Tag: Alabama

When Democrats don’t compete, Roy Moore is the result

It was difficult to fend off a fit of laughter reading Ben Jacobs’s wrap-up of the Alabama Republican primary for the U.S. Senate special election coming up this December:

Moore is as sui generis a product of the Yellowhammer State as white barbecue sauce and Bear Bryant.

Let’s start off with a couple of glaring mistakes here.

The Yellowhammer State might be Alabama’s official state nickname — as five seconds on Wikipedia will tell you — but no one really calls it that. The state’s license plates have had “Heart of Dixie” emblazoned across them since 1954. The signs welcoming you to the state’s borders used to say “Welcome to Alabama, The Beautiful,” but now read a simpler, more widely known message. Furthermore, the famed white barbecue sauce is mainly served at ‘que joints in the far north central part of the state, centered around Decatur and Huntsville. As it is, you would be hard-pressed to find white sauce at Dreamland or Archibald’s in Tuscaloosa, or Lannie’s in Selma.

(White sauce is also terrible, but I am digressing.)

So You Think You Can Take Over the Democratic Party?

The Democratic presidential primary has finally come to an end, with the longtime frontrunner Hillary Clinton clinching the nomination. Bernie Sanders has now come out and said that he will work with Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump. It may have killed hopes that some leftists may have had that Sanders might still run as an independent or with Jill Stein on the Green Party ticket, but his endorsement of Hillary Clinton is far from unexpected.

With the nominating process now behind us, the question for supporters of Bernie Sanders both unwavering and critical is simple: What is to be done now?

One of the solutions that will eventually be bandied about is entryism, which is the practice of having people join a party en masse in order to engineer a takeover of the political party in question. The most famous modern example of entryism occurred within the Labour Party in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. There, members of a Trotskyist organization known as Militant attempted to steer Labour to the left by signing up to join the party and winning control over the organization piece by piece. They succeeded in having a Militant member named as the National Youth Organizer after taking over the Labour youth organization, meaning that the organization had one person on the National Executive Committee (NEC). Attempts by more moderate Labourites to expel Militant were initially unsuccessful, but after the Militant-dominated Liverpool City Council decided to run a deficit in contravention of national law, Labour eventually succeeded in expelling the organization from the party. They even went to the extent of deselecting Militant’s two MPs (more on this later).

Left-liberals and social democrats in the United States might push forward by saying that working within the Democratic Party is the best way to ensure that the concerns of the working class get heard, and that we should use the enthusiasm generated by the Sanders campaign to bring people into the party with the hopes of changing it. Let’s engage with this idea and analyze just what it would take to have this happen.

Alabama, the Socialist: A brief vision for giving Dixie its Heart back.

I have done enough complaining about the politics of Alabama. To be sure, there is much to complain about: the Legislature is an oversized clown car, the state supreme court has apparently decided that nullification is a thing, elections are a joke, and the opposition to Republican rule in this state is decimated to the point that Alabama is probably the closest thing you will find in America to a one-party state. If you are someone who cares about the dignity and worth of other human beings, it is a tough place to live and engage in politics.

I hope to make a small dent in Republican hegemony in this state by reviving the Tuscaloosa organizing committee of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). It sounds ridiculous, I know; how can I expect a state to embrace socialism when it will not even embrace the tepid centrism on offer from the Alabama Democratic Party?

The truth of the matter is that any organizing on the left in Alabama, or anywhere else in the South for that matter, is going to be a decades-long proposition. Democratic party units at the state and local level have atrophied to the point that they have taken on some of the characteristics of third parties: struggling in fundraising, being overly dependent on a big name to revive the party, and simply not competing in many districts and elections. Those structural issues tank the party long before we get to talking about ideology, an arena in which the Democratic Party in the South is nothing short of atrocious. This sets the political paradigm firmly on the right end of the political spectrum and ensures that progressive and leftist ideas are not only ignored, but openly derided. Changing the discussion and dislodging this accepted political filter is not something that can be done in an election cycle. It would be folly to even suggest it.

That is why I am going to begin the process towards changing the debate now. My vision is just that: mine. Being a socialist means that you are always strategizing around the formation of coalitions and thinking about how to include as many voices as possible in political decision making. The vision that I lay out here may not be the one that guides the DSA in Tuscaloosa. But I think that it is important to start discussing what a socialist vision for Alabama looks like and how we might put it into action.

Boldness in Alabama: The desperation of low expectations.

I witnessed something a few days ago that in over 30 years of reporting in this state I have rarely seen from politicians – boldness.

That came from Charles J. Dean last week in an opinion piece titled, “Gov. Robert Bentley and the sound of boldness“. You might be asking yourself what the Governor did to deserve such praise. Did he resolve to stay out of the campaign to unionize workers at Mercedes-Benz here in Tuscaloosa County? Did he decide that the private affairs of consenting adults was no longer his business? Did he come out and state unequivocally that, hey, maybe this Mike Hubbard guy is kinda unfit for public service? No, no, wait: he decided that the multi-billion dollar tax giveaway to private schools in the form of the Alabama Accountability Act had to come to an end?

No. None of that. Here’s the phrase from Robert Julian Bentley’s fifth State of the State address as Alabama’s 53rd governor that inspired such florid language:

“…Folks I am not going to be a governor who pushes problems aside. We’re going to solve problems as long as I am governor of this state. …I am telling you all this to say this — and to come out of a Republican governor’s mouth – after four years of saying we are not going to raise taxes, and we said that and we have not, I’m telling you the next four years we are going to raise taxes…We have to face the problems and we have to do it with boldness. You have to lead with boldness. Somebody has to take the lead and I am going to take the lead.”

Wow! He is going to have to raise taxes in order to solve a $700 million-plus long-term deficit! While that might be called “common-sense thinking” or elicit a “duh” in, say, Minnesota, it is revolutionary talk in the Heart of Dixie. So where will these taxes come from? Will the former dermatologist and state representative from Tuscaloosa suggest raising the top tax rate to make wealthier Alabamans pay more? Perhaps he planned to end tax giveaways to multinational corporations who afford to pay their taxes to do business in Alabama?

Nope.

The Alabama Democratic Party has gone silent. Good.

Nancy Worley, screwup extraordinaire.
Nancy Worley, screwup extraordinaire.

Clete Wetli, former chair of the Madison County Democrats, is upset that Nancy Worley appears to have gone silent in what has probably been one of the most news-filled months that Alabama politics has seen in a really long time. In addition to same-sex marriage becoming the law of the land due to U.S. District Court Judge Ginny Granade’s ruling (and reaffirmation of that ruling after county probate judges somehow forgot about the Supremacy Clause), the Speaker of the House looks more and more like an inmate walking. The stunning incompetence of the Republican Party in Alabama is only surpassed by the incomprehensible silence of their opposition.

Good.

Alabama Doesn’t Have a Voter Problem. It Has a Democracy Problem.

In Chief Justice Roy Moore, Alabama has the personification of any bigotry that you can imagine sitting atop its high court. Here is a guy who believed so fervently that the nation’s courts should validate only one religion and its precepts that he was thrown off the bench after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the front of the State Capitol. After founding something called the Moral Law Foundation (doing the sort of work you would expect from it and him), he ran for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2010, expecting that the love would still be there from the right-wingers that dominate the Alabama GOP. His faith was found wanting.

Then came 2012, when Roy Moore defeated sitting Chief Justice Chuck Malone in the Republican primary to advance into the general election. Now, given the sentiment that has been expressed in opinion pieces like this one, you would be led to believe that he faced a candidate of great credit to the bench and the people of Alabama in that election.