In my quiet time this morning I was led to pray for Speaker David Ralston. It was a familiar prayer that I found myself repeating often while I served in the Georgia House of Representatives. “Lord, please soften his heart and allow him to forgive those he feels have wronged him.” While I prayed for this this morning I became aware that while I would utter it frequently when I was in office I hadn’t done so in quite some time.
What prompted me to pray in this way today was a story I became aware of this past Tuesday. A member of the House Majority Caucus (not Wes Cantrell) saw me, held up a yellow school choice scarf, and said, “school choice is dead.” He had just come from a caucus lunch where he had learned that several of his Republican colleagues had been the target of mail pieces encouraging voters to call their Reps and ask them to support school choice this legislative session.
The reason why the mail piece had created outrage with the members and the Speaker specifically was that the mailer featured the photos of Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden with the words, “ Don’t let Rep (insert name here) give in to the radical left. The radical left wants to cancel your right to choose your child’s school. Tell Rep (insert name here) to stand up to them.”
The bills that were referenced in the mail piece are HB 60 and HB 999. Both pieces of legislation would create opportunities for parents to choose where their kids go to school. This is an issue that divides the left and right in a very stark way in our country. Further, it has been the foundation of Republican electoral success just about everywhere, not the least of which was Virginia going Red this past November. Here in Georgia the bills represent a potential lifeline to over 600,000 children who are in underperforming public schools. Enough kids to be considered their own nation.
Speaker Ralston told the AJC that the mailer was the dumbest thing he had seen during his time in politics and as a result he was killing the bill. This is a man who presided over the House when a member brought a bill that would allow sex offenders to loiter on school campuses. He presided over the House when one Georgia Sheriff, flustered with Nathan Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform agenda, said that the former Governor was, “worse than Lucifer and all of his demons combined.” He was there when someone tried to pass a privileged resolution honoring Johnny’s Hideaway. And yet, somehow, this mail piece was dumber than those things?
In raging at the AJC, Ralston said out loud what he had been doing quietly, yet denying for years; killing good policy, no matter who was hurt, because he had taken personal offense over a non-related matter. Hence my prayer.
If you wanted to challenge me on whether the mailer was appropriate, or crude, or dumb, I would concede all your points and let you win the debate. And then I would ask you, so what? A nation of children of all races and economic backgrounds are waiting for a chance at something better and they aren’t going to get that opportunity because you got mad at a lobbyist who sent a mailer? A mailer, by the way, that was factually accurate. The anti-school choice movement is solid Democrat Party territory. I am having a hard time seeing how voting against school choice legislation or not allowing a vote on these bill is anything other than doing the Democrats’ work for them.
Speaker Ralston’s response is disproportionate to the perceived crime and the end result hurts children. So now we should collectively do two things, pray for the Speaker’s heart to soften and to ask who needs to apologize for the actions of the lobbyist? Is it one of the 600,000 kids? Would one of their faces, speaking into a camera, or even directly to David Ralston, asking for him to forgive so that she has a better shot at life do the trick?
My experience is that this is going to require divine intervention. “Lord, please soften his heart and allow him to forgive those he feels have wronged him. Amen.”