Charles E. Richardson

Looking for that special quality: Courage when it really counts

I’ve been searching for something this election cycle. It’s one of those I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it kind of things. I saw it in Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the primary season. Kasich didn’t jump into the moshpit with the other hogs. He realized that when that happens, everybody comes out looking and smelling like pigs. Obviously, Republican voters were looking for something different or he’d be the Republican nominee. They wanted red meat, and boy did they get it.

Kasich also didn’t smile and play nice at the Republican National Convention even though it was in his state. He didn’t cause a scene like Ted Cruz, but he also didn’t smile and play the loyal-to-the-end party guy. I respect when a politician has convictions in a difficult time. It shows me what kind of man — or woman — they are. Courage is the trait I’ve been on the hunt for.

I experienced another politician of that ilk, but he’s not running for president. Depending on what happens in November, he’ll either be hailed as a sage or castigated as a traitor. The first title he wouldn’t accept and the second he doesn’t deserve.

Who is he? Macon’s own Allen Peake. It’s not the first time he’s shown courage. He took on medical marijuana in the face of daunting odds. Politically, it was the wrong thing to do. Personally, there was nothing else he could do.

The medical marijuana legislative fight has not been without political cost. Peake was on the leadership team in the House. The operative word is “was.” When you buck the governor, payback is swift.

Now the Republican nominee for president has brought Peake to another personal point of departure from not just the governor of the state, but the leader of the Republican Party. Peake could have done one of three things.

1. He could have kept his mouth shut. Not his race. Don’t get involved.

2. He could have talked the party line as many, I’m sure, expected him to do, or

3. He could publicly declare his thoughts.

He chose what was behind curtain No. 3.

He wrote, “While the medical marijuana issue or my own self-inflicted mistakes may have cost me any potential run for a future statewide office, my honest assessment of Donald Trump and the future of our party may be the death blow to my political future. But I’ve come to grips with that and I’m good with it.

“The reality is that Donald Trump as our nominee makes me incredibly fearful for the future of our party. We have alienated Hispanics and African-Americans, both groups who would support us if we stuck to an agenda focused on jobs and the economy. We have made ourselves enemies of the gay community. And from discussions with my gay brother, many would support us, because many are moderate on social issues but fiscally conservative.

“And millennials have written us off because of our stances on issues like medical marijuana and gay marriage. So, as a party, we are basically working ourselves toward extinction. And if we don’t do some soul searching and make efforts to reach out to these groups, that’s where we end up.

To remain a vibrant party, we have to stay focused on the core Republican principles – smaller government, less government intrusion on our lives, and more personal responsibility for individuals. If we remain true to those principles, we can, and will, remain a positive influence on our country for generations to come. That’s my hope and my prayer for my party.”

The Republican Party bigwigs know this. They have the same information Peake has, but they may be missing Peake’s experiences. Running a chain of restaurants will teach you a thing or two about people. You see all kinds; you hire all shades, all genders — and all kinds of people spend money. You soon find out that all sorts of people have good work ethics and want to advance and don’t deserve the demeaning language being heard coming from the head of the party.

Peake also knows something about forecasting. Georgia won’t go blue in 2016, but God help the Trump supporters up for election or reelection in 2020 and maybe earlier in 2018 when the governor’s office opens up. It might not be a good time to have a Trumpian elephant around your neck.