Opinion:What happened in the 6th shouldn’t be so rare


We get a contested congressional election, and look what happens.

People get excited, even passionate. Voters begin to believe again that politics can matter, that they themselves matter, that they can play a meaningful role in their own governance. Something approaching democracy breaks out, contentious and splendid and a little unruly. The system has life once more.

At least for a passing moment.

Look at a map. Look at history. The boundaries of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District were drawn to ensure that only Republicans could compete and win there. Only a set of extraordinary circumstances — the election of Donald Trump and his ongoing lack of popularity, a vacancy created by the appointment of U.S. Rep. Tom Price to Trump’s Cabinet, the absence of an obvious Republican replacement — could create even a semblance of drama in the race. As I write this, I don’t know whether Democrat Jon Ossoff has pulled off the miracle, but I do know that a miracle it would be.

The same is true throughout the state, in districts both Republican and Democratic. In five of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts, the partisan imbalance is so overwhelming that last fall, nobody of the opposing party even filed to run. Voters in those five districts literally had no choice in who was going to represent them in Congress.

In the remaining nine districts, including the 6th, the concept of choice was illusory at best. None of the nine “contested” races was decided by fewer than 20 points. In a state that Trump won by just 5 percentage points, the average margin of victory in “contested” congressional races was 35.5 points. That’s ridiculous.

In the state Legislature, the situation is even worse. In the 180-member Georgia House, 149 candidates faced no general-election competition last fall from the supposedly “opposing” party. Think about that: We like to tell ourselves that we live in a representative democracy, a republic, yet the truth is that almost 83 percent of Georgians did not get to choose who would represent them in Atlanta. It was chosen for them.

And yes, money also plays a critical role both in outcomes and growing public cynicism. Republicans are right: The 6th has been a contest only because of angry Democrats around the country who were looking for an outlet for that anger and who found it in an unknown candidate in far-off Georgia, running in a deeply Republican district. “Only $1 in every $20 raised for Democrat Jon Ossoff came from people inside GA-6,” as a tweet last week from the Republican National Committee in Washington pointed out.

However, the RNC did not happen to mention that it and other Washington Republicans have also been fully engaged in the 6th, investing millions of dollars in attack ads against Ossoff. How much of that money was raised from people within the district? Shoot, how much came from people of any kind, anywhere? We don’t know the answer. If you, as a citizen, want to give $200 to a candidate, your contribution must be publicly reported. If you’re a billionaire or a corporation wanting to invest $2 million in a particular political cause, the system gives you multiple ways to do so with complete anonymity.

So yes, given all that, what has happened in the 6th District is indeed bordering on the extraordinary. You can take that as a sign of a healthy republic but in fact it’s the opposite. It shouldn’t take the extraordinary to give people a voice, an actual choice. It shouldn’t require a once-in-a-lifetime confluence of unusual events and personalities to render democracy viable again in this one district, in this one election cycle.

But it has.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Readers Write: Dec. 11

Founders wrote Constitution to protect ‘God’s law’ Kudos to Cal Thomas for having the courage to write a column (“Our culture needs return to conservative morals,” Opinion, Dec. 2) that lays the blame for America’s current immoral state squarely where it belongs: on America’s rejection of “the laws of...
COMMENTARY: Watch out — Republicans are coming for your benefits

Republicans don’t care about budget deficits, and never did. They only pretend to care about deficits when one of two things is true: a Democrat is in the White House, and deficit rhetoric can be used to block his agenda, or they see an opportunity to slash social programs that help needy Americans, and can invoke deficits as an excuse. All of...
Opinion: Is flirting sexual harassment?

In 2003 a genetics paper revealed that one in 200 men alive in that year was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan (1162-1227). Khan was the Mongol emperor whose armies swept out of the north to conquer pretty much all of Asia. His successors took big chunks of Europe as well. When Marco Polo traveled to China, he met the conqueror’s grandson Kublai...
Opinion: Free speech for me, not for thee

“Our rights come from our creator, and no earthly force can ever take those rights away, and they never will,” said President Donald #Trump during his “Make America Great Again” rally in Pensacola, #Florida. https://t.co/23mOEGfkvK pic...
Opinion: Republicans’ tax wager is worth the gamble

WASHINGTON — The Republicans’ tax legislation is built on economic projections that are as confidently as they are cheerfully made concerning the legislation’s shaping effect on the economy over the next 10 years. This claim to prescience must amaze alumni of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, which were 85 and 158 years old, respectively...
More Stories