Did you ever wonder about how the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes stuff of elections works?
Nah, probably not. Most of us have enough sense to know that the old saying about legislation being like sausage-making - you never want to see it being done - applies to the political pro-cess, too.
Mostly, we don't want to see all the back-room deals and machinations that go into a campaign because it would make us less trustful of our political leaders - as if that were even possible in this cynical age, when campaigns work so hard to tear down their opponents.
Each campaign has two parts: Make your guy look good, and make the other guy look really, really bad. In both cases, there are certain items that are taboo, and others that get plenty of mention.
It's OK, for example, to talk about the other guy raising taxes - and it's a killer to propose any sort of change in the tax code that doesn't cut tax rates. Or, it's fine to talk about locking up more criminals, but woe unto the candidate who points out that lots of non-violent convicts cost us millions of dollars to house when rehabilitation programs would be cheaper and more effective.
will never run for office. I hate politics, I hate the political pro-cess, I hate the simplistic, forced nature of political conversations, and I hate the layers of loyalty that obscure the real intentions of candidates. Usually a sunny skeptic, I turn into a sour cynic on the subject of politics.
The good part? There are some people in politics whom I really, really like. Try as they might, their opponents have never been able to dim their lights. They've done a good job in office, and I'm not only thrilled to see them re-elected, but even happier when no one runs against them.
First on the list is Charlie Norwood. Who would have thought that a decorated Vietnam veteran and retired dentist could turn out to be such a great congressman?
Here we are, eight years since Norwood stormed the gates with the Republican revolution of 1994, and he's beaten everybody from David Bell to Barry Gordon Irwin. (OK, this is written before the election results are in, but Irwin couldn't beat Norwood with kryptonite.)
Norwood has fought for veterans, fought for health care, fought for education. He often bucked his own party, but was on the right side every time. And he's just a nice guy - and I even see him in church every now and then when he's in town.
Ben Harbin is another good guy, too. Yeah, I wanted to punch him in the nose when he voted for Roy Barnes' education reforms. But nobody can doubt his sincerity in working to improve Georgia's education, and in fighting the corruption of a political process stacked against his party.
And, like Norwood, Harbin is a nice guy - and you can always count on him to make a joke about being short. (Which, memo to Ben, is getting kinda predictable.)
Last, but certainly not least, is the politician who won't be one after Dec. 31. Jim Whitehead is retiring as a Columbia County commissioner, and turning over the chairmanship to Ron Cross.
Whitehead sometimes is criticized for trying too hard to avoid controversy, for coming down squarely on both sides of an issue. But he is so accessible that even the more vigorous opponents of county policy have trouble getting mad at him. He'll talk to anyone, and while he may not say what they want to hear, they can't help but walk away feeling like somebody important listened.
Whatever the rotten ads may have said, there really are plenty of such good people in public service - people like Charlie and Ben and Jim. It's too bad our process for putting them into office resembles a circular firing squad, with all of us poor constituents standing in the middle.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.