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What would it take for you to switch political parties?

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Report

If you’ve been a Republican your entire life, what would it take for you to change your political allegiance?

How bad would things have to get in the Alabama Republican Party for you to jump ship?

Would having the most powerful man in the Legislature, Mike Hubbard, convicted of corruption sway you? Would half a dozen more indictments coming down the pipeline lead you to question your affiliation?

Would Governor Bentley’s scandal with Rebecca Mason be enough to bring you to an existential political crisis? What if the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to garner the votes necessary to hold the Governor accountable? Would that do it?

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What if the Republican Attorney General told the Legislature to stand down on the impeachment proceedings, because he had it under control; only then to suspend the investigation; only then to be appointed to US Senate by the man he was charged with investigating? Would that do it? Would that be enough to push you over the edge?

If that doesn’t do it, what if the leadership of the Alabama Republican Party brings the disgraced former prosecutor, now US Senator Luther Strange, to be a speaker at the Republican State Convention? Would the celebration of this “appearance of” corruption be enough to make you change your political affiliation?

What if the Republican party failed to come to the aid of the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for standing on Republican principles? What if the Alabama Republican Party stood by idly as Chief Justice Roy Moore was thrown to the wolves of a weaponized, intolerant, Federal agenda? Would the pungent taste of bile on the back of your tongue be the straw that breaks the camels back?

What if the Republican establishment tried to quietly push a government-expanding, Orwellian Data Collection bill through the Legislature? What if it comes out, only after a lengthy debate, that Governor Bentley tried to unilaterally implement this via Executive Order last year? What if it comes out, only after lengthy debate, that the sinister motivation behind this Orwellian surveillance bill is to make us more financially beholden to the Federal Government … that the Federal Government is bribing the States to track private data on their citizens? Would that do it? What if Republican Sen. Del Marsh, the next most powerful man in the Alabama Legislature, was a lead proponent this Orwellian Data Collection bill?

Will all this be enough to make you switch your political allegiance, Dear Republican?

What about you, Dear Democrat?

What would it take for you to switch parties?

Would reading Nancy Worley’s (Chair of AL Democratic Party) intimate account of being stuck on the toilet, in her public Christmas letter, convince you that the Alabama Democratic Party is beyond repair?

Would the Party’s impotence to deliver on much needed criminal justice reform lead you to consider other political alternatives? Would realizing that 1-in-3 black males will be incarcerated, with much-Much-MUCH of that do to inequities in the criminal justice system … and realizing that the Alabama Democratic Party is far from capable of affecting the needed transformation … would that sway you to dream of new political solutions?

Would the soiling of one of Alabama’s only Democratic oasis’s, Jefferson County, by the failure of the Alabama Democratic Party to vet its newly elected District Attorney, Charles Henderson, do the trick?

What about the national nomination of the worst candidate in history, Hillary Clinton, when a mannequin could have beat Donald Trump? Would that put you in a frame of mind to consider changing political parties?

What if your party got highjacked by special interests groups who scream so loud that they distract from your core values of helping the poor, developing infrastructure, and building the economy?

Would all this be enough to send you searching for better political solutions?

The Libertarian Alternative

Josh Tuttle hopes it will. The newly elected Chair of the Libertarian Party of Alabama was placed into office this weekend at the State Convention by the slimmest of margins – only one vote. The effect of that one-vote-victory on the Libertarian Party of Alabama would be hard to overstate.

Tuttle brings a vision and air of credibility that could lead the party to exponential prominence in the upcoming 2018 election cycle. From April 2015 to April 2016, the Libertarian Party experienced over a five-fold growth rate with percentage of new donors reaching 566%. With the increasing polarization of the two-party system, Tuttle is banking on another year of unprecedented growth.

Tuttle knows Alabama like back of his hand – Josh Tuttle is Alabama. He grew up in Madison, Alabama. After graduating from Bob Jones High School, he went to The University of Alabama and graduated with a degree in Finance. While in college, he joined the Alabama Army National Guard. During his service in the guard, he served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2011. During his time in college and while in Iraq, he became interested and involved in politics.

After being let down by the Republicans and their so called “free market” solutions and a hoard of other issues, he found the Libertarian Party, a party that truly has principles. “I jumped in with both feet and I haven’t looked back,” Tuttle says.

So what is in store for the Libertarian Party of  Alabama in 2017? Tuttle says that the Party “plans on showing the people of Alabama what true small government looks like. We want to facilitate the shift of power from Washington D.C. and Montgomery to the people. In 2018 you will have more options, and they wont be the lesser of two evils.”

The Libertarian Party of Alabama is busy creating county affiliates in places like Jefferson County and Shelby County, while increasing the influence of long-standing affiliates in places like Madison and Baldwin counties.

