As Sine Die looms in the near distance, the theatrics of politics in Georgia go into overdrive. The topics of most interest have already been covered on this blog before with education and transportation taking the cake for most often discussed topics. However, we have been markedly silent on the issue of Religious Freedom.
I have wanted to speak to this issue, but have been hesitant. It is something that I feel both passionate about as a person of faith and who does not necessarily believe that regulations always aid equality or justice. Yet I have a uniquely difficult position: I am genuinely friends with and admire both primary sponsors of the House and Senate versions of the bill and my pastor has openly spoken against both pieces of legislation. The lead lobbyist for the Faith and Freedom Coalition is also a friend, and I have Georgia Equality as a client. When I say I am firmly in the middle, it is not an exaggeration. Most people who know me personally know where I stand on this issue, and therefore my written explanation of my beliefs are probably relatively unnecessary.
However, after sitting in the House Judiciary meeting last Thursday afternoon I thought I would bring a few things to light about some of the proceedings and process, and give a second chance to someone whose courage I deeply admire. This post isn’t about policy; it’s about punditry and leadership.
Erick Erickson, ever-attempting to
be relevant grasp at what little influence he has under the Gold Dome, led the charge of targeting people of his own party. In his rant, Erickson asserted that Rep. Jacobs had been given a Judge seat in exchange for his willingness to be the sacrificial lamb on the altar of the House Judiciary Committee. Jacobs IS considering a seat, but he’s been considering that since at least January, as that’s when I heard about it- at church, no less- from one of his constituents. I’ve had various conversations over the last few months about who will replace him, so to portray that Jacobs had negotiated this position illustrates how disconnected Erickson is from the General Assembly and reinforces my questioning of why anyone chooses to listen to him. Pro-tip: House of Cards ISN’T real.
Jacobs was my hero in that committee meeting- not simply for his policy stance, but for the acknowledgement that he was elected to serve at the will of his constituents, and at THEIR insistence he included anti-discrimination language. That took some courage to stand up to his Majority Leader and to find himself in the minority of his caucus. That courage and deference to his constituency is both admirable and something I will hate to see leave the General Assembly. Godspeed to whatever new mountain he wishes to climb.
In that same vein, my second chance goes to Rep. Beth Beskin. For anyone who may not be aware, I consulted the campaign of Bill Bozarth in her previous election. He ran as an Independent in the only 3-way race in the state. Beskin won not only because the odds were in her favor and because she had good name recognition from a previously run campaign, but because she was persistent and hard working. There were few days in which I knocked on doors in the general in which she had not already knocked upon them. I have not enjoyed seeing her in the halls, House Education meetings, nor have I always agreed with her votes. Yet I can give credit where it is due. Beskin, like Jacobs voted in full committee the will of her constituents. She took Erickson’s pressure and let it roll off her back. She showed more balls in that meeting than some of the men I’ve seen on the House and Senate floors.
Take a good look at her, as she may represent some of the new leadership we may see in the House. It has not gone unnoticed that the House Majority Leader and Whip have been unable to get their caucus united. Personally, I have enjoyed watching the last decade see the rise of Representatives Jan Jones, Donna Sheldon, and Lynne Riley climb to the top because of their ability to tackle challenges head-on, with unflinching principles and an unyielding grace that always know their constituents came first. Beskin may be cut from the same cloth. If so, it is a stronger mettle than what I have seen from many of their male counterparts and will be tough to topple in an election.