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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?

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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?

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 | We could do worse than John Merrill

Josh Moon

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I’m going to do something that my progressive friends will mostly not like.

I’m going to say nice things about Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

I know. I know.

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But hear me out.

Because part of the reason that I’m doing this is I believe politics at every level has devolved into such a scorched-earth, I-hate-everyone-on-the-other-side sort of spectacle that we’re no longer willing to say any person from the other team is doing anything good. Even when they are.

And Merrill is.

Yes, I know he’s blocked several dozen people on Twitter, and I find that silly and pointless and illegal.

And yes, I know he has been snarky and sarcastic to some of you. And to me.

But even so, we’re lucky we have Merrill.

Because it could be so much worse.

If you doubt this, I would like to point you to news stories from other states with Republican-dominated legislatures. Like Ohio, where they’re booting active voters off rolls for missing a single election. Or North Carolina, which implemented the most unreasonable voter ID law in the nation to prevent minorities from going to the polls.

Alabama has one of those voter ID laws, too. And it has the right now to kick voters off the rolls for missing an election.

But what you don’t have in Alabama is anywhere near the level of disenfranchisement of voters. Even a federal judge agreed, when upholding Alabama’s ID law.

That’s mostly due to Merrill’s work.

When Alabama’s legislature passed its voter ID law a few years ago, it placed very few requirements on Merrill’s office for how to go about making those IDs available. It was a stupid, pointless law that in no way deterred voter fraud, but it was a law that Merrill’s office had to deal with.

Instead of taking the usual Alabama path and doing the absolute bare minimum required in the job, Merrill went the other way. In the years since that law was passed, his office has put a mobile ID unit on the street, they’ve coordinated with various groups to set up registration drives in underserved areas, they’ve actually visited the homes of people to issue voter IDs and they’ve implemented electronic registration.

That last one has been the biggie, with more than 60 percent of voters registered during Merrill’s tenure coming since the electronic registration went live a little more than a year ago. That electronic rollout also included an app — an app built by the staff of the Secretary of State’s office.

They’ve tried to work with the county Boards of Registrars to get registration info into the communities and schools. They’ve pushed registration through an ad campaign. And they’ve been willing to travel to pretty much any festival, ball game, bake sale or other community function to set up a registration drive.  

And let me repeat: None of this was required of the Secretary of State’s office.

At the same time, Merrill took a different approach from Ohio to cleaning up the voting rolls (removing deceased voters, people who moved, etc.). Instead of labeling voters who fail to return a verification card as “inactive,” the SoS office implemented a two-step process that began when only if the Post Office returned a notice for a voter.

And even if the two notices were somehow missed, if a voter shows up to the polls and finds themselves on the inactive list, the fix is simply updating the SoS address card at the polling place and then voting a regular ballot (not a provisional one).  

Again, this wasn’t required. And a much more mean-spirited, onerous process is now perfectly legal, according to our Supreme Court.

The decision to make Alabama’s process reasonable and fair was Merrill’s.

And look, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that Merrill and his staff shouldn’t get huge praise for doing the job they should be doing. After all, voter registration is the top priority in that gig, and there’s not a close second. So maybe we shouldn’t be handing out cookies for stuff the Secretary of State is supposed to do.

But that line of thinking ignores the reality of Alabama politics and the reality of the politically polarized country in which we live.

Because you just know that nine out of 10 Republican politicians wouldn’t have done half the things Merrill has. They would’ve offered a Jeff Sessions, little-kid-burning-ants, evil grin and hid behind the law and the lack of funds and the indifference.

That’s the norm.

So, yeah, Merrill loves the spotlight and camera lights. He has weird, right-wing beliefs that I wholly disagree with. And he has not always done enough to protect voter rights.

But man, things could be so much worse without him.

 

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Opinion | State schools chief backtracks, Montgomery schools mess grows

Josh Moon

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Never mind.

That’s essentially what state schools superintendent Eric Mackey told parents, business leaders, school system employees and everyone else on Tuesday, telling the Montgomery Advertiser that he — the top executive in all of Alabama public education — might have been mistaken when he talked about the effects of Montgomery’s public schools potentially losing accreditation.

Oops.

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A little more than a week ago, a few days before school board elections in the county, Mackey stood before the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery County Commission and told a dire tale of hardship that was certain to set upon the poor children of Montgomery if board changes were not made.

No out-of-state colleges.

No private colleges.

No federal aid.

The effects would be devastating, driving people from the capital city at a pace faster than they’re currently leaving.

Small problem: None of that was true.

I called Mackey on it. I asked his office to provide evidence that it was true, because the Federal Student Aid office told me it wasn’t and two college presidents said it wasn’t.

But that was prior to the elections still, so the best I could get from Mackey was a garbled statement explaining that a loss of accreditation was very bad, which, of course, no one was arguing. But it’s one thing to say it’s bad and quite another to have the state schools superintendent stand before you and say your kids won’t be able to attend college unless you make changes to the school board.

That last part is what Mackey did. He was flat wrong.

And now he’s saying so. But he’s blaming it on an unnamed source. Because apparently Alabama’s superintendent of schools needs to be told by someone else what accreditation loss means.

Mackey wouldn’t tell the Advertiser who the source was, but he insisted that the source was “reputable.”

You’ll have to decide whether, at this point, Mackey is reputable enough to be believed.

Because that’s not all Mackey was apparently wrong about. During that speech to the County Commission, Mackey was discussing an accreditation report on MPS from the district’s accreditation agency, AdvancED. The report was, to put it lightly, not good.

But to hear Mackey and Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange talk, unless those board changes were made — changes that were being pushed by a political action committee tied to the mayor and his consultants — well there was just no way to avoid a loss of accreditation.

