The following is an op-ed published in the AJC by DPG Vice Chair of Constituency Groups Rep. Pedro Marin.
Georgia Democrats Walk the Walk with Engagement
Georgia Republicans have a serious problem—they continue to alienate huge swaths of the electorate. This alienation has been so intense that after the 2012 election cycle specialists were brought in to help them reexamine the Republican platform and reframe their messaging. But rather than take the advice they were given and change their offensive policies toward women, people of color and young people, Republicans have continued their pattern of superficial changes, hiring a few minority outreach staff and holding trainings to teach candidates how to appear politically correct.
If the Georgia GOP’s “new” engagement plan sounds familiar, that’s because Republicans promised to listen to key constituencies and change their ways in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. Sure it sounds good on the campaign trail, but Georgians are smart enough to know this maneuvering is merely window dressing.
Just this year, Republican lawmakers authored and passed a bill to further restrict women’s health care decisions. Rather than trust women, Republicans chose to strip away their privacy rights.
Immigrants remain a favorite target of Republican intolerance. This year, a majority of Senate Republicans pushed legislation that would deny driver’s licenses to immigrants who have been granted legal presence under deferred action, or who held temporary drivers licenses. Senate Republicans also proposed an amendment to Georgia’s Constitution that would mandate the written portion of the driven exam to be printed only in English. Not only is this kind of fear-based legislation mean-spirited—it’s an assault on free speech, one affects hundreds of immigrant families legally in the United States.
There’s also the matter of disenfranchisement at the ballot box. Over the last several years, the Georgia GOP has continuously eroded one of our most fundamental rights—our right to vote. In 2005, Republicans led the charge to pass discriminatory voter ID legislation. Just this year, Republicans tried to shorten early voting time for everyone from 21 days to six days.
My party—the Democratic Party—is one of inclusion.
Democrats trust women to make their own decisions.
Furthermore, this year, 10 of our 15 candidates for the state’s executive branch are women. Roughly half of my Democratic colleagues in the state House are women. Seven of 18 Democrats in the Senate are women, compared to just one Republican woman the GOP caucus. Many of these Democratic women are in positions of leadership.
Democrats have fought and will continue to fight to expand ballot access. We believe that voter restrictions disproportionately harm African-Americans, Latinos, elderly, women, the poor and young people.
Democrats have learned that inclusion and diversity are not boxes to be checked off, and they certainly aren’t marketing programs to be handled by a few hired specialists. Appealing to a diverse citizenry means you stand up for and respect the things they believe in. Trying to retrofit diversity into a stale and exclusionary agenda will not work. Only through meaningful dialogue and a party platform that looks like 2014, not 1914, will the GOP be successful in their experiment with diversity.
This essay was originally published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution May 8, 2014
Representative Pedro Marin serves as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Vice Chair for Constituency Groups and represents the citizens of State House District 96, which includes portions of the cities of Duluth & Norcross in Gwinnett County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and currently serves on the Banks & Banking, Economic Development & Tourism, and Industry and Labor committees.