Up in Surry County, the local GOP leadership is making fools of itself. The county board of commissioners passed a ban on Coke machines on county property to show those bigwigs down in Atlanta that they weren’t taking lightly the company’s opposition to Georgia’s voter suppression law. But the Atlanta company doesn’t own the machines. A Charlotte-based company does and the move threatened jobs in the rural county. 

The fiasco was the brainchild of Commissioner Eddie Harris, who turned his faux outrage into his 15 minutes of fame. Fox and Friends called and Harris told their national audience that he wanted to “push back against this woke cancel culture.” Instead, he tried to penalize a private company for something it didn’t do. In other words, he wanted use ignorant cancel culture to push back against woke cancel culture. 

In one moment that illustrated the ignorance of the board members, a representative of Coca-Cola Consolidated, the Charlotte-based company that owns the machines, pointed out that Harris was drinking a bottled water produced by Coke. Board members, including Harris, laughed, but the episode laid out the folly of the gesture and dangers of local government trying to act like Big Brother. The law of unintended consequences often comes into play when politicians use the heavy hand of government for vindictive measures. 

The real problem, though, is the nationalization of politics. The Surry County Board of Commissioners has no business weighing in on Georgia politics and they have far greater problems than “woke culture.” Surry County is losing people and the population is aging. More than a third of the residents are over 55 years old and the median age is 44 years old. The poverty rate is considerably higher than the state as a whole and the median income is lower. In an age where an educated workforce attracts business and industry, only 18% of adults over 25 years old have college degrees, about half the national average. In addition, fewer than 40% of the people have been vaccinated, leaving the aging population vulnerable at a time when other counties are moving beyond the pandemic.  

The county is also more than 92% White so I doubt “woke” folks are making much of an impact. They are just an imaginary threat that keeps the Eddie Harrises of the world up at night. Harris and his ilk should turn off Fox News and tune into reality instead.

Surry County using the power of government to punish a private company shows how far the GOP has deviated from its original conservative values. They are exerting big government power instead of adhering to the concept of limited government. People like Eddie Harris are more interested in the national culture wars than the well-being of the people they are supposed to serve. Harris’ ilk is also not smart enough to understand the ramifications of his juvenile actions. Surry County needs more young people and companies moving into the area, not fewer. Railing against woke culture alienates about half the country. That’s not the message the board of commissioners should be sending. 

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