Redistricting Causes Conundrum for House District 57 Voters

“Divide et imperia” (divide and rule) is as old as the Roman Empire when Julius Caesar, after his victory in Gaul, returned to Rome to divide and oust the Senate to become the sole ruler of Rome. Like Julius Caesar, the Republicans in Georgia have attempted to divide traditional Democratic political associates forcing allies into a primary battle for their respective political survival.

In an attempt to “politically assassinate” white Democratic incumbents, the Republicans drew district maps that pitted white Democratic incumbents against African American Democratic incumbents in majority minority districts. In the case of the House District 57 race, Pat Gardner, a white, gay-friendly legislator ended up in a majority minority district running against Rashad Taylor who is an openly gay, African American Democrat.

Interestingly, this race is in many ways reminiscent of the 1997 6th district Atlanta City Council race between Cathy Woolard and Mary Davis. How so? Like the 1997 race, for many of the residents of the newly drawn 57th district, the conversation will boil down to a debate on “we want vs. they want.”

For example, when Woolard ran, she was blasted by many in the LBGT community for running against gay-friendly Mary Davis. Woolard argued that the 6th district was the only possible seat in 1997 that a gay person could possibly win. She went further to note that when Mary Davis discusses LBGT issues the conversation is ‘they want, they need’ while if she were elected, the conversation would be “my community wants, my community needs”. That very powerful argument won over many recalcitrant gay activists of the day and Woolard went on to win the election becoming Georgia’s first openly gay elected official.

In many respects, the “we vs. they” conversations of 1997 debate holds true for the current Gardner vs. Taylor race. Pat Gardner gets to say “we vs. they” on women’s issues, family issues, and to the white voters in her district. Rashid Taylor gets to say “we vs. they” as an African American male in a majority black district and for the LBGT community. On most other measures they are equally vocal representative for labor and a variety of other causes.

A recent e-mail invitation to a Rashad Taylor fundraiser shows the Black Democratic leadership at the State Capitol and other Black local elected officials coalescing around Taylor. But it would be a big mistake to portray Pat Gardner as the underdog in this contest. The district is barely majority minority and Gardner has some strong ties to the African American community. She has been a vocal advocate for the LBGT community, labor, women’s health, the City of Atlanta and Fulton County – and, she is a relentless campaigner.

These two candidates really deserve to be re-elected, but, thanks to the Republican controlled General Assembly one will go down in defeat. The Republicans, unlike Julius Caesar will not be uttering “Et tu Brute?’ but, rather “Absens haeres non erit” (“An absent person will not be an heir” [to power] thus maintaining their power by systematically eliminating their Democratic rivals through the redistricting process.

Comments

  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    It seems that the Republicans learned well during the 140 years of Democratic domination under the Gold Dome. The Democrats have no valid reason to complain. As Tom Lehrer sang about LBJ, “When Lyndon, remembering when he was VP, said ‘I’ll do unto them like they did unto me.”

  2. That’s the way it is, at least, for the next ten years. Democrats should be wise to compete against each other in such a fashion they do not destroy the party.

  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Harold, I agree.
    Georgia Democrats should develop a platform that speaks to all Georgians, not just the remaining Democratic strongholds. Repeating what isn’t working now, won’t work in the future.

  4. Talking Points 4U says:

    This is where the “rubber meets the road.” Now, it will be about who has the ear of the community and/or district they will represent. It provides the voter an opportunity to see who really represents their interests. You can’t sit back on your laurels and expect folks to somehow know you are doing the people’s work. It’s definitely show and tell time! Democrats can’t cry we did it to them every chance we got!

  5. Glen McDaniel says:

    Redistricting and gerrymandering are as old as, well..Elbridge Gerry back in 1812. If we keep up the escalating “You did this so when I get a chance I will sock it to you ten times as bad” philosophy that some espouse, this tit-for-tat will never end. The country and Georgia have become way more conservative in recent years so that there is a scary degree of selfishness, xenophobia, callousness and the obsession with producing a society and a legislature that is “100% identical to ME.” This si often couched in terms of shared values when it is really prejudice and intolerance.

    The Democrats, I think, are way too apologetic of principled positions and way too willing to throw each other under the bus. Stand for our principles, but dont wimp out with every lie or criticism from the opposition.

  6. TIMOTHY WILLIAMS says:

    It so unfortunate that our nations politics are predicated on race in each political party. There are some Black elected officials in our communities that should discharged due to their criminal and ill-willed conduct in their constituency. Historically our nation has really loss its true potential a leaders in the world because we are divided due to race. The in fighting deprives us of an opportunity to be inclusive of all people and grow as we are capable. God Bless America….

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