When 2021 began, I thought we would finally get past the terrible 2020 year of Covid and all the disruptions it created.

I was wrong.

Last year was just as difficult as 2020, in some ways even worse. Although we did get vaccines in 2021, a lot of people have refused to get the jab, a situation that led to two surges in 2021 of the virus.  As the year ended, we were enduring a third surge.

So what should we expect in 2022?

I don't know what kind of turn the pandemic will take, but I do expect there to be a lot of political turmoil in 2022, especially here in Georgia.

For one thing, there is going to be redistricting confusion. A new fifth seat on the county board of commissioners  is redrawing the lines everywhere; a lot of people will find themselves in a new district and voting for people they've never voted for before.

In addition to that new seat, Ralph Richardson is not running for re-election in his West Jackson district, a move that is already drawing new blood to the fray.

At the end of the day, there will be two new members on the BOC and the redistricting will shift the balance of power toward the west side of the county.

Also affecting Jackson County will be the retirement of Rep. Tommy Benton from the state House of Representatives. Now, Jackson County will have four House districts. The North Jackson-Maysville area will be in District 32 along with Banks, Stephens and a small part of Habersham County. That district is currently represented by Rep. Chris Ervin of Banks County.

District 31, Benton's old district, will cover central and most of West Jackson and a small part of South Hall. District 120 will cover part of South Jackson, Clarke, Oconee and Barrow counties. And District 119 will cover a sliver of Braselton and into Barrow County.

It's going to be a confusing mess and will make it difficult to get local representatives all on the same page. County leaders will have to do a lot of legwork in keeping all those people in the loop on local issues (not to mention two state senate districts.)

On top of those changes, Jackson County is moving to the 10th Congressional District. Since Rep. Andrew Clyde lives in Jackson County, he would be the natural frontrunner for the 10th District seat, a seat vacated by Rep. Jody Hice who is running for secretary of state.

The move puts Jackson in a leadership position for the 10th District, along with Clarke County.

But Clyde is a controversial figure who has so far only distinguished himself by attempting to downplay the Jan. 6 insurrection events at the Capitol. His attempt to rewrite history and cover for the insurrection undermines his credibility and legitimacy. He's likely to get elected to the 10th District seat, but might be little more than an errand boy for the Trumpian wing of the GOP.

•••

As all of that festers for 2022, perhaps the most important political event will be the Georgia governor's race.

That race is likely to be a rematch between Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams.

Kemp is facing some GOP upheaval. A fringe wing of the party is upset that he didn't help Trump overturn Georgia's legitimate election results in 2020. To his credit, Kemp stood firm and refused to illegally do the former president's bidding. 

But the move could keep GOP voters from voting for Kemp in 2022, a retaliation for what some GOP voters see as Kemp's disloyalty to Trump. (There is a Cult of Trump where people don't care about facts, reality or truth, only in putting Trump into power by any means necessary. If that means doing something illegal, they don't care.)

All of that internal GOP fighting weakens Kemp in what is sure to be a close 2022 race against Abrams. Abrams almost defeated Kemp in 2018 and given her stature in the Democratic Party, she will generate a huge amount of interest in 2022. The race will be watched nationally as a bellwether of 2024 and Georgia's swing-state role.

The danger here is that there are those in the state GOP leadership who want to defeat Abrams at any cost. Last year, the state approved new laws that, in effect, allow the state to takeover local elections boards if they don't like how a county election is run.

Imagine what would happen later this year is Abrams narrowly won against Kemp, but state officials took over Fulton County's elections board and threw out some of Abrams votes in that heavily Democratic county. A move like that could spark a huge, potentially violent outburst that could easily spin out of control.

A few years ago, I'd never have thought such a thing possible. But after seeing what happened Jan. 6 and how some political leaders (see Andrew Clyde above) are now trying to portray that group as patriots, anything is possible. 

To be clear, those who participated in the Jan. 6 riots were indeed traitors. They wanted to overturn a legitimate election and while their efforts were clumsy and juvenile, some did become violent. People died. People were hurt.

Jan. 6, 2021 was a dark day in American history. It rivals Sept. 11, 2001, Dec. 7, 1941, and Nov. 22, 1963. 

The looming 2022 race between Kemp and Abrams will be a part of the ongoing political struggle in the nation following Jan. 6. The rhetoric is likely to get bad and the state — and nation — is likely to become very polarized around it. 

The coming year could clarify just where the nation is headed in the coming decades as we attempt to deescalate a domestic political war that has become vastly overheated.

What America needs is more moderate voices in its political discussions, more moderate in tone and substance.

I fear, however, that won't happen.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com.

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(1) comment

Jon Oblesen

I think moderation is key for most things in life and politics is included. The idea of ranked-choice voting , which is has been popular overseas for some time, is starting to gain traction in the U.S. Feel free to read up on the subject yourself but I hope this type of voting continues to spread and motivates candidates to appeal more broadly to swing voters rather than the base alone. This mechanism alone may be the silver bullet that stems the tide of radical political rancor that pervades our system (on both sidse of the aisle) today.

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