’s something wrong with that picture.
MANY FLOYD Countians — perhaps a majority — will on at least some posts be left without even the ability to register a protest by marking “None of the above” or, better still, telling the parties to “Pick another candidate” on those unopposed.
Yet, when elected, all the winners or those anointed will claim to have been “elected by the people” — including those who wouldn’t vote for them if given the choice of electing a chimpanzee instead.
Winston Churchill famously said that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Agreed. But when citizens can only pick the single representative/candidate offered them, or able to run, are they really choosing their leaders or are their leaders choosing their constituents? And is that democracy or is it on the way to becoming something else?