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Georgia Republican: Only College Graduates Can Run For Senate

education-certificate-graduation-cap

There are still several months left in the race to see which of five Republicans will end up facing Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn for the Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss at the end of the year, and the knives are already starting to come out. Perhaps the first sign of that came this week when comments made by David Perdue, the CEO of Dollar General who is among the candidates for the GOP nomination, attacked former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel by noting that she never graduated from college:

WASHINGTON — With David Perdue’s ascent to the top of the polls in the Senate race comes additional scrutiny for his record and statements. Thus, a source passed along the above video of Perdue speaking in Bibb County in January about how his educational experience compares to former Secretary of State Karen Handel’s:

“I mean, there’s a high school graduate in this race, OK? I’m sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex. There’s only one candidate in this race that’s ever lived outside the United States. How can you bring value to a debate about the economy unless you have any understanding about the free enterprise system and how — what it takes to compete in the global economy?”

Handel left a broken home at 17, finished high school and went to work but never finished college. This issue came up during her 2010 campaign for governor, when there was talk about whether she only got a GED, which Handel vehemently disputed. Perdue holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from Georgia Tech.

Asked this afternoon about Perdue’s comments, campaign spokesman Derrick Dickey responded with this:

“David was simply making the case that he is the most qualified person in this race to help get our economy back on track so that we can start paying down the massive federal debt.  His comment was based on facts that are a matter of public record.”

As Matt Vasilogambros notes, this isn’t exactly a smart move on Perdue’s part:

The problem here for Perdue, however, is twofold. First, he discounts Handel’s backstory. She left an abusive home at 17 and finished high school while holding a job. After working her way up in her job and in Republican politics, she never finished college. Second, her education level matches that of many Georgians.

According to census statistics, only 27.8 percent of Georgians over age 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, while 84.4 percent have a high school diploma. For the 72.2 percent of Georgians without that college degree, Perdue’s boast may tell them they’re not smart enough for higher office.

And as TheAtlantaJournal-Constitution points out, neither Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle nor Rep. Lynn Westmoreland has a college degree.

The Perdue campaign attempted to defend the video, telling TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution, “David was simply making the case that he is the most qualified person in this race to help get our economy back on track,” and continuing, “His comment was based on facts that are a matter of public record.”

Well, you can judge how well Perdue did in that regard for yourself by watching the video of his remarks at the link above, but it seems pretty clear to me that he’s stuck his foot in his mouth here in a manner that could come back to bite him. Whether he intended it or not, his remarks regarding Handel came across as elitist and condescending, which is something that someone who is already the CEO of a large corporation really can’t afford to do. Moreover, his very argument makes no sense whatsoever. There are plenty of people serving in Congress today who don’t have college today, many more who have served with distinction in that body with a High School Diploma or less throughout our history, and as noted above plenty of voters in Georgia who don’t have college degrees themselves. Heck, by Perdue’s logic neither Abraham Lincoln nor Harry Truman were qualified to serve in office either.

The politics of the issue aside, though, Perdue’s claim that the lack of a college degree somehow makes one unqualified for office is just absurd. First of all, when it comes to “qualifications” for office, the only thing you have to be to run for Senate is an American citizen over the age of 30. The Constitution says nothing about what level of education or experience you must have for such a position. Whether such things matter is something that’s up to the voters and, time and again, voters have shown that education isn’t really all that important, at least not if there are other elements to a candidate’s life story and experience that make them suited to a particular position. Moreover, as someone with both a college degree and a post-graduate degree I can’t say that I would have considered myself qualified to run for any office upon graduation, not that I would have ever been foolish enough to pursue such an option to begin with. There’s much more to what makes a person than how many initials come after their name, and Perdue may be destined to learn that the last thing you want to do in a hotly contested political race is make a big deal out of how long you went to school

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hilarious, especially given the rampant anti-intellectualism in the GOP nowadays.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  2. edmondo says:

    his remarks regarding Handel came across as elitist and condescending,

    Looks like he’ll fit in very nicely in Washington, DC.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. beth says:

    Really, he sells crap from China for a dollar. This is his great college-aquired business acumen?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. wr says:

    “his remarks regarding Handel came across as elitist and condescending, ”

    That’s true. It’s not every executive director who can destroy one of the most respected names in charitable giving within weeks. Such an accomplishment should be acknowledged.