More than any other objective, however, Tuttle’s vision incorporates identifying and empowering talented candidates to run in the November 2018 election. “We need candidates who will carry the Libertarian brand to the next level,” says Tuttle.

And what exactly is “the Libertarian brand”? With this weekend’s dynamic leadership change, the Libertarian Party of Alabama is poised to represent the most principled virtues of both the Republican and the Democratic parties. “Simply put, it boils down to property rights. To put it in even more simple terms that our children can understand, don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff,” says Tuttle.

The Libertarian Party is committed to limiting government restraints on the free market. Libertarians believe the principles of “the invisible hand” that created our country should continue to guide our country.

Libertarians believe that individuals caring for individuals in need is the most efficient and effective method of addressing the complexities of poverty. Libertarians agree with U.S. Rep. David Crockett, who in the 1830’s discovered that government is a poor vehicle for meeting the needs of the community.

Libertarians promote true tolerance and seek to strip away government regulations which seek to criminalize subjective morality. Libertarian ideals seek to reform the criminal justice system which has so ubiquitously and inequitably impacted at-risk minorities.

The Libertarian principle of non-aggression, leads to a robust protection of persons at all phases of development.

Truly, the Libertarian Party of Alabama is poised to attract virtuous advocates from both ends of the political spectrum.

What would it take for you to switch parties?

 

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Opinion | Alabama voters: stupid or scared?

Josh Moon

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Is it fear or stupidity?

What is that drives voting in Alabama?

It’s not self-interest. And it’s certainly not the greater good. So, what is it that leads so many in this state to vote against themselves and all of the other people like them?

Fear or stupidity? It has to be one of those, right?

Either you don’t understand how you’re voting against your own interests, or you’re simply too afraid of taking a stand on your own, going against the grain, leaving the team.

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Or maybe there’s another option. You tell me.

Please, tell me what I’m supposed to think when I see this scenario: Alabama’s rural hospitals are failing at an alarming rate. At this point, nearly 90 percent of them are losing money. If something doesn’t change, on top of the five hospitals that have already closed, as many as 18 more — 18! — could close in the next 24 months.

Should Medicaid expansion be on the 2019 legislative agenda? Experts say it has to be

And yet, a month ago, Alabama voters went to the polls and elected, and re-elected, a group of people who have no plan to deal with this health care crisis and who have mostly opposed the one viable option for avoiding this calamity — Medicaid expansion.

But it’s actually worse than that.  

Because this crisis is not just about keeping hospitals open. It’s also about providing care to the poor, and providing preventative care to children and working adults. It’s about catching catastrophic illnesses before they become catastrophic. And it’s about supplying a reasonable level of emergency care to seniors, infants and pregnant mothers.

All of which would be solved by expanding Medicaid.

And yet, the Republicans who were just elected have no intention of doing so. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh has said out loud that the expansion is dead as far as he’s concerned, and since he controls what hits the floor in the Senate, it’s pretty much dead.

Marsh got better than 60 percent of the vote.

He got those votes despite offering no plan — nothing, zip, zero, zilch — for addressing the ongoing health care crisis in this state.

He wasn’t alone.

Not a single Republican lawmaker who was elected in November offered a single plan for addressing either the insurance coverage gap that has left more than 300,000 people in this state without coverage or the rural hospital crisis that could leave about that many people driving more than an hour to the nearest ER.

Those Republicans were elected in a landslide.

So, I ask again: Stupid or scared?

At this point, there really aren’t other options.

Because there’s not even a serious opposition to Medicaid expansion. Those who oppose it just sort of … oppose it. Without reason.

Because there is no good reason. Study after study have shown that the expansion more than pays for itself in a short period of time, bringing huge employment gains and tax revenue to the state.

If figures from a study completed two years ago are even close to accurate, it would be one of most successful economic development projects in the state’s history.

In addition, keeping those rural hospitals open and possibly increasing the number of hospitals and doctors’ offices around the state would be a huge draw for businesses looking to relocate. In fact, some businesses that have considered relocating to Alabama over the past three years have specifically cited the state’s poor health care system when choosing other states.

There’s also the small matter of how the expansion would affect everyday Alabamians. Studies in states that have gone through with the expansion have found that citizens in those states enjoy improved health, better service and care and are in better financial shape than before the expansion.

So, here we are.

We have a legitimate crisis that affects every person in this state. We have a viable, good solution to that crisis. There is no downside to that solution. But we are not implementing this solution because somehow it is more politically advantageous to resist.

Again, stupid or scared?

 

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Opinion | Trump’s con game is almost over

Josh Moon

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It’s all true.

All of the rumors. All of the speculation. All of the oh-my-God-have-you-heard-about whispers.

All of it is true.

All of the things that Donald Trump and his administration and family have been accused of doing … they actually did them. All of them.

Even the really dumb ones.

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Even the really awful ones.

