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Pro-Life Democrats, unicorns, and such

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure

“Now, I will believe that there are unicorns.” The Tempest, William Shakespeare

The only perfect Party will be the one that Christ’s followers enjoy in Heaven. Until then, we must make the most of our imperfect associations … which, in humility, we must acknowledge are more imperfect because of our own presence.

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A political party which claims to have a monopoly on justice and mercy is self-deceived. There are praise worthy platforms and shameful oddities among Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians alike.

Much to the dismay of my “conservative” readers, there are many thoughtful and sincere citizens, living within the Democratic Party, who hold pro-life convictions and seek to live out those convictions with consistency. Journey with me as I encounter three pro-life Democrats, Unicorns, and such.

1. Have you been a Democrat your whole life?

Mary: “I was raised Democrat. My father is a psychiatrist in Selma who has always been committed to social justice/civil rights issues. I was also raised in the Roman Catholic Church (though I’m now an Episcopalian).”

Melanie: “No. I was raised to be Republican. My entire family are Republicans.”

Kathy: “I have always been a registered Democrat. However, I vote my heart, if that makes sense.”

2. Have you always held pro-life convictions, or is this something that has changed over time?

Kathy: “I have actually had two abortions in the past, like 40 some years ago (when they first became legal) for reasons I thought were good at the time at the urging of my parents (who were Christians).”

3. When and how did your views on abortion change?

Kathy: “When I actually got a ‘real’ relationship with God.”

4. Do you feel like a minority in the Democratic Party?

Mary: “Haha. I absolutely do, though I like to at least hope I’m wrong in that thinking. There is always more than one side to an issue, and they all deserve equal consideration. I was also raised to be objective.”

Melanie: “In the area where I live, yes most definitely.”

Kathy: “Not until recently. I just felt like I related more with Democrats, until this election actually.”

5. What issues or platforms attract you to the Democratic Party?

Mary: “I’ve always been a compassionate person who believes in advocating for those who haven’t ‘found their voice’, so to speak. … We all have our strengths, and we deserve an opportunity to let them shine! It doesn’t mean I agree with every single aspect of every single issue though.”

Melanie: “I respect the LGBT Rights. Even as a Christian I feel they are still God’s children and should not be thought of as second class citizens. The War on Drugs. I agree with treatment instead of imprisonment. The prisons are already beyond capacity and being locked up doesn’t help getting clean from drugs. Drugs find their way into the prisons in many ways. The money in politics.”

Kathy: “They’re for the lower income ‘underdog.’ Or, that’s what I always thought anyway.”

6. Some Democrats say they are pro-life and pro-choice? Do you identify with that? Why or why not?

Mary: I consider myself to be Pro-Life, though not in the sense that most people would think. I don’t think that abortion should ever be used unless it is an extreme situation – that being cases of rape/incest, life threatening to the mom and/or the child. I feel especially strongly about the latter – but I believe that should also be a decision between the parents, and the hospital should respect their wishes regardless of politics or hospital affiliation. . . . That’s why I consider myself pro-LIFE. I believe in weighing every aspect of the issue while remembering that not every case falls into the same category.”

Melanie: “This is an area where I have struggled. I have gone back and forth with it my adult life. The only way I would agree with abortion is if there was something seriously wrong with the baby and it wouldn’t live long after birth. But as far as abortion because of rape or other issues, I think adoption is the way to go.”

Kathy: “No, I used to feel that there were some good reasons for abortions (ie: rape, etc.), but I no longer feel that way.”

7. Have you ever voted for a Democrat who ran on a pro-life platform?

Mary: “I can’t recall one that ever ran on THAT particular platform in any election I’ve voted in, no. But I like to think they’re out there somewhere!”

Melanie: “That’s almost like finding a unicorn. But if there was one, I’m sure I have.”

Kathy: “I don’t know.”

8. Do you think if a pro-life Democrat ran for office in Alabama they would have a chance of winning the primary?

Mary: “ I think it would depend on multiple factors. It would have to be someone who has enough clout with both parties, has an objective, diplomatic voice and mindset who understands that politics isn’t about them or their friends, it’s about everyone. Someone who understands that when they make a political decision, it’s not about their views or their parties’ lines. Depending on their office, they would need to have a balanced voting record or platform. But I definitely don’t think it’s impossible.”

Melanie: “That’s a tough one. I would like to think so but I sometimes think just the word Democrat has such a bad stigma associated with it according to most Republicans, I’m not sure if they (Republicans) could bring themselves to vote for a Democrat. So, No, a Democrat probably wouldn’t win. Sadly.”

Kathy: “Yes.”

9. Do know of any avenues for reforming the Democratic Party? Do you actively engage in trying to reform the Democratic Party?

Mary: “I think that with anything, it starts at a grassroots level. I live in my hometown of Selma, and I am actively involved in helping to better the community. I believe that when you can show people that you care about them and want to work for them regardless of politics, THEN you have a chance at showing them that not everyone in a party ‘follows the party line.’ Once you can make strides to accomplish that, then yes, I believe you can work on a wider type of reform.”

