ERICKSON: Ending Republican dominance

February 22, 2013 

In 2002, the Georgia Republican Party upset the balance of power in Georgia. The Democrats had seen the writing on the wall and began redistricting the state to prevent the inevitable.

State representatives found themselves stacked into multi-member districts. State senators from the coast found themselves representing narrow districts covering half the state. Congressmen found themselves in U shaped districts that could be pole vaulted over from one side to the other across a separate district entirely.

The gerrymandering was not enough. The weight of history bore down on the Democrats. Sonny Perdue beat Roy Barnes. The courts threw out the redistricting and Republicans won the state Senate. What began at the congressional level in 1994 when the Republicans suddenly found themselves the majority in the congressional delegation ended in 2004 with the Republicans firmly in charge of the state government.

By 2006, when Republican strength collapsed nationwide, Republicans solidified their hold on Georgia. With the arrival of Barack Obama into the White House in 2008, no Democrats held statewide office in Georgia.

2014 will not be the turn of the tide for the Democrats. But 2014 will be the high water mark for the Georgia Republican Party. “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” wrote the hand on the wall in front of Belshazzar in Daniel 5. God had numbered the days of his rule, he had been found wanting, and his kingdom was divided between the Medes and Persians.

The Georgia Republican Party should be on watch for handwriting on the wall at their party office. The party has done nothing to expand its coalition in Georgia. It has done little to differentiate itself from the Democrats on business issues.

Many of the Republicans who run the state were Democrats until the shift in the ’90s and 2000s. Georgia, now in its second Republican governorship, has yet to have a Republican governor who was not a convert by convenience.

Republicans in other states have shifted their states in directions designed to bring in new types of business and spur economic growth. Georgia has been very status quo. At the core of state tax and regulatory policy, Georgia Republicans have done little different from the Zell Miller or Roy Barnes years.

Democrats may not like them because they are Republicans, but the substantive policy differences between the Democrats who last controlled Georgia and the Republicans who control it now are marginal. The biggest shift has been in the Democratic Party, which is now a coalition of blacks and urban white liberals. It is a coalition that has pushed the Democrats outside the mainstream in Georgia.

A new generation of Democratic leaders recognizes this. The Democrats recognize they have to connect again with white suburban and exurban voters in Georgia. Against a national trend, Georgia’s present coalition of Democrats, scare voters with a social liberalism out of tune with Georgia and a liberal economic populism that scares business.

The danger for the Republicans is that the Democrats will soon find an acceptable balance in their policies and hire a competent party chief. The Republicans have, for a decade now, been pushed along by inertia. They have not advanced their coalition or their policies. They have offered few new ideas. They have moved a lot, but not down the field.

The saving grace for Georgia Republicans has been an incompetent Democratic Party. The Democrats will find their footing and competence. When they do, a Georgia Republican Party that has become very complacent will find that it is not as competitive as it thinks.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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