Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

Elections should be about the future, even in Georgia

There are at least two basic lessons I’ve learned about elections from my years of reporting on politics.

One lesson is that elections should be about the future. A successful candidate is generally the one who most effectively demonstrates to voters that he or she has fresh ideas for solving the problems confronting the community or for moving things along in a new direction.

A candidate who’s stuck in the past or just wants to keep fighting the last war, on the other hand, is generally going to have a harder time inspiring people to go to the polls and vote for them.

With that in mind, I’ve been wondering what Michelle Nunn’s people think they’re doing in mapping the strategy for her U.S. Senate campaign.

Nunn, the Democrat in this race, has based a lot of her campaign appeal on the fact that she’s the daughter of Sam Nunn, the retired senator. Sam Nunn has certainly helped his daughter raise funds for her race, thanks to his many connections in Washington, and he even appeared in one of her TV commercials.

While he did a commendable job, for the most part, of serving Georgia in the U.S. Senate, Sam Nunn is almost 76 years old and sounding a little creaky in the joints. The last time his name even appeared on an election ballot was in 1990.

Nunn’s other big campaign event of the past week was to trot out an endorsement from another storied name in Georgia politics, former governor and senator Zell Miller.

Miller’s even older than Sam Nunn, turning 82 earlier this year. In the TV commercial he shot for Michelle Nunn, you can see that Miller has cut off most of his hair and is sporting a crewcut again. It’s a hairstyle that looks rather odd on him but probably makes Miller think fondly of his service in the U.S. Marine Corps – which was nearly 60 years ago.

Although Miller is someone who’s well known to Georgians of a certain age, it has also been a while since the last time his name was on an election ballot – that was back in 2000.

We have a situation where the dominant images of Michelle Nunn’s campaign are two old men who haven’t served in elected office in quite some time and may not be that well known to a generation of young voters who have never seen their names on an election ballot. I’m not sure that’s the best way to send a message that your campaign is all about the future.

The other basic lesson I learned very early was that if you’re an incumbent, you run on your record. If you’re not the incumbent, you run against the incumbent’s record.

You would expect to see that dynamic in this year’s race for governor between Gov. Nathan Deal and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Jason Carter.

You would think that Deal, who’s finishing up his first term in the governor’s mansion, would want to spend his time and resources emphasizing his accomplishments of the past four years.

Instead, the governor is trying to make the race all about Jason Carter’s grandfather, former president Jimmy Carter.

In recent weeks, Deal has picked at the younger Carter because of Jimmy Carter’s views on the current conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in the Middle East.

“I would like to know where he stands on his grandfather’s pronouncements most recently, as I read one of the articles classifying the acts of the Israelis in protecting themselves as amounting to war crimes,” Deal said. “I certainly don’t agree with things like that. I think they’re inflammatory and I don’t think they’re true.”

A few days after that, Deal was attacking Jason Carter over Jimmy Carter’s statements on global warming and a carbon tax he supports.

“It is a dangerous policy and if people are subscribing to a cap and trade policy that President Carter is advocating than they should think very hard about having a governor who supports that,” Deal said.

Georgia has a lot of issues for the next governor, whoever he is, to deal with: boosting the state’s funding of local schools, figuring out a way to fix our crumbling highways, and coming up with ideas to address an unemployment rate that has started to increase again. Neither Israel nor the Hamas militants are going to create a single job here or have any impact on Georgia’s roads and schools.

What Jimmy Carter might think about Palestinians is largely irrelevant to the average Georgian — so why are candidates wasting time talking about him in this governor’s race?

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

Tags: governor\'s race , Jason Carter , Jimmy Carter , Michelle Nunn , Nathan Deal , Sam Nunn , Senate race , Zell Miller

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