Fast forward to the same Advertiser interview: Mackey now says not to sweat that loss of accreditation, because MPS was forced into selling off Georgia Washington Middle School and because it’s operating a summer reading program that was already scheduled when the accreditation review took place.

Read that again. Let it sink in.

MPS losing accreditation, according to Mackey and other city leaders, rested on the sale of a middle school building and a summer reading program. Oh, and don’t let me forget those terrible board arguments — the ones that never rose to the level of formal complaints, rules violations or violations of state open meetings laws.

If all of that is true, AdvancED accreditation is worthless.

But slightly less worthless than the opinion of anyone from the state department of education on the operation of a local school district. Because if the state’s operation of Montgomery’s school district is any indication, they have no idea what they’re doing.

MPS was better run by MPS.

In the year and a half or so that ALSDE has been in charge of MPS, they have overspent on administrators, overspent on an odd cleaning contract instead of allowing already-employed custodians to do it, gave out raises to failing school principals, then had to give out raises to all principals, forgot to get their expensive administrators certified (some still aren’t), hired a guy who was barred from all of New York City’s schools and had to quietly run off most of the administrative hires it made.

But here are the two kickers: 1. After all of the money that has been spent, there hasn’t been a single additional teacher, aide, coach or book purchased to help improve the learning environment of a child in MPS, and 2. After all the complaints of mismanagement, not a single principal was removed.

Now, look here, MPS has serious, serious problems, and there isn’t a soul alive who would deny that. But what’s taking place in Montgomery right now isn’t an effort to better anything for those poor kids. It’s an effort to protect the pocketbooks of a few wealthy businessmen.

It’s an effort to simply change the image of MPS, instead of its culture and basic operation. It’s yet another attempt to educate the advantaged at the expense of the disadvantaged.

It’s wrong. As wrong as the state superintendent.

 

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Opinion | We’re perfecting the “art” of being mean

Joey Kennedy

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My mother, Patricia Ann Harper Kennedy, has been dead more than 21 years now. She died young, in 1997. She had cancer. She did not have health insurance.

Mom couldn’t get health insurance because she had a “pre-existing,” non-malignant tumor a decade before her fatal cancer. She wanted insurance. She could have paid for insurance. But she couldn’t get it. The insurance industry wouldn’t let her have it.

Despite the promises of the Affordable Care Act, we’re moving right back to that horror again today.

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Under the ACA, or Obamacare, as Obama-haters like to call it, people couldn’t be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Nor was there a limit on how much an insurance company was obligated to pay for a health issue. Our kids can remain on our own insurance until they’re 26.

We’re the only First-World nation in the world that doesn’t view health care as a right. We don’t mind if sick people shoot up schools, clubs, churches, or concerts with their Second Amendment rights, but we won’t promote the general welfare by making sure sick people can see a doctor in a timely manner.

The Donald Trump administration’s Justice Department, under the leadership now of our former and long-terrible U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, is doing all it can to destroy the ACA. And, like so many progressive, successful, and humane programs started during Barack Obama’s eight years in office, Trump and Sessions are doing a great job tearing those programs down.

America – and Alabama, too – are becoming more mean every day. Sessions is mean, and that is reflected in his Justice Department’s policies.

So the Justice Department will no longer defend certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The decisions Sessions and his mean colleagues are making will lead to even higher health insurance premiums. Even more mommas dying without insurance.

But the meanness isn’t simply reflected in damage to the ACA.

Sessions no longer will allow citizens of countries that basically condone gender abuse to get asylum in the United States. Go ahead and beat those women to death; that’s not our problem.

Home of the brave.

Compassion? Trump and Sessions likely can’t even spell the word, much less define it. It is not “covfefe.”

A “true” state’s righter, Sessions demands that the federal government enforce laws against recreational marijuana use in the states that have already approved it. Hypocrisy is a Republican value.

Temporary refugees from so-called (by this administration) “sh—hole” countries are finding they’re losing their protection. Go home. Leave us alone. Be murdered.

A woman’s right to manage her own body is under unprecedented assault. By men.

The LGBTQ community, which only recently won the right of marriage, finds itself the target of “legal” discrimination under this administration. Our transgender and gay members of the military are now at risk.

Children and parents trying to get asylum in the “land of the free” are being brutally separated. Many hundreds of those children are now, literally, “lost.”

We’re friends with North Korea’s brutal dictator, but are confrontational with the leaders of our strongest allies, including Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France, and Germany.

We’ve got a mean streak that was suppressed by better angels in previous administrations, but has now been unleashed by Trump and his hate-filled minions, including Sessions.

Sadly, in our state, many politicians (all Republicans) tout this hateful Trumpism as a reason to vote for them in their TV commercials. Too many hateful voters feel enabled by that. So we get people like child molester Roy Moore running for the U.S. Senate, and supported by Alabama’s first woman governor since Lurleen Wallace.

We let our worse demons loose to kill our better angels.

We’re killing angels.

We want to make Medicaid practically impossible for our poorest to get. And we’re a very poor state. We want to deny food aid to children. We want to privatize public education and prisons, so private corporations can make more money.

We celebrate being mean. We monetize being mean.

Angels are dying.

My mother was too young two decades ago when she died of cancer. She was helped along to her early death by the highly profitable health insurance industry. The one we are bringing back.

Today, I don’t have health insurance. I cannot afford it. I haven’t been to a doctor in 18 months. My hope depends on living until I’m 65 and can get Medicare, which I’ve paid into my entire professional career. That is, If Medicare as we know it still exists in 2021. These Trump Republicans want to get rid of that, too.

I am 62 years old. Next year, I’ll be my mother’s age when she died. So little has changed.

Well, except we’re even more mean.

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

 

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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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