Now the real work should begin

Last week’s elections showed voters want change. Problems solved, fixes made. It’s now up to elected officials here and elsewhere to make that happen.

By now, we know the tale. A seismic rumble began somewhere between Capitol Hill and the White House. With ground-cracking force, its political tendrils spread forth, out from the Beltway and across the land.

Georgia felt the rattle too, even though the tumult of last week’s national elections didn’t tumble statewide incumbents from their still-comfortable perches. Even so, winds around Georgia’s capital have likewise shifted direction, we believe.

We the people wanted change. That was made clear, no static at all, last Tuesday. The electorate took a peach tree switch to the donkey’s hindquarters, making plain their great displeasure with the nation’s direction. In Georgia, that disaffection staved off Democratic ascendancy dreams, at least for now.

When the voting machines were finally unplugged, Republicans had gained governor’s mansions even in some reliably blue states and scored enough victories to gain control of the U.S. Congress.

Periodically handing politicians their hats and walking papers is an American birthright, really. Regularly changing the guard sends a powerful message to the powerful that the citizenry can’t be ignored. The risk of being sent home, or never gaining office in the first place, keeps both incumbents and candidates on their toes. Which isn’t a bad thing. Complacency in office is best-suited for ermine-robed kings and despots, not a still-young democracy.

Yet, we aren’t at the end, even now that the election ads have finally been sent to storage. Hardly. Now, the real work begins – and our leaders seasoned and virgin alike need to face up to that reality. Fast. Speechifying must now yield the floor to results.

Voters sent a strong signal nationally that they wanted change of the right-angle variety, not more of the same from the Beltway and state houses. The time for obstruction is past, now that one party holds power in Congress. Results should quickly follow. If not, well, remember those angry voters of last Tuesday. That specter should induce nervous gulps in Washington and elsewhere. The people are watching. And the heat of their anger remains palpable.

For its part, Georgia went its own way Tuesday. Voters hung on to GOP leadership in all statewide offices. The Gold Dome crowd misreads that at their peril We believe Georgians, like voters in the other 49, have strong expectations of change.

The difference here is that, even against a hard push by Democrats, a solid majority of voters chose to keep Georgia red, rather than easing the state toward purple, or dipping at least part of it into the blue pond. That reality may have been the easy part for those elected to make things happen.

For no election can change the simple fact that Georgia needs work. Lots of it. We believe that’s the expectation of voters red, blue or purle because it’s just plain ol’ commonsense.

Look around and it’s blindingly apparent to see where Georgia needs to do some things differently. Our problems can’t wait for tepid, incremental solutions. Or worse, more hand-wringing and dithering at the Gold Dome and other halls of governance.

A caretaker-style government can only work when all systems and infrastructure are in a spit-and-polish, well-oiled state of affairs, we believe.

That ain’t Georgia at this point. Yes, we have much going for us, that we’ll freely admit. This state also has its share of problems, many of them deferred for far too long. We must begin to dismantle that backlog if we’re, at minimum, serious about hanging on to what we already have — let alone planning ambitious, lucrative grabs for the future, as previous generations here were wont to do.

The short list of big issues in need of work is well-known. It’s a pity that such familiarity has not bred much action, let alone results. Most any Georgian can recite the list: education, transportation, tax reform, and so on. A move last week by the U.S. Supreme Court means that the ongoing water wars are again marching back to the forefront, again putting metro Atlanta’s way of life at risk.

Yes, Georgia’s to-do list is a formidable one. It is also far from insurmountable.

Solving our problems requires a leadership willing to think smartly, speak forthrightly and act bravely in developing real solutions. Yet that can’t happen without an electorate that shows equal wisdom and courage in realizing, among other things, that standing still isn’t an option in a capitalistic world and that innovative, aggressive solutions don’t come free of charge.

We will be judged, and either prosper or stagnate by, our results.