By Pat Priest
When former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran for president, Republicans loved to bring up the Monica Lewinsky affair and asked repeatedly, “Why didn’t she leave?” They used her stand-by-your-man persistence as a marker of poor judgment.
I didn’t hear that wild chorus of voices about Mrs. Trump when the porn star payments or the president’s caught-on-tape boasts about sexual assault were exposed. But I guess the third wife has to be more clear eyed about such matters.
But the wife I’ve been thinking about for more than a year now is our governor’s – and not for any allegation of sexual impropriety.
I knew Mrs. Kemp slightly; she was my travel agent years ago. When she retired from that to move on to other things, I called to wish her well and say I thought she had been wonderful.
So when I saw the governor’s corn pone campaign ads that depicted him in a pick-up truck eager to round up undocumented people or his atrocious gun spot where he actually pointed the shotgun at the young suitor, I thought of his wife, feeling that she must be as embarrassed as others in the state.
Even worse – much worse – has been the clear and widespread disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters, something he was able to engineer as Secretary of State. He’s gotten away with that so far, but more recently right out in the open, he purposely let the time run out in appointing a new D.A. for the Athens area so that the election that was about to take place was postponed until 2022. (Did you catch that extra two — 2022?) The excellent candidates who were running for that important position had to pause their campaigns while they appealed that travesty of justice. Fortunately, though, Kemp’s nefarious action (or non-action) has recently been overturned in appeals that were an added expense for the leading candidate, Deborah Gonzalez, and her supporters. So Kemp’s power grab didn’t work, but he sure tried to thwart justice, especially to stave off the chance that Gonzalez, the candidate most deeply committed to social justice, might earn the seat the fair way.
And meanwhile, of course, as everyone in the whole country knows, Kemp is now the poster boy for mismanagement of a state on red alert for Covid 19.
How does Mrs. Kemp make sense of her husband’s ugly political chicanery and the reckless full-speed ahead stance on opening the state without requiring the vital masks that keep people safe? Did she speak up when he decided he wouldn’t even allow municipalities to enact mask ordinances?
Is she helpless in convincing him to be fair and compassionate? He has passed up federal funding available for Medicaid expansion that would have provided coverage for half a million Georgians and could have helped small hospitals stay afloat. And does she really believe that abortions should be outlawed at six weeks, when the earliest glimmerings of electrical activity are detected that will – only much later – become a heartbeat? Women may not even know they’re pregnant at that point.
Has she – like some of the president’s cabinet – stayed by his side to steer the ship of state to keep even worse things from happening?
So often it seems that the wives of many politicians would have been the better elected official. (I will exclude Mrs. Trump, though, who was disqualified after she wore that jacket that said, “I don’t really care, do u?” to visit children in cages on the border.)
I just want the state’s first lady to know: We see you. We realize you must wrestle with your conscience each day, wincing as you stand by your man. But, instead, please stand up for the rest of us — people of color, women, Georgians without insurance, and the many disenfranchised in the state — and use your influence for what is decent and fair. School busses have a control mechanism called a governor that limits the driver’s speed. Please act as a governor for our governor so that he cannot enact policies with calamitous results for our values, safety and standing in the world.
Pat Priest is the creator of the annual concert “Athens in Harmony” and of WUGA’s Artists in Residence series. She holds a doctorate from UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.