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Ruth Bass: No time for peaches — Georgia is ground zero for cynical politics in the run-up to the midterms

RICHMOND — Georgia’s on my mind. Such a busy state right now.

A place where the former president begged the state’s secretary of state to find enough votes to give him a win. A state where the former president is being investigated by authorities for that phone call. A state where a football player running for the Senate seems to have no idea what government is about, the perennial result of too few civics classes in school.

I like to remember Georgia in terms of peaches, pecans bought at a gas station parking lot, lovely visits to an old friend in Athens, a remarkable boat tour through lily pads, exotic birds and alligators at Okefenokee Swamp and sweet Vidalia onions. (But when we ordered a hamburger at a restaurant amid the onion fields, the waitress said it wasn’t with a Vidalia. “Too expensive for us,” she said.)

Suddenly Georgia’s a place where politics involves talk of indictments, Senate candidate Herschel Walker keeps embarrassing his GOP sponsors, and Marjorie Taylor Greene continues to make news with a new absurdity.

When Georgia Republicans chose football player Walker as their Black candidate to oppose the Rev. Raphael Warnock, also Black, they apparently didn’t do the usual vetting. Walker has turned out to have children the pols didn’t know about, a propensity for ignorant statements and involvement with a company that the Associated Press recently reported, “preyed on veterans and service members while defrauding the government.”

A Republican strategist commented that Walker breezed through the primary as an “unknown quantity,” and that as the election nears, “when people are actually paying attention when things matter — I mean, he’s just floundering every single day.”

And the race is tight, despite the fact that Warnock is a thoughtful, highly intelligent senator who has worked to serve Georgia families, especially in health care, voter rights and minimum wage issues. While Walker’s lack of savvy just keeps raising eyebrows.

On another front, many have long laughed or sighed at Marjorie Taylor Greene’s headline-making outbursts. But as the midterms approach, the output of political pundits and polls expands, and some of the respected ones point to Greene’s increasing influence. She’s not a joke, even though she she’s said school shootings aren’t real, and Sandy Hook — where Alec Jones recently met his Waterloo — was fake.

Greene has called COVID “a hoax,” suggested speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “be executed” and illiterately said Pelosi leads the “gazpacho” police. She’s accused the Clintons of killing President Kennedy, claimed no plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, and says she won’t put solar panels on her house because it “doesn’t work at night.”

Thomas Zimmer, writing in the Guardian, points out that Greene stays in the news, and it’s true that her name recognition across America is widespread enough to leave any marketer slack-jawed and giving serious consideration to her secret. Basically, she uses shock.

Zimmer’s piece pointed to her recent smear of her fellow Republicans when she said Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney were “pro-pedophile” because of their vote for making Ketanji Brown Jackson a Supreme Court justice.

The Guardian writer apparently thinks what seems like random, untrue statements about conspiracies and hoaxes — like Greene’s statement that lasers from space started wildfires — are calculated ways to get press and move on up. He cites her video where she fires a sniper rifle at a car with the word “socialism” painted on it. The not very subtle message says violence demands attention.

And now various political commentators are saying she’s a serious influence, some saying she’s the future of the Republican Party, some saying Kevin McCarthy will have to listen to her if he wants to be speaker of the House, if the Republicans gain control of the House in November.

So Marjorie Taylor Greene may be derided or laughed at for announcing that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a Black Lives Matter event. But she’s becoming a force with that undefined “base” everyone talks about. And she knows it.

For a number of reasons, Georgia’s on many minds right now, vocalizing loudly. And it’s not a lovely song.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is www.ruthbass.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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