They did it all.

Oh, listen, I know that the typical Alabama conservative voter has zero idea what I’m talking about right now, because they have so fully wrapped themselves in the protective bubble of conservative opinion sources that they’re still talking about the Clinton Foundation. But I don’t care.

Because this isn’t speculation. Or partisan hopefulness. Or ignorant accusations.

This is under oath.

And right now, after the last two weeks, here’s what people under oath, facing the penalty of perjury and providing supporting evidence and documentation, have said about the conman you people elected president: He has lied repeatedly. He has directed illegal payments. He has sought to cover up affairs. He has bought off a tabloid. At least 14 members of senior campaign staff were in contact with Russians. And Trump — or “Individual 1,” as he’s known in court filings these days — was involved in it all.

Trump’s personal attorney has now been convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for a crime personally directed by the president.

That makes five — FIVE! — of Trump’s top aides or attorneys who have struck deals with Robert Mueller and are now working with the broad investigation into possible (certain) Russian interference and collusion.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Trump’s personal businesses are also under federal investigation. His campaign staff’s use of funds is now under federal investigation. And most of his immediate family is under investigation.

And absolutely none of this should be a surprise to anyone.

Because all of you should have known well before this clown was elected president that he is nothing more than a two-bit conman with an ego large enough to fill a stadium and less shame than a 90-year-old stripper.

You should know because we told you. We, the media. The actual media.

We wrote story after story on this crook and his shady business dealings — how he rarely paid his bills, how he left working men holding the bill, how he created a scam college to bilk poor people out of money, how he skirted laws and tax codes constantly and how he gamed the system over and over again to stay wealthy using taxpayer money.

All of it was right there for anyone to read.

But a good portion of this country didn’t care. They were too caught up in this buffoon making jokes and calling people names and kicking people out of rallies and saying offensive things. He catered to white men and claimed he could fix any problem just by saying he could fix any problem.

And they bought it. Just like the conman planned. You didn’t even make this dude show you his tax returns!

And the white, working-class folks are still buying it. Which would make sense if he had done even one thing to help them.

But he hasn’t.

His economic policies have been a disaster, especially for the people of Alabama. And his tough talk has produced zilch in the way of foreign respect, better trade deals, lower prices for consumers or more American jobs. In fact, we’ve lost respect, have worse deals and higher prices and companies are still moving American jobs to other countries.

And yet, the supporters remain.

I don’t understand it. But you know what? I don’t have to understand it for much longer.

The walls are quickly closing around the conman president. Soon, the rest of Mueller’s investigation will drop, and the indictments will roll out. The full breadth of the Trump administration’s illegal acts will be laid out for Congress to see. Given what we already know from the few filings that have been made public, this will not go well for Trump and his closest associates.

I do not expect the Trump supporters to ever admit they were wrong.

But if there is justice in this world, and if the indictments break just right, those supporters will have to deal — at least for a brief period — with the two words that could make this whole thing almost worth it.

President Pelosi.

 

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Opinion | Do what’ll really help: Expand Medicaid

Joey Kennedy

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We’ll certainly see whether state Sen. Greg Reed’s support of the new Medicaid Integrated Care Network is worthy and that the program does what is promised. Let’s hope it does, but pardon my cynicism, because any health care program these days that promises to do more for millions of dollars less falls under my “too-good-to-be-true” doctrine.

That just doesn’t happen.

Reed wrote about the ICN for Alabama Political Reporter Wednesday, and here’s how he describes it: “In October of this year, the state Medicaid agency partnered with an Alabama health care provider that will now serve the medical needs of the 23,000 senior citizens who are receiving Medicaid’s long-term care services, 70 percent of whom are in nursing homes. By partnering with an expert health care provider based in Alabama, Medicaid can offer its long-term patients better care – and thus allow more Medicare recipients to stay longer in the comfort of their own home.”

This program, Reed writes, “is projected to save, over the long run, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Too bad that Reed, the Jasper Republican who is Majority Leader, isn’t pushing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That would do far more to help poor Alabamians, especially the working poor. Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians can’t get health insurance because they don’t qualify for subsidies, yet make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

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While helping Alabama seniors live at home longer is a great goal, it’s doubtful they’ll get better care for millions of dollars less.

Expanding Medicaid under the ACA isn’t going to save the state money, either. It’ll cost millions of dollars more, though a fraction of what it would cost without the federal dollars that’ll come into the state with expansion.

And with that expansion comes more jobs and economic development, and many hospitals, particularly in rural areas on the verge of bankruptcy, can keep their doors open, saving good-paying jobs there and at businesses that benefit from development around hospitals.

Expanding Medicaid is about the best economic development decision the Legislature and governor could make. Alabama should have expanded Medicaid from the outset, but the politics of hating President Barack Obama kept that from happening. It was more important to stick it to the first black president than to make sure more Alabama residents had access to health care.

