The third group
16 August, 2012


As is the case before elections in Georgia, there are now three groups of us:  those who hate the opposition and are blind to the faults of the  ruling party, those who hate the ruling party and are blind to the faults of the opposition.  These two groups hate each other and can not understand how the other is so deluded, they think the other must be composed of bad people, immoral, or corrupt, or all of those.



Keep in mind that people in the first two groups don't believe that there can be a third group. They believe that there are only two kinds of people: with us and against us. But there is a third group, the group that thinks the other two groups are acting like spoiled children. This column is dedicated to that third group.


The first things to say is that in this case, I don't believe there is a very good reason to be fiercely partisan now. The ruling team has done many good things for Georgia. Admit it. At the same time there are many important things they have done wrong or have not done. And there are some important things that are worse now then they were before they came to power. If you can't admit a few examples of each then you are  in one of the first two groups. But most people can name a few examples of each of those things. And it is very important to be clear about each of those things in order to keep your independence.


Why are people so pushed to partisanship in Georgia? Well, first of all it is not just a Georgian problem, it happens in many places before elections it is certainly happening in the US right now. But Georgia does have a particularly bad case. I think because choosing sides is such an important part of Georgian culture, more than any place I have ever been. When there is a question, discussion, or a point made, the first thing that happens is that people line up on one side or the other. To understand an idea, you don't need to research, you don't need to understand its history or its consequences, you don't need to compare how it is understood in other places, you simply have to see who is for it and who is against it and you know all you need

to know. And if you see two people for and against the idea on TV yelling at each other, you have become an expert. I am not sure why this is but the compulsion to choose sides and to make everybody else choose sides is powerful in Georgia. It starts very young. And I don't think it is a very useful cultural trait.


It is good to look at practical things. Politicians in Georgia and everywhere say plenty of things, they try to set up a narrative that will be to their advantage. But to make the best choices, let's look at things that really influence our lives. Lets look at the experiences of people we know and trust to be honest, at real data. Media outlets and analysts that we trust and look to see if they name their sources clearly.


It is good to take a long view. In each election, people tend to say that this election will decide everything. It won't. Particularly in Georgia where so many politicians are so young. What is the over all direction Georgia should take? In reality, political leadership is unlikely to influence your life much in the short term anyway. What they really can do is move Georgia in a particular  direction. Coming to your own personal understanding of what that direction is should be important to each voter.  You can be in favor of one side or another, but avoid being aggressively against one side. Stay positive, that is another way to play the long game.  This election is really two elections, majoritarian and proportional. You can split your vote. Look carefully at the candidate in your district. If they were in parliament before, what did they do? There is plenty of very clear data about that, get that data and make a judgment. If they are a new candidate, find out information about them however you can. Are there chances to meet the candidates?


Also look carefully at the party lists. When they come out these lists will say a great deal about who the parties are. Are the people on the list independent or are they party lackeys? Have they done things on their  own or have they simply chummed up to the party? What do they stand for and have they done anything to prove they strand for that? Have they been honest? Do you know what they own or how they have benefited from their party affiliation or past positions? But in the end make the judgments directly. And it is completely reasonable to vote for a majoritarian candidate from one party and for another party in the proportional elections.