SPLOST - special local option sales tax. SPLOST's have been popular in Georgia. So popular that they have routinely passed with only token opposition.
In the last decade, Georgia has become a hard-core Republican state. The entire machinery of the state government, as well as a significant part of local government, is in the hands of the GOP.
This GOP machine put another SPLOST on the July 31st primary ballot--a TSPLOST (transportation special local option sales tax). A series of regional 1% sales taxes that would last 10 years and be dedicated to transportation infrastructure improvement. They figured it would pass easily--SPLOSTs always do. The GOP establishment (from the governor down to small town mayors) came out and pushed hard for its passage.
It went down in flames--losing in 9 of the 12 regions. Where it passed, it passed by razor thin margins. Where it lost, it lost in landslides (63% no in the Atlanta region, 75% no in the mountains region). The reason no-voters gave was simple and clear: we don't trust you.
These were Republican voters sending a message to Republican politicians. We don't trust you-- to keep your promises; to speak the truth; to walk the talk--we don't trust you.
The rain of distrust fell so heavily that by the end of the night, Republicans with an "i" next to their name on the primary ballot were being added to the endangered species list.
GOP voters in Georgia have lost patience with GOP office holders, and have no compunction about kicking out an incumbent Republican who has let them down--none what so ever. What's more, these voters are getting involved earlier and earlier in the election process.
- In 2010, they turned out in the general election to give the GOP big wins across the board.
- In 2012 they turned out in the primary to punish Republican incumbents that had let them down.
- In 2014, they'll get involved early in the primary process to ensure their candidates get on the ballot.
This is why this election should raise alarm bells for those in the national GOP who think "business as usual" can go on forever (it can't) and who think the tea party is losing steam (it isn't). The tea party is transforming itself from a protest movement to a government reform movement dedicated to putting people in office who keep their promises and kicking out people who don't; from a reactive to a proactive movement; from a movement of people looking to others to a movement of people saying "if I don't do it, nobody will."
This is the new landscape of GOP politics.