The Overton Window

For those of you who don’t know, the Overton Window is the term for the range of policies acceptable to the main-stream public.

This is a critical concept to keep in mind when discussing the 2020 election. Although I can’t say with absolute certainty that Biden and Harris will win this election, it’s looking like a better bet with each passing hour. And, in a bizarre flip, Georgia is now a battleground state. A friend of mine pointed out that Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader/Surprised Turtle, remains in power, sort of, several blue house seats were nabbed by Republicans, and there is no clear Senate Majority at the moment (mid-day, 11/6/2020) — and that the senate seats in Georgia will be determined in a special election.

I told my friend that, in focusing on McConnell remaining in office, he’s focusing on the wrong thing. Folks, Georgia is now a battleground state. Before we move on, I think it might behoove us to consider classic connotations of Georgia. Pour yourself a drink or light a cigarette, if need be, make yourself comfortable.

Whenever we discuss Georgia, remember, this is the most hard-core, regressively Confederate state in the Union. In the name of being proud of one’s roots (as Georgians are), I’d like to point out that there is a solid chance one of my Midwestern ancestors had a hand in civilizing the South, along with Sherman. For any Southerners who find that joke in bad taste, I’d like to remind them that’s how BIPOC folks probably feel about the numerous monuments to obscure generals (who, by an amazing coincidence, just happened to be Klan members), not to mention that is exactly how the European conquest of the Americas is framed. Where was I? Right; whenever racism, bigotry, or xenophobia in America is discussed, Texas is always mentioned, but Georgia is the traditional home of racial and economic inequities, Song of the South, and good ol’ boy hatreds of the great Other. Whoever that is at any given moment.

Folks, Georgians have become so sick of the current GOP that Biden and Harris have a slim lead. That is huge, culturally. First, it signals the end of “safe” states or “safe” Senate seats — our politicians will suddenly be thrown into the same free-for-all market that the American public has been forced into for the last 40 years. And that’s a good thing. It actually shifts the Overton Window away from “cannibalism-based economy” to, “What is the proper role of federal government in solving our collective problems.”

I watched an interview with Mike Huckabee (he of Arkansas — the poor man’s Georgia) on The Daily Show a number of years ago (eleven years ago), in which he pointed out that the modern GOP has been infiltrated with hard-core Libertarians. He pointed out that traditional conservatives want small, defined, efficient government (if you want cognitive dissonance, try being a lifelong leftist and finding yourself agreeing with the Huckabees), not “no government at all,” which is what Grover Norquist, talk radio, the Tea Party, and, eventually, M. McConnell and Donald came to embody — utter national anarchy and chaos (even though I wouldn’t want anyone in the Democratic or Green Party to claim the title, given the GOP’s recent history of criminality and distaste for due process, they could absolutely claim to be the law and order party). If Georgia politely stands up and says, “This sweet tea has soured on me” (someone should tell me if that’s an actual idiom, I’ve never actually been to Georgia), that signals a fundamental shift in how the GOP is going to have to operate.

For years, the GOP has been about cruelty and chaos for the sake of both. Listening to Glenn Beck in 2008 (not advised), I got the very clear message, “I got mine, everyone else can go to hell!” I have not seen that memo from the Trump Administration, but I feel that it will be revealed to the public at some point during the Biden/Harris administration (side-note: apparently, it’s a common fear on Reddit that Biden will die soon, and leave the country run by — gasp — a black woman)(I pointed out that’s a campaign promise, not a threat). But, if Georgia becomes a battleground state, it does mean that the national conversation shifts from, “How far below the poverty line must my serfs be before I can hunt them for sport,” to, “What is the best way to ensure all Americans are housed, working, and adequately-insured?” I have a number of more-moderate Republican friends (who would’ve been just considered Republicans in 1972) who don’t really care about gay marriage, abortion, undocumented immigrants getting driver’s licenses, or any of the numerous wedge-issues that fringe groups have thrown to the GOP and detracted from the classic message of the party; “Lower taxes for all. Better opportunities for all. Less government infringement upon personal choices. Less red tape. Less foreign intervention.” I don’t agree with all of that message, but it’s a solid starting point where reasonable people can start discussing complex problems like the national debt, healthcare reform, labor relations, immigration reform, and international relations that require nuanced, well-researched approaches. There’s room for discussion, research, debate, negotiation, compromise, and all of those really boring-but-necessary things required for good governance. These are all the things M. McConnell, the Tea Party, and Donald have spat upon for the last four years. And that message is a fundamentally more sound one than the calls for cannibalism that we’ve heard since Donald stumbled into office and emboldened bigots everywhere.

I don’t expect that we’re going to live in some glorious utopia at any point in the near future. But, I do expect the GOP to go back and reexamine how the same rhetoric that brought down the Blue Wall in 2016 rebuilt it in 2020. And, I expect the debate to be centered not on how society can cut social services to all and give those savings to the wealthiest donors, but on which social services need to be revamped, better-funded, or cut while providing the best outcome in a pandemic. We’ve had four years of political chaos and rule by whim and impulse, and, on Tuesday (or, slightly before Tuesday, if you voted by mail, as a lot of us did), the fine people of Georgia had the sense to say, “Enough,” and vote accordingly. I only hope the GOP hears that message, and revises their platform accordingly.

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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