Theres a great expression for folks who pursue a lofty goal and then, having attained it, must suddenly figure out what to do next.
Its catching the car, describing what its like for a dog to successfully chase an auto. If he catches it, what does he do with it?
Thats the situation faced by Georgia Republicans, especially Gov.-elect Sonny Perdue. (State Rep. Ben Harbin says its bigger than that; Weve caught the bus, he laughs.)
Specifically, having outrun Roy Barnes in the race to the Governors Mansion (This, in spite of being outspent nearly 4-1, $20 million to $5 million. What happened to the idea of rich Republicans trying to buy their way into office? We havent heard much about that since ol Roy did all the spending. But I digress.) Perdue now has to figure out to do with one issue that helped him get there:
Because there is a big difference between running for office and governing, Perdue would probably love to thank the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other Southern heritage groups for the hatred of Roy Barnes that earned the incumbent a single term in office - and then let it go at that.
Of course, that wont happen. Whether the SCV and other such groups were responsible for Perdues victory is immaterial; they believe they were, and Perdue made promises to them about things hed do if theyd help him get elected.
Well, hes elected, so the flag-wavers did their part. Now Perdue has to do his.
The problem? It was illustrated recently in a story out of Atlanta, the city that has as little in common with the rest of Georgia as pigs have to mint juleps: The Southern Christian Leadership Council, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and that National Collegiate Athletic Association - the SCLC, the NAACP and the NCAA - are waiting to pounce.
If it looks like the Confederate battle flag is making a comeback, those alphabet-soup groups will launch boycotts and threats, making most lily-livered business leaders in Georgia quiver about lost revenue and slumping sales. Jesse Jackson, who made the backroom deal with Barnes to change Georgias flag, is already coming to town to yammer about the Augusta National; hed be more than happy to add flag complaints to his agitation agenda.
So, between the devils and the deep gray sea, what does Perdue do?
Heres my solution.
Set up commission to go around the state, listening to suggestions on what flag would best represent the state of Georgia. (It would be different from the Democrats commission on reapportionment that traveled around the state in 2000 - members of this group would actually listen.)
Once the commission comes up with a new flag or finds a preference for an old one (the pre-1956 is my personal favorite), the recommended design would go to a yes/no binding vote statewide. I say do it in a presidential year, Harbin says, with as many voters as possible. Then, when its over, its over.
Voters would understand, going into the booth, that a yes vote would mean a switch to the commissions flag - and a no vote would retain the banner known as Roys Rag.
The civil rights groups could mount a campaign to keep the current flag, even though they know voters will reject Roys Rag at the ballot box. And the heritage groups could either pragmatically back the commissions flag, or resolve to live in perpetual anger, like Jesse Jackson and his allies, by opposing a new flag that may not be exactly what they want.
And Perdue, having caught the car, would be in the drivers seat.
(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.