Melanie: “I do not actively engage in trying to reform the Democratic party because I stay away from politics. To be completely honest I don’t feel smart enough (for lack of better words) to discuss politics with anyone.”

Kathy: “No, … The more you ask me, the more I realize I don’t really know that much about politics or the political parties at all. I decided back in high school, in the 1970’s, that I was a Democrat (probably because my dad was a Republican, lol), and I’ve been one ever since.”

So, there you have it. You have just encountered three unicorns. I will leave you to your own devices when it comes to drawing conclusions. I only hope that the Alabama Democratic Party will conduct honest self-evaluation on the issue of protecting children prior to birth. I truly believe that if the Democratic Party will embrace this issue of justice and mercy, they stand to make a significant impact in our state for good.

 

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Opinion | The Pulitzer Prize: The Good Journalism Seal of Approval

Joey Kennedy

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Alabama Media Group columnist John Archibald’s life has changed forever.

I know, because I’ve been there. Still am.

Archibald won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary this week, a much-deserved honor and one that underscores the journalism talent that existed at The Birmingham News for decades. Still exists on a few islands.

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It says much about those who run the media company now that they have destroyed the best of journalism in Alabama over the past six years. It also says much about Archibald, who hung in there and did his thing – write superb columns – under no telling how much pressure.

When digital became the primary means for consumers to get their news, Advance Digital focused on trying to make profits instead of keeping the best journalists in the state. To do that, the company cut their most valuable resource.

My wife, Veronica, was among the 60 or so journalists laid off during the first wave of decimation back in 2012. From there, year after year, some of the state’s best journalists were cut loose or fled before that happened.

Profit over journalism.

Newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have continued doing the best journalism in America, despite cutbacks. But they had better plans for digital. They didn’t give away their product, which is NEWS, by the way, not newspapers.

Instead, Alabama Media Group cut a great newspaper to three days a week, turning its back on its most loyal subscribers.

That Archibald won the Pulitzer for Commentary – one of the most prestigious of the prizes – says everything about him and not the company.

Archibald is an outstanding writer, a veteran of more than 30 years at the newspaper. He’s a good person, sharp, and works tirelessly. He has compassion and cares. Archibald has built a huge audience. It’s not unusual to see him on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, and he has weekly segments on WBHM, Birmingham’s National Public Radio affiliate.

Now, his life has changed.

Archibald will forever be known as a Pulitzer Prize winner. That’s journalism’s top honor. That’ll likely be in the lead of his obituary.

Mine, too. I was one of three editorial writers who won the first Pulitzer Prize at The News and, indeed, at any newspaper owned by the Newhouse company at the time. The late Ron Casey, Harold Jackson, and I won in 1991 for a series on tax reform in Alabama.

This week, as Alabama Media Group showered Archibald with praise, and deservedly so, it recapped the other two Pulitzer Prizes won by the “company.” In 2007, Brett Blackledge won for investigative journalism, and, of course, we won in 1991 for editorial writing.

You’ll see Blackledge’s award acknowledged, but the media group’s story just mentioned that The News also won for editorial writing in 1991. That’s misleading. Pulitzer Prizes are awarded to individuals, unless there is a team of four or more writers, and then it’s a staff award.

The late Ron Casey, Harold Jackson (now Philadelphia Enquirer Editorial Page Editor), and I were awarded Pulitzer Prizes, individually. Nowhere on our Pulitzer Prize awards is The Birmingham News mentioned. The News editorial board had a good team, too. We were cited as top-three finalists for Pulitzer Prizes in 1994 and 2006.

But, you see, I wasn’t “eased” out the door at Alabama Media Group, like so many were. I was fired outright, for “threatening” sources and for “being too personally involved with my stories.”

Any good journalist has threatened sources. Not with violence or something that stupid. But we “threaten” all the time if a source isn’t going to respond, or is going to respond with a known lie.

“If you don’t give your side of the story, I’m still writing that story.”

Or,

“If you are going to just tell that lie, I’m going to report the truth.”

“Threats.” Journalism, as Archibald and any good journalist will tell you, is a confrontational business.

And, yes, since I became an advocacy journalist in 1989, I’ve become personally involved in my topics. I write about subjects that I’m passionate about. Hard not to become personally involved when one actually cares, whether it be about undocumented immigrants, or abused children, or how badly this state treats its poor residents, or race, or equality, or education, or, yes, animals.

That’s the very characteristic that helps make us good advocacy journalists and keeps us human: We care, even if our bosses don’t.

Thank goodness I was fortunate enough to win a Pulitzer Prize. It did change my life, and it’ll change Archibald’s.

I found myself in an elite community. I began to really study writing. I wanted to deserve to be in the company of Ernest Hemingway, and Russell Baker, and Cynthia Tucker, and William Safire, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

So many great writers.

I returned to university for a master’s degree in English, with an emphasis in creative nonfiction. I have a rewarding second career, now in my 18th year, teaching English at UAB, my alma mater.

Archibald, too, will see new opportunities ahead of him. He has always been a star, for at least three decades, but now he’s got the official sanction of our profession, the ultimate seal of approval in journalism.