Frankly, that still seems to be the goal.

We just had an election, and Alabama voters decided they’d rather keep the same crew in charge – the one that continues to make life-and-death decisions against their best interests.

For too many, an unconstitutional amendment to our state constitution that practically bans a woman’s choice was more important than making sure that women have decent health care. An unconstitutional amendment glorifying the Ten Commandments is more important than making sure those commandments are kept in the way we deliver services to the least of these.

So really, I’m rooting for Reed on doing something to provide more Medicaid services to Alabama senior citizens. But I’m rooting even more that Reed and his Republican colleagues change their can’t-do mind-set and expand Medicaid under the ACA.

Even if they still, for no good reason, hate the man who made the ACA possible.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: Last of famous probate judges: Hardy McCollum

Steve Flowers

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In Alabama political history, the office of Probate Judge was the most powerful and prestigious position. In the old days, in every county in Alabama, the probate judge was not only judge, he also appointed all county positions, hired all county employees and was Chairman of the County Commission. He was essentially the “King of the County.”

In bygone days, gubernatorial candidates ran grassroots campaigns. There were no televisions, therefore, the first and maybe the only stop they would make in their quest for the Governor’s mansion, was to kiss the ring of and get the endorsement of the probate judge. The omnipotent probate judge would endorse them and that endorsement usually meant that that they would carry that county. The local folks would follow the lead of their judge. They and their county would be on the right side of the governor’s race.

The last vestige of the era of vintage Probate Judges will end this year with the retirement of Tuscaloosa Probate Judge, Hardy McCollum.

Judge McCollum is only 71. However, Alabama law disallows judges from running for reelection after age 70. He has been the longest serving probate judge in the state, and at the time of his first election in 1976, he was the youngest probate judge in Alabama. Hardy was elected at age 28, and took the coveted office of Probate Judge at the ripe old age of 29. Hardy McCollum has served his home county as Probate Judge for 42 years.

During that time, he has consistently been considered the most popular political figure in his county. He has always run as a Democrat. When the tide turned and the state went Republican in the 1980’s and 90’s and most of the state’s prominent politicians switched to the Republican Party, Hardy refused to change. He withstood the tidal wave and remained the most revered public official in Tuscaloosa County.

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The anomaly of his popularity is that he continues to hold the title of Chairman of the County Commission, a rarity in this day and time, especially for a large county like Tuscaloosa. There are only 15 counties in the state left where the Probate Judge still serves as Chairman of the County Commission and, only two populous counties, Lee and Tuscaloosa.

Hardy McCollum was born and raised in Tuscaloosa. He learned at an early age how much the Goodrich and Gulf States paper plants meant to Tuscaloosa. Druid City was also dependent upon public employees. Tuscaloosa was home to the state mental health institutions, Bryce and Partlow. The University of Alabama has always been Tuscaloosa’s mainstay. Hardy grew up selling peanuts, popcorn and programs at Denny Stadium.

Hardy married his high school sweetheart, Juanita. They both graduated from Tuscaloosa High School and they both continued on and graduated from the University of Alabama.

They have three children, Jay, Jason, and Joy. Hardy and Juanita are fortunate that all three live in Tuscaloosa. They are able to enjoy their five grandchildren. Their second son, Jason, and Tuscaloosa mayor, Walt Maddox, grew up together as neighbors and best friends.

After college, Hardy began work in Tuscaloosa and became active in the Jaycees, which was a normal training ground for aspiring politicos in those days. His first political experience was campaigning for Richard Shelby for the State Senate in 1970.

In his first race for office, he was elected as Probate Judge. After that initial election in 1976, he was subsequently reelected to six more six-year terms, serving from 1976 through 2018. He had opposition every time but dispensed of his opponents easily each time.

Hardy’s last reelection in 2012 was the one that caught the eye of most political observers throughout the state. President Barack Obama was heading the Democratic ticket. It was a tsunami wipeout of almost every white Democrat in the Heart of Dixie. This red tidal wave also swept through Tuscaloosa. Hardy McCollum stood out like a sore thumb. Hardy McCollum, who had refused to change parties, withstood the tidal wave and won reelection as a Democratic Probate Judge with 67 percent of the vote against a Republican Sheriff.

There is an old saying in Alabama politics that home folks know you best. Hardy attributed his longevity and success to always doing the right thing regardless of whether it is politically popular. People will respect you if you are doing the right thing.

Hardy McCollum has done the right thing for his home county for 42-years. It’s time for him to go to the house and, hopefully, he will enjoy his retirement years. You can rest assured they will be spent in his beloved Tuscaloosa County. He will be replaced as Probate Judge by a Republican. It marks the passing of an era in Alabama politics.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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What would it take for you to switch political parties?

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 6 min
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