The wacky doo legislature comes back to town

By Tom Baxter

In his eulogy for Herman Talmadge, Sam Nunn told the story of a visit to the senior senator’s office not long after Nunn had been elected to the U.S. Senate. Talmadge inquired of his young colleague whether he’d answered all his constituents’ letters, and Nunn replied that he had, with the exception of a few “nuts” who had written to him about tin foil and flying saucers.

Talmadge gave him a stern look and reached for the spitoon he kept by his desk.

“If you can’t win the nut vote,” he said, “You’re not going to carry a county in Georgia.”

That anecdote drew a rollicking response back in 2002. I imagine if a similar story were told at the funeral of some prominent politician today, it would still get a laugh, but it would be a more nervous laughter. The nuts have gone from being key to getting elected, to getting elected themselves.

Our Congressional delegation — with one member who has suggested that Guam might capsize, another who has said embryology is the work of the Devil, and a third who has chosen to revisit the Todd Akin “rape” debacle – has become part of the regular diet of comedy shows and political blogs.

They’re only the tip of the iceberg, which is another way of saying: Welcome back, legislators.

A poll  in Sunday’s AJC said voters want this year’s legislature to focus on jobs as their first priority, followed by education and health care. Boring! A Marietta Daily Journal story about a recent Cobb Republican Party Breakfast, at which one legislator tried to out-wacky doo the other, gives you a better idea what some legislators would rather be about.

State Sen. Barry Loudermilk said the state should control all the fuel taxes it issues and spends, and cut out the feds.

“I’ll take it a step further: we need to start in the direction to where we don’t have a Medicaid system, but we turn it back to the way it was before Medicaid, where there were nonprofit hospitals that provided indigent care to the people, that were run by churches and religious organizations,” Loudermilk said.

Not to be undone, state Rep.-elect Charles Gregory, who has already introduced four gun bills, said the state could get away from reliance on federal grants by printing its own currency.

This was a bit much, even for the likes of Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby, who scolded U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey for dredging up the rape issue in their Around Town  column in Saturday’s MDJ, but gave their Cobb County Republican legislators a real blistering for sitting around talking about the Nullification Doctrine and printing their own money when there is serious business to be done.

“No wonder the party has a hard time appealing these days to minority and younger voters when so many rank-and-file Republicans seem to have their focus on issues that hearken back to the South’s “Fergit, Hell!” days,” they wrote.

Speaking of fergitin’, you have to do an awful lot of it, or just be born too late to remember, to harbor any nostalgia for the way it was before Medicaid and Medicare. That’s why the renewal of the hospital provider fee, or bed tax, is probably inevitable, though Gov. Nathan Deal is to be congratulated for devising an adroit way to frame the issue so the legislators won’t have to say they’re voting for a tax increase. That will avoid at least some of the posturing that’s also sure to come with the vote. The bed tax is only a stopgap and the really hard decisions about Medicaid lie ahead, but just getting that accomplished will be heavy lifting.

The legislature will take up a few more serious subjects, including juvenile justice reform and ethics, and dealing with the bare-bones budget will be a challenge. But it’s on target to waste many of its 40 days on the increasing froth of hot-button issues destined to go nowhere, or in some cases, to federal court.

It’s still the best show in town, but this year let’s hope it doesn’t last as long as “Les Misérables.”

 

About Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.
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6 comments
scfranklin
scfranklin like.author.displayName 1 Like

Tom, This is classic. Thanks. Shirley

SpaceyG
SpaceyG like.author.displayName 1 Like

"Wacky doo"? That some kinda Alabama-speak for "batsh*t crazy"?

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @SpaceyG

I don't know if that is what the term "Wacky doo" actually stands for, but, unfortunately, it is glaringly obvious that "batsh*t crazy" pretty accurately describes the collective often-absent mental state of the Georgia Legislature.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Also, while it was U.S. Representative Phil Gingrey's recent ill-advised comments about rape may have had moderate and progressive voters upset in other parts of the country, it was Gingrey's equally ill-advised comments about gun control that had an overwhelming majority of voters in throughout the definitely-conservative State of Georgia the most upset, especially in heavily pro-gun rights Cobb County, a distinctly-conservative community with a uniquely-strong libertarian streak where the issue of abortion is anathema and legal gun ownership is considered to be a God-given right that is sacrosanct.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Mr. Baxter, it is interesting that you mention the distinctly super-conservative tone of the recent Cobb County Republican Party Breakfast.  All of the anti-Federal talk that went on at the event should come as no surprise in a community that has a distinct reputation for being one of the absolute most conservative communities in a Southeastern region that is the most conservative in the nation.  Needless to say, Cobb County's proudly ultraconservative reputation and post-World War II history as "The Center of the Conservative Universe" were clearly on display at that monthly Cobb GOP event.

 

Also, while it may sound crazy to those who live in more left-leaning and moderate parts of the metro area and the U.S., his talk of getting Georgia its own currency and the four pro-gun bills he prefiled before the start of the legislative session have quickly made newly-elected freshman State Representative Charles Gregory of Kennesaw a rising star within Northwest Georgia, state and national Conservative circles. 

 

It looks as if Representative Gregory is attempting to takeover the mantle of the late Cobb County State Representative Bobby Franklin who, as the undoubtedly most conservative member of the state legislature by far, was known to prefile dozens of bills before every legislative session.  Franklin was known to be so ultraconservative so as to butt heads with the Republican-dominated legislative leadership, who despite being in office in what is one of the most conservative states in the union, often elected to take a comparatively much more moderate tone in governance.

 

The type of aggressive conservatism that Bobby Franklin displayed during his many years in the legislature and that State Representative Charles Gregory is attempting to display early on in his young legislative career that may not necessarily appeal to more moderate voters appeals greatly to the very-conservative voters who dominate the political landscape in traditionally-Republican Cobb County, a fast-growing and fast-urbanizing suburban community with a history of far-right anti-government sentiment and proud ultraconservatism.

 

One must also keep-in-mind that newly-elected freshman State Representative Charles Gregory hails from Kennesaw, a previously-rural-to-exurban suburban community where gun ownership is required by law, a city law that was enacted in response to a law that was enacted in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, Illinois that banned all gun ownership.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/5c1b6a72-c5eb-11df-b53e-00144feab49a.html#slide0

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The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

The wacky doo legislature which usually after just a few days in session usually has Georgians begging "Wacky DON'T!".

Hide your women, hide your daughters, hide your sisters, hide your mothers, hide your nieces, hide your female cousins (and some of your male ones too!), hide your WALLETS, hide your liquor and put away your sanity as the Georgia Legislature is back in town for yet another 40 days of zany legislative hijinks, moral depravity and debauchery, scantilating narcissism and hair-raising sociopathy....And oh yeah, they might even squeeze in some time for some legislation that might actually help slightly improve the lives of Georgians...But don't count on it.

 

It's too bad that Georgians have to have such a ridiculously low opinion about their state legislature.  Worse yet, it's too bad that the Georgia Legislature seems not to care what the public thinks of it as a whole just as long as what the public thinks does not interfere with their lobbyist-fueled moral depravity and debauchery.

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