What opportunities will open before him: Who can say? But they’ll be there.

John Archibald knows a good column when he sees one. He’ll know the good opportunities, as well.

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: Races to watch

Steve Flowers

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Our antiquated 1901 Constitution was designed to give inordinate power to the Legislature. During the Wallace years, the King of Alabama politics, George Wallace, usurped this power and controlled the Legislature from the Executive Branch of Government. Over the last couple of decades the Legislature has wrestled this power back and pretty much excluded the Governor from their bailiwick. Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley were ostracized and pretty much ignored.  Their proposed budgets were instantaneously tossed into the nearest trashcan.

Legislative power is derived from controlling the state’s purse strings. Thus the old adage, “Those who have the gold set the rules.” The Legislature has gotten like Congress in that incumbents are difficult to defeat. Therefore, the interest will be on the open Senate and House seats. Most of the Montgomery Special Interest money will be focused on these Legislative races.

Speaking of Montgomery, two open and most interesting Senate seats in the state will be in the Montgomery/River Region. One is currently in progress. Montgomery City Councilman, David Burkette, Representative John Knight and Councilman Fred Bell are pursuing the Democratic seat vacated by Senator Quinton Ross when he left to become President of Alabama State University. Burkette has already bested Knight and Bell in a Special Election last month. A rebound race is set for June 5.

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The Republican Senate seat in the River Region held by Senator Dick Brewbaker is up for grabs. This seat was expected to attract numerous well-known aspirants. However, when the dust settled at the qualifying deadline two relatively unknown candidates were the only ones to qualify. Will Barfoot and Ronda Walker are pitted against each other in a race that is considered a tossup.

The Etowah County/Gadsden area was considered one of the most Democratic areas of the state for generations. However, in recent years it has become one of the most Republican. State Representative, Mack Butler, should be favored as a Republican. Although, polling indicates that veteran Democratic Representative, Craig Ford, could make this a competitive race in the Fall. He is running as an Independent.

Veteran State Senator Harri Ann Smith has represented the Wiregrass/Dothan area admirably for over two decades. She has been elected several times as an Independent. However, she has decided not to seek reelection. Her exit leaves State Representative Donnie Chesteen in the catbird seat to capture the seat.

Republican State Senator Paul Bussman, who represents Cullman and northwest Alabama, is a maverick and very independent. This independence makes him powerful.  He will be reelected easily.

State Representative David Sessions is predicted to win the seat of Senator Bill Hightower who is running for Governor.

Most of the state Senate’s most powerful members are unopposed or have token opposition. Included in this list of incumbent State Senators are veteran Senate leader and Rules Chairman, Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Senate President, Del Marsh, R-Calhoun, Senate Majority Leader, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, veteran Senator Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, as well as Senate leaders Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Clay Scofield, R-Marshall, Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga, Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, Tom Whatley, R-Lee, and Shay Shelnutt, R-Gardendale. The Senate leadership will remain intact, as will the House leadership.

Almost all of the House leaders are unopposed or have token opposition. This prominent list includes:  Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Madison, Budget Chairmen, Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, Speaker Pro-tem, Victor Gaston, R- Mobile, Rules Chairman, Mike Jones, R-Covington.

In addition, there are numerous Veteran lawmakers, who will be reelected, including Lynn Greer, Mike Ball, Jim Carnes, Howard Sanderford, Kerry Rich, and Jimmy Martin; as well as rising leaders: Nathaniel Ledbetter, Kyle South, Connie Rowe, Tim Wadsworth, April Weaver, Paul Lee, Terri Collins, Danny Garrett, Dickie Drake, Chris Pringle, Randall Shedd, Allen Farley, Becky Nordgren, Mike Holmes, David Standridge, Dimitri Polizos, Reed Ingram and Chris Sells.

Even though there are 22 open House seats and 10 open Senate Seats, the leadership of both Chambers will remain the same.

There are some competitive House seats that will be interesting. In the Pike/Dale County Seat 89, Pike Probate Judge Wes Allen is pitted against Troy City Council President Marcus Paramore. Tracy Estes is favored to replace retiring Mike Millican in Marion County. Alfa is going all out for Estes. David Wheeler is expected to capture the open House seat in Vestavia.

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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Opinion | Hot buttons worth pressing

Joey Kennedy

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They don’t want you to vote.

Remember that.

And “they” are mostly the Republicans today. Voters scare Republicans just about to death.

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I stand corrected: “They” don’t want you to vote unless you vote for them.

But to be fair, when Democrats controlled all the branches of Alabama government, they weren’t too crazy about you voting, either, unless you were voting for them.

“They” usually could get you to vote for them, too. For years, Democrat George Wallace used the race card in vicious ways to scare black voters away and draw equality-challenged whites to the polls. There were no race-baiting tactics too vile for Wallace to use.

It wasn’t simply that Wallace was a racist, though he was. But he knew, after losing to John Patterson in 1958, that he’d been out-N’d by Patterson, and he vowed that would never happen again.

And it didn’t. Wallace won in 1962 on a strict segregationist platform, and he dominated Alabama politics through the mid-1980s