The 6th District election is mercifully over. Although we at the AJT are grateful for the boost in advertising and readership related to the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history, I’m sure even Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel are happy not to see and hear themselves on TV and the radio around the clock.
But while much analysis is sure to focus on what each party and candidate did right and wrong and what it all means for the Trump administration and Democratic hopes to take the House in 2018, and while many people will walk away from this campaign more cynical and politically disillusioned than ever, I prefer to focus on a bright light at the end of this four-month political tunnel.
This campaign could be the best thing to happen to community building in Jewish Atlanta in a long time.
Thanks to a double dose of skepticism imparted from being a student of history and a newsman, I’ve never bought into the idea that we as Americans are more politically divided than ever. But I have been reminded over and over the past 12 years of a real societal split: that between ITP and OTP.
Because the Jewish community exists inside and outside the Perimeter, I’ve always moved back and forth across that concrete-and-asphalt line, but I know others who are horrified at the thought.
My sense is that ITPers are more extreme in their rejection of traveling out to the suburbs than OTPers are about the reverse trip, probably because I live OTP in East Cobb. But I suspect ITPers are reading this and thinking that of course people are happy to travel in to enjoy the culture, food, nightlife and history of the city, whereas what reason would anyone have to travel out?
It’s an attitude similar to the blue/red, urban/suburban divide we hear about in political analysis all the time, but it’s a more serious problem for a community like Jewish Atlanta, in which 130,000 or so people are spread over a wide geographic area. There aren’t enough of us to retreat into our own cantons and ignore those who are a few streets, neighborhoods or cities away, but most of us shy away from crossing the mighty Interstate 285 for mere social, religious or communal reasons.
The 6th District campaign, however, has proved strong enough to break through that psychological barrier.
Almost all the district is OTP, but some of the most motivated volunteers in the Ossoff campaign live ITP. Many live outside the district and have scoffed in the past at the OTP wasteland and those who prefer to live there than in the urban paradise found ITP.
But such attitudes haven’t stopped them from driving north, beyond the reaches of MARTA, to attend rallies and knock on doors and talk to OTPers.
My hope is that along the way Jews on both sides, regardless of their political leanings, have formed connections and even friendships that stretch across the interstate. Maybe politics, which so often divides us, can thus be a means to strengthen our bonds through the realization that there are Jews worth knowing, Jewish institutions worth supporting and Jewish activities worth attending throughout the metro area.
After all, whether your preferred candidate won or lost, the world keeps turning, and the next congressional primary is only 11 months away.