Thomasville Times Enterprise

January 25, 2014

Meeting of the minds

Mark Lastinger

— More than five years have passed since Randy Young and I first wondered aloud if other voters were as fed up with our political leadership as we were. We invited folks who felt likewise to show up at the Thomasville Municipal Auditorium. More than 700 obliged.

We were stunned by the turnout and the level of disgust many in the crowd voiced that day.

Sadly, not much as changed. If anything, the outrage has only intensified as Congress and the General Assembly have stumbled and bumbled along, becoming lasting monuments to ineptitude and corruption.

While doing a good job of exposing people to a wide array of candidates and key issues such as the transportation tax and charter school funding, the 15 meetings that followed the initial one did little to strengthen area citizens as a political force. In retrospect, Randy and I probably should have focused a little closer to home before turning our eyes on Atlanta and Washington.

On Feb. 20 at 7 p.m., again at the auditorium, we will try again. Officials from the local Democrat and Republican parties have agreed to appear together at Citizens Meeting No. 17. They will introduce their slate of officers, discuss their platforms and explain how voters can make a political impact.

Rev. Arthur L. Jones III, secretary of the Thomas County Democrats and a Times-Enterprise columnist, summed up the purpose of the meeting perfectly.

He said, “As an officer of the local Democratic Party, I am very excited about the upcoming joint meeting between the local Republicans and Democrats. In my opinion, the meeting is important because unity should be a mutual goal between both parties. I hope that this gathering will be the launching point for improved political discourse, a healthy debate on addressing America's problems and true fellowship moving forward.”

Thomas County Republican Party President Mike Baugh is also eagerly anticipating the meeting for the same reasons.

Jones and Baugh agree that it is unfortunate that political polarization in America has reached levels not seen since the Civil War. They realize this problem will never diminish unless people start listening at least as often as they talk.

With the gap between liberals and conservatives as wide as ever, there is a huge swath of middle ground on most issues. I would never suggest that someone abandon their principles, but we need to till these common areas and see if there is anything we can reap from them.

In another coordinated effort, local Democrats and Republicans have joined with the Times-Enterprise to present a U.S. Senate forum at the auditorium on March 17. It will feature several candidates from both parties who are hoping to succeed Saxby Chambliss, who is set to retire at the end of his current term.

We hope these meetings will signal the dawn of a period of connection and cooperation that will result in a brighter day for everyone in Thomas County.