    I do love Doug’s notion that it’s crazy to suggest that a senator actually have some kind of education when the people he’ll be representing are all mouth-breathers who barely made it out of the fifth grade. These people are your base, Doug, embrace them. Of course, if I believed in a political philosophy that told its followers they should voluntarily allow their own interests to be harmed so that billionaires could do whatever they want, I guess I’d have to assume that the voters are morons, too.

    I would like to know where the candidate says that only college graduates can run. From what you’ve posted here, he was merely saying she’s too ignorant for the position, not that she isn’t allowed it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

  5. grumpy realist says:

    Well, if she wants, she can come back with a nice snip about how unconstitutional her opponent is….

    Americans love the idea of the self-made individual. If she plays her cards carefully she could rip the heart out of the opposition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Imagine the $hit Stirm had a Democrat said such a thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. libs suck says:

    @C. Clavin: There wouldn’t be a storm since the media is mainly in the pocket of slimy libs

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  8. Neil Hudelson says:

    Whether he intended it or not, his remarks regarding Handel came across as elitist and condescending,

    How could he not have intended that to come off as elitist?

    Oh, and @libs suck You have the internet at your fingertips, and all the time in the world to respond, and that is the best zinger you could come up with?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  9. george says:

    @libs suck:

    There wouldn’t be a storm since the media is mainly in the pocket of slimy libs

    Sorry to hear you live in a place where the media is a monolithic entity. But hang in there – if you’re patient, I suspect one day the Internet will be available where you live too, and then you won’t be limited in the sources you get (I assume you had a friend log in and pass on your message).

    I get an incredible kick out of both some progressives and some conservatives complaining that the media is on the other side – and I have a hard time deciding if they’re really that unaware of how diverse the media has become in the last two decades, or if they’re just lying for the fun of it.

    I suspect that today, rather than the problem of some monolithic media being against any particular party or group, the issue is that just about everyone in America simply finds a source that matches their already established views (and you can find such sources no matter how odd your views) – confirmation bias is much more prevalent than lack of sources for almost all of the US now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  10. walt moffett says:

    Always clever to insult the mass of the voters, now to see how he digs out his self made hole.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Dave D says:

    Hard also to justify that statement when their Rep. that sits on the House Science Committee and running against him in the primary, who has a post graduate degree has said evolution and the big bang are lies from the pit of hell. But when your party is very anti-science and anti-intellectual it’s hard to find qualified people to sit on a science committee. In any normal state she could easily retort that guy has one and is an idiot, but believing in evolution in Georgia may be more harmful to your numbers than being an elitist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    For the 72.2 percent of Georgians without that college degree, Perdue’s boast may tell them they’re not smart enough for higher office.

    It is entirely possible that many of those 72.2% might not understand his remarks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @libs suck:

    There wouldn’t be a storm since the media is mainly in the pocket of slimy libs

    FoxNews is in the pocket of Liberals?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. charles austin says:

    He’s an idiot, but you can’t resist trying to tar everyone on the right with him, can you Doug?

    Seriously, why don’t you rename this website, “Those darn Republicans”? It would be a good deal more honest than “Outside the Beltway,” which you are now anything but.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  15. DrDaveT says:

    @charles austin:

    He’s an idiot, but you can’t resist trying to tar everyone on the right with him

    Good point — there are idiots in every family.

    For my edification, which current Republican politician would you prefer that I use as an exemplar of what the breed is supposed to be?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0