It’s Not Working


In the last eight dismal years, smart conservatives have started keeping a list. I know I am. You may be too. My list includes names like John Roberts, John Boehner and Mike Huckabee.

The betrayers are legion. We thought they were conservatives, and they sold out the cause. The first re-wrote a law so he could impose Obamacare on us. The second caved to Obama faster than Chris Christie running to Golden Corral so he could return to his red wine and cigarettes. The third let his animosity for Ted Cruz drive him to the feet of Cheetoh Jesus, aiding and abetting the former Democrat’s hostile takeover the GOP. There are many, many more (hey there, Gov. Kasich!).

Given the nation’s political and moral free-fall of the Obama Era, and that our own leaders seem to betray us, anger is not only an acceptable response, it’s a righteous one. Jesus himself got angry at sin, flipping over the tables of the money-changers who were hawking their wares outside the temple.

But after a while, we need to move on from anger and retribution. Now, I believe, is that time.

First of all, from a practical standpoint, we must admit that anger is of limited use in politics. To accomplish anything politically, you must have at least 50 percent of the people on your side. If conservatives are making lists and blasting every potential voter — Trumpkins, protectionists, nativists — as, well, deplorable, that doesn’t help build a working majority. Just ask former presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton how it worked for her.

Secondly, from a spiritual standpoint, we know it’s not productive. Anger is not a sin, but nursing and inflaming it is:

“‘In your anger do not sin’ : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Conservatives have had plenty of reasons to be angry, and surely more will arise today (did you hear Trump wants government-sponsored childcare?). Uggh.

But the sun is going down. It’s time to move on.

One of conservatives’ favorite speeches is Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “Time for Choosing” address in Los Angeles. In it, Reagan gave an epic, and somewhat angry, summation of the battle between liberalism and conservatism as he endorsed the first conservative presidential nominee of the modern era, Barry Goldwater.

“Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government,” he declared, “and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.” 

Conservatives loved the speech. I still watch it when I need inspiration. But it couldn’t save Goldwater from a landslide loss.

Reagan later realized that his angry tone wasn’t a political winner. When he launched into national politics 13 years later, it was as the optimistic, hopeful Reagan that carried us to the high-water mark for conservatism from 1980-88.

After eight years of Obama, the American people are as divided and angry as I’ve seen in my 42 years. But it’s not unprecedented. You may recall we fought a bitter Civil War for four years that killed hundreds of thousands of men. It was brother against brother. Talk about bitter.

As the Confederates retreated in defeat in 1865, many southerners urged Gen. Robert E. Lee to take his ragtag army into the Appalachian mountains to continue a guerilla fight. Lee demurred. He surrendered, and became a college president where by his example and his words he encouraged healing and reconciliation.

In response to the bitterness of a Confederate widow, Lee wrote, “Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.” 

He’s also quoted as saying: “We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.” 

America’s in bad shape. I’m not happy about it. But a band of bitter, backbiting conservatives won’t save the country. I’ll continue to call out John Roberts, John Boehner and Mike Huckabee when it’s appropriate. But maybe I will say a prayer for them as well, and forget about that list. Because after the Trump Show is over, conservatives are still going to need 50 percent plus one to earn the right to govern.

Big day for a Tar Dawg

Here in the South, we identify ourselves by tribe. Not Cherokee or Creek. But Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets or Bears.

While I’m a fourth-generation UGA graduate, the Bulldogs have not always been my tribe. Growing up in Raleigh, N.C., I was such a big Carolina Tar Heel, you’d find black spots on the bottom of my feet. I cried when the powder blue boys lost.

To most people, being a Tar Heel means you’re a basketball fan. The best part of fall for most UNC adherents is the Blue v. White basketball scrimmage. But not me. Since my parents were from Georgia, and my granddad a high school coach, we were football fans. So naturally, I was the world’s biggest, and perhaps only, Carolina football fan.

It didn’t hurt that our neighbor growing up, Rob Rogers, was the placekicker for Carolina in the early 1980s. I’ll never forget Christmas Day 1982 watching the Sun Bowl at his parents’ home as Rob kicked a 53-yard field goal in the snow. He was named MVP when the Tar Heels beat Texas. When we’d go to games in Chapel Hill, we’d get to go by his dorm room and say hey. He used to punt with me in our cul-de-sac. He was my hero.

Alas, I came south for college, following my ancestors to Athens. Having grown up watching ACC football, I felt like I’d died and gone to pigskin paradise that first fall. UNC had 50,000 at their games. UGA had 85,000. UNC fans prepared for the game by parking next to the stadium 10 minutes before kickoff. Tailgating in Athens was an all-day affair of pageantry and pomp. I was hooked after watching Garrison Hearst, Eric Zeier and Andre Hastings lead Georgia to what would be its best season of the Goff Era. (We pause now to mourn those UGA students cursed to matriculate during that era).

Despite the struggling years that followed, like a bulldog, I wasn’t letting go of Georgia football. My Kappa Alpha brothers and I traversed the South for games home and away, to Knoxville, Oxford, Nashville and Jacksonville. I was way overboard.

If I ever learned perspective, it was one late night at Lulu’s Bait Shack in Athens. I looked across the bar and there was our starting quarterback, Mike Bobo (now the head coach at Colorado State), wearing a safari hat and enjoying a gold fish bowl full of blue punch. We were days away from playing Auburn. If the quarterback didn’t care enough about the game to stay out of the bar during the season, perhaps I was overcommitted.

Alas, Mark Richt brought brighter days to Georgia football, and Kirby Smart is expected to do even more. And, in case you haven’t heard, the Bulldogs open the Smart Era on Saturday against the Tar Heels. Despite the fact that the two states adjoin, their flagship universities haven’t met in football in my lifetime. The schools have a lot in common, including a healthy dispute over which was the first land grant college. Georgia had the idea first—the legislature gave UGA a charter in 1785, the first land-grant college to get one. But alas, we couldn’t find the money yet. So UNC, while chartered after UGA, was the first to hold classes.

Both schools’ football stadiums, Kenan at UNC and Sanford at UGA, were built on campus in natural valleys in the 1920s by the same architect.

Carolina and Georgia have met 30 times with the Bulldogs holding a 16-12-2 advantage. One of those early games was played in Macon. The two teams were original members of the Southern Conference in 1921.

The last meeting was a 7-3 Georgia victory in the 1971 Gator Bowl. That game was a battle of the Dooley brothers, pitting UGA’s Vince Dooley vs. UNC’s Bill Dooley. Sadly, the latter died earlier this year, just months before he was to appear at the game.

I’m not sure your plans for Saturday, but our clan, all 10 of us, will be going full Tar Dog at the Georgia Dome. I asked my 12-year-old nephew Charlie which team he was going to support. He did not speak for me when he said: “Whoever’s winning!” Go Dawgs!

will color unc