Bait and switch and other games politicians play

February 13, 2013 

Bait and switch

1: A sales tactic in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item but is then encouraged to buy a higher-priced one.

2: The ploy of offering a person something desirable to gain favor (as political support) then thwarting expectations with something less desirable.

-- Merriam-Webster

Bait and switch is the term used by Reps. Nikki Randall and James Beverly in reference to the vote in the House on Tuesday to make many of the offices in the new consolidated government -- mayor, county commission, Macon-Bibb County Water and Sewerage Authority, school board, coroner, probate judge, chief magistrate judge and judge of the Civil Court of Bibb County -- nonpartisan. Republicans supported the measure, Democrats did not, but was it a bait and switch?

The reason Randall, Beverly and state Sen. David Lucas opposed the measures to create a nonpartisan government has to do with last year’s negotiations to get consolidation on the ballot. Republicans wanted the sheriff to be the top cop while Democrats wanted an appointed police chief. Republicans, particularly Rep. Allen Peake, wanted nonpartisan elections.

So they compromised (certainly this was not the only issue debated). The sheriff is top cop and partisan elections were the order of the day -- until Tuesday.

It’s hard to be part of a bait and switch when you know the okeydoke is coming. We don’t know if they shook hands or not, but Peake had been clear in his intentions starting in 2010 when he supported a bill authored by his Republican colleague in the Senate, Cecil Staton, that included nonpartisan elections. During the 2011 session, Peake introduced a nonpartisan elections consolidation bill that passed the House in February of that year. In November 2012, Peake said, “Nonpartisan elections are, I think, what the community wants.”

There was no switch in the bait. Neither Randall, Beverly and certainly not Lucas, though he was not in state government when the consolidation proposal was debated, are naive enough to believe Republicans wouldn’t try to get all of the marbles. That’s politics, and with Republicans dominating the local delegation, the House and Senate, the outcome of the nonpartisan fight was a fait accompli.

Nonpartisan elections is an idea whose time has finally come. While some see this as political maneuvering to tamp down Democratic strength, it does nothing of the sort. If you accept that more African-Americans vote Democratic, then there’s no chance of disenfranchisement. Registered African-American voters make up 49 percent of the Bibb County electorate compared to 46 percent white and 4 percent other.

If African-Americans turn out as they did in November, they can win any office they want. That scenario is what Republicans now fear and what Democrats must now count on.

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