By DAVID W. MARSHALL
The Reconciled Body
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Within the past week, Sen. Raphael Warnock reminded the nation how much we are all interconnected politically in how voters’ decisions from Georgia touch all of us in the fight for power. It is understandable why Georgia’s Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said he did not vote for his party’s GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker in the runoff election against Warnock (He didn’t vote for either candidate). In doing so, did he consider why the decision-makers within his party saw fit to have a former football star from Texas represent Georgia and the nation as a U.S. senator?
While it may be a politically motivated question, it is driven by the desire to have competence fill the position. After a person gets sick, they want to recover and remain as healthy as possible. Therefore, when they go to any physician, they want a person of competence in that position. The same is true when hiring a plumber or mechanic. Does it make sense for any concerned citizen to knowingly want incompetence representing any part of our House or Senate institutions? When we struggle to make sense of Herschel Walker’s candidacy and the million-plus people who voted for him, it is not a partisan struggle but a patriotic one.
The political drama in Georgia is an apparent confirmation and continuation of the GOP’s loyalty to obtaining power instead of choosing to care for and protect the U.S. House and Senate as national institutions. It aligns with the “win-at-any-cost” revolution and blueprint set forth by another Georgian, former U.S. representative, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich turned typical partisan battles into a political blood sport, recklessly damaged Congress, and paved the way for Donald Trump’s rise to power. In one of his floor speeches, House Speaker Tip O’Neill said of Gingrich’s attacks, “It’s the lowest thing that I’ve ever seen in my 32 years in Congress!” Gingrich took O’Neil’s words as a badge of honor and continued introducing rhetoric and tactics that have shaped Congress and the Republican Party for the last three decades.
In 1978, speaking to a group of College Republicans while campaigning for his third attempt at Congress, Gingrich said: “One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal, and faithful, and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire but are lousy in politics.” For the GOP to succeed, Gingrich described how the next generation of Republicans would have to learn to “raise hell,” to stop being so “nice” to realize that politics was, above all, a cutthroat “war for power” – and to start acting like it.
The hard-charging Gingrich believed that the most important objective for the Republican Party should be to win back control of the House from the Democrats, who had consistently been the majority party since 1955. A few months later, he was finally elected to the House of Representatives, where he quickly rose to become one of the most powerful officials in America, not through innovative ideas or charisma but through a calculated campaign of attacks against political opponents. His strategy was to blow up the bipartisan coalitions essential to legislating and then seize on the resulting dysfunction as the opening to wage a populist crusade against the institution of Congress itself. He came into office in the post-Watergate era and weaponized the good government reforms recently put into place to fight corruption, wielding the rules in ways that even shocked the legislators who created them.
Gingrich masterminded a media campaign against House Speaker Jim Wright that suggested (with scant evidence) that Wright was corrupt, leading to the Texan’s resignation from the speakership in 1989. The House of Representatives was ultimately transformed into an arena for conflict and drama. The following year, GOPAC, Gingrich’s campaign organization, urged Republican candidates to use inflammatory words such as “traitors,” “shallow,” and “sick” to describe their political opponents. In carrying out the “win-at-any-cost” strategy, it led the GOP to its first majority in Congress in decades. By gaining the power they wanted, it didn’t matter that their accusations of corruption permanently tarnished their opponents. This brand of warfare worked with Republican voters not as a strategy for governance but as a path to power. It’s all about getting the power and keeping it. Democrats, for their part, were alarmed but did not want to sink to his level and took no effective action to stop him.
Michelle Obama, in her speech during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, said: “When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, ‘When they go low, we go high.’” In defeating Herschel Walker, Warnock won four general elections in the last two years by being a candidate of competence, fair play, and common decency. In four elections, there was never a need to sink to the “win-at-any-cost” strategy. Warnock’s win was also significant for Black voters who remained focused, organized and fought through numerous voting restriction attempts.
Despite the high turnout numbers, the threat of voter suppression is still very real. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger tried to enforce a state law forbidding in-person early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, Warnock successfully sued to prevent the law from going into effect. Republican leaders still don’t get it. While the Trump/Gingrich brand of toxic campaign tactics was effective in the past, don’t underestimate Joe Biden and voters of color.
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com.