Though the Greeks thought of “hubris” as an act of arrogant pride that invited divine retribution, our modern view tends more toward the Biblical “pride goes before a fall”: the overconfidence of a person in a position of power that precedes his or her own demise.
That’s where Georgia’s Democratic Party found themselves after the 2000 Census. They could see the state trending Republican, but were so overconfident that they felt comfortable pushing the limits of their authority.
The best example of that hubris was from then-state Sen. Charles Walker. Often proclaimed as the most powerful black politician in Georgia, the Augusta Democrat was so certain of his own re-election that he drew a district for himself that reduced the number of his core black voters.
He shifted those voters to the district of state Sen. Don Cheeks and added a precint in Harlem. He then put up a candidate to run against Cheeks. The plan was three-pronged: Walker would win re-election; the new candidate would defeat Cheeks; that new Walker puppet would then have a seat on Columbia County’s legislative delegation, putting Walker in control.
That tangled web unraveled, however, when Walker’s puppet couldn’t qualify and Walker lost re-election. The courts overturned and redrew the districts, which cost Cheeks and Walker’s replacements their seats, but by then Walker was in the minority party and just a few months away from federal prison.
This trip down memory lane was sparked by a question from a liberal friend who wondered why Republican challengers appear on Georgia’s ballot ahead of the Democratic incumbents for president and 12th District congressman. He seemed to suspect GOP shenanigans.
Well, there were shenanigans – but they were Democratic shenanigans.
See, back in 1986, the Democrats passed the law that specifies the order that names appear on ballots.
As Georgia Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Jared Thomas told me, the first party listed on our ballots is the party of the winner of the most recent governor’s race.
As of 1986, Georgia’s governors always had been Democrats. This legislation ensured that the winning party would be listed first on the ballot in each race, intending to perpetuate Democratic rule.
Alas for them, once Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue defeated Democrat Roy Barnes for governor in 2002, it accelerated the pace at which Democrats were removed from power. They’ve been supplanted by Republicans who now are headed toward supermajorities in the Legislature.
Such absolute power corrupts absolutely. Georgia’s Democrats undoubtedly understand that now. Georgia’s Republicans one day will, too, if they fail to learn from their counterparts’ historical hubris.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/