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Once Upon a Time in Georgia

At an educational institution in GA a couple of months ago, the full faculty voted on whether or not to change an important policy, one that applied to just about every aspect of how the institution would conduct its business. The faculty had been debating the issue for many weeks, if not longer, and passions were running high on both sides, though a significant number were ambivalent or not particularly interested.

Because of the covid crisis, the faculty allowed for certain accommodations (in accord with their bylaws) when it came time for the final debate and vote. 30 faculty members met in person, while 46 others joined via Zoom, and 24 others authorized proxy votes on their behalf. 67 other faculty members did not participate or officially abstained.

Of the 30 who met in person, 11 voted for the policy changes, while 19 voted against it.

Of the 46 who joined the meeting remotely, 26 voted for the policy changes, while 20 voted against it.

Of the 24 who authorized proxy votes, 14 voted for the policy changes, while 10 voted against.

When the live, remote, and proxy votes were tallied, 51 faculty had voted in favor of the policy changes, 49 voted against it. The faculty officially approved the changes to the policy.

Those who had worked to pass the motion for the policy changes were pleased. Those who had worked to prevent the changes were disappointed.

Of course, nothing is ever final in academic institutions, and the faculty would have an opportunity to vote on the issue again a couple of years later. As might be expected, those who opposed the policy changes began to strategize how they might get a different outcome in the next vote.

At such an institution, faculty members would normally try to persuade their colleagues to change their minds by engaging them in transparent public debate, by making a reasoned case as to why a particular set of policies would serve the best interests of the institution as a whole and/or the faculty members individually. They might also reach out to the 67 faculty members who abstained from the initial vote, especially those who seemed sympathetic to their positions. Or they might propose yet a new policy, one that they saw as a compromise that could reach a broader consensus.

In short, this is how a healthy, civilized democratic body functions.

But that’s not how it happened. Or rather, that’s not how it’s happening.

Instead, some key participants observed that while those who voted in person were overwhelmingly opposed to the policy change, the large numbers of those who voted remotely and by proxy were enough to swing the majority the other way. What’s more, those same participants noticed that the majority of faculty sitting on the institution’s bylaws committee were themselves opposed to the policy change. And so, they realized that they could avoid the necessity to persuade colleagues through open debate, if the committee would simply change the bylaws to place greater restrictions on remote and proxy voting in the future. That is, they could achieve the result they desired not through a fair democratic vote, but by trying to control who could participate in the democratic process.

Welcome, friends, to the state of Georgia.

The republican party, which had controlled local politics and presidential elections for the past two decades, suffered a staggering double-barreled loss last week, one which delivered the Senate to the democrats and will therefore have profound effects on national politics and policy. It’s fair to say that the party leadership really was stunned, and even humiliated.

So, what are they doing in response? Are they making a public case why their policies and priorities will better serve Georgia voters? Are they reaching out to new constituencies to try to expand their base of support? Are they modulating their platform and messaging to adapt to Georgia’s changing demographics?

No, no, and no. Having lost the presidential election and the two senate races fair and square, they are doing what republicans do, i.e., trying to undercut the democratic process by making it harder for early and absentee voters to vote in the future. So the state republican caucus has promised to “fix” the voter “abuses” that somehow allowed the democrats to win. And before anyone outside of Georgia tries to nominate Brad Raffensperger for sainthood just because he stood up to Trump and certified the state for Biden, you may want to take notice that Saint Bradford is now pushing policies like eliminating no-excuse absentee voting and doing away with ballot drop-boxes.

As Charles Pierce wrote yesterday in Esquire, “there can be no talk of 'unity' or bipartisan anything until the Republican Party makes one basic conciliatory move: it must give up on voter-suppression as a national policy.”

And presumably the Toteboard doesn’t have to connect the dots between voter suppression and the insurrection by an aggrieved minority.

Note: Trump may conceivably have only hours or days left in his abominable presidency, and it is not too late for you to weigh in on which gratuitous acts of destruction Trump will commit before he leaves (or is forced out of) office for good.

PS: The Toteboard would STILL like to hear from you, but time is running out! Who do YOU think will be the democratic and republican nominees for president in 2024? Of course, the Toteboard has its own ideas, but it might be fun to hear what everyone else is thinking. Send your predictions to the Toteboard sometime between now and Biden’s inauguration, and we’ll announce the results shortly thereafter. And by the way, whoever gets it correct will win the prize of Lifetime Gratification.


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