Matt Towery
Being a native of Atlanta, I always resented media depictions and popular culture images of Georgia as a state where everyone wore overalls, had three teeth in their head, and liberally used terms like "ain't" and "gonna" in their daily vocabulary. The problem is when reality programs like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" depict exactly that, well, it starts to become a losing battle.

In the past, I would have written how metropolitan Atlanta has a population of nearly 6 million, many of whom are from somewhere other than Georgia. I would have noted that race relations in the state are much better than in most others simply because so many African-Americans, whites and those of other ethnic backgrounds share the same workplace and communities that one simply cannot survive either economically or socially without embracing a truly inclusive approach to life. I probably would have noted that, for those who are young or gay, the Atlanta area basically leads even cities such as San Francisco in both numbers and opportunities.

But I won't let pride of my native land get in the way of reality. Right now, Georgia is a bruised and suffering Peach State. It is a state in need of a real "pick me up."

Because the housing boom of the early 2000s met up with the post-1996 Olympic rush of humanity to metro Atlanta, when the economy went bust, the impact was double that to Georgia versus most other states. And while other neighboring states are showing signs of recovery, unemployment remains extremely high, and two polls taken this week show a vast majority of citizens saying the economy is either not improving for them or, by a large percentage, getting worse.

I don't think politicians are much to blame for the mess. But if one wants to play the political blame game, there is more than enough to cover the state's famous red clay. For Democrats, the bad news is that Barack Obama's approval rating in the state has plummeted in recent weeks. For Republicans, the bad news is that they control both executive and legislative branches of government.

The Democrats in Georgia for years have been drifting too far to the left and thus cannot field a candidate capable of winning major office. And with that image, even strong moderates and conservatives like former Gov. Roy Barnes have been unable to capture high office running as a Democratic nominee.

For Republicans, it is a different story. Their legislature has been bogged down in endless bills designed to micromanage everyone's life in the state. If there has been a "hot" issue that seemed to press the public's button, they have played to it, in spades.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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