By tradition, principle and past national performance, the GOP is considered to be strongly for individual liberties, fiercely for free enterprise, adamantly against intrusive government and relentlessly for the smallest public sector possible.
Of the many bills and proposals made by Republican leaders in recent weeks the declaration that the state should have the power to seize anyone's property at any time and turn it over to somebody else to make a profit from may be the most shocking.
Georgia Senate Bill 5 would allow any government in the state to form a partnership with private developers to build and operate almost anything ― toll roads, toll bridges, sports stadiums, office buildings, parking decks and more. In addition, those governments could issue public debt (bonds) or make grants and loans to the developers. All such funds would, of course, be taxpayer money or backed by the taxpayers.
THE REAL jaw-dropper is that, if a developer said he needed a piece of property, the government could use its power of eminent domain to take that property.
In other words, so long as government can claim there is some sort of public good attached ― such as bringing in jobs, new taxes, development, whatever ― your property does not necessarily belong to you. All property would belong to government if government wants it.
And, guess what, this entire process would be kept secret. The public wouldn't learn that such a project is being considered, or what it involves, until the deal is done.
The resulting outrage has been justified. Columnist Bill Shipp noted: "Generations of Georgians related to their children the horror stories of Republican-wrought Reconstruction. As older Georgians died out and new residents moved in, the bad old days of Reconstruction were finally forgotten. Hardly anyone recalls why the state wallowed in poverty and on the edge of financial ruin for so long after the Civil War. Today, wearing a Republican badge is an honor for some. Many of our forebears would have thrown up."
The Reconstruction Republicans are back, eager and willing to loot the state again, Shipp implied.
SAM GRIFFIN JR., editor and publisher of The Post-Searchlight in Bainbridge and hardly considered even mildly moderate, wrote that this was equal to the Yazoo Land Fraud and predicted "folks will soon be hunting down the Georgia GOP with dogs.'' Neal Boortz, the super-conservative Atlanta talk-show host, branded it "a blatant assault on private property rights.''
Given the protests, it would be even more shocking than the original legislation were it to actually be adopted. The real puzzler is where such thinking might have resided to emerge in state Republican ranks ― and not "kook fringe" Republicans either. This measure has been endorsed by Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson of Savannah, Republican Leader Bill Stephens of Canton and Rules Chairman Don Balfour of Snellville (who later retracted).
The answer may lie in the real possibility that many self-styled Georgia Republicans aren't really Republicans at all. They are simply political opportunists who have used the GOP label to gain power.
Consider this: Most so-called Republicans in Georgia, at least those age 50 or older, were once Democrats. There are very few white-haired lifelong Republicans in this state and those few are likely unable to prove it as most of them simply laid low and kept their mouths shut for decades,.
TO SOME DEGREE, today's in-power Republicans are lineal descendants of the Dixiecrats, the populist Democrats and the Democrats who once saw nothing wrong with Jim Crow laws and using the power of the state to enforce social foibles. That's where such thinking comes from. There's a lot of social foible enforcement contained in other current GOP proposals.
True Republicans ― well, at least in the olden days ― wanted government to do nothing except protect the shores ... and private property. For Republicans today to even suggest that government should be allowed to "take" property for its own motives is flabbergasting.
The Bainbridge editor is right. If this sort of thinking isn't stopped, the people will let the hounds out of the pen, grab their guns and go hunting for the varmints stalking the herd. There are coyotes toting carpetbags on the loose