By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
People say this to me all the time: “It must be fun to write politics in Alabama. After all, with the corruption, the comedy, the cray-cray, there’s always something to write.”
And that’s true. There is always something to write: Governors and other politicians off to prison, or boob-groping without shame; a Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court who refuses to follow federal directives and gets removed from office; a Legislature that can’t (or won’t, because of self-serving politics) govern.
We believe in building roads, but not public transportation. We want to build prisons, but don’t want to develop community programs to keep nonviolent offenders out of them. Legislatively, we treat companion animals, well, like dogs.
We don’t want immigrants, but we sure want their work ethic. We believe in Jesus, but, where the LGBTQ population is concerned, not the Jesus that declares “love your neighbor.”
Our politicians tell the federal government to keep its hands off, then turn around and, from the State House in Montgomery, tell local governments, counties, and cities what they can and can’t do. No higher minimum wages. No sanctuary cities.
Our Governor, a physician, hated a black President so much, he decided to withhold health insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of Alabama’s working poor.
The hypocrisy is easy to write about, but the politicians don’t respond because they know voters won’t hold them accountable.
Yeah, there’s plenty to write about. But it’s not always fun. Indeed, it’s often downright depressing.
That’s because I not only write about politics in Alabama, I live in Alabama.
I’m a front-line witness to a state that has amazing potential, but has no real desire to live up to it. Our politicians would rather press hot buttons like undocumented immigrants or race or the fear of terrorist attacks or unfettered access to firearms or the “dangers” of gay marriage or inhibiting a woman’s right to choose, than addressing issues that really matter to everyday Alabamians.
We need a new tax system, one that doesn’t put most of the burden on those least able to pay. This is an issue I’ve been writing about for more than a quarter century. The state’s tax system is little better now than it was in 1990, when two colleagues and I wrote a series that won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.
Our public education system struggles year in and year out, yet the Legislature gives public education fewer resources, not more.
Our budgets are crippled every year, yet the governor and lawmakers do nothing to provide the dollars that’ll offer residents even a respectable minimum of state services.
Alabama always ranks low in the annual Kids Count study of child welfare and offers suggestions on how to do better, but child welfare isn’t nearly as important to the politicians as new roads. If Alabama were a parent, it would be arrested for child abuse.
I can write about these topics, and I do. But it’s not really much fun. Not for somebody who cares about his state and about the welfare of its people.
And now, the Legislature is in session again. It’ll be frustrating as usual. There will no doubt be plenty to write about. As always.
In Alabama, there’s simply nothing new under the sun. And that is not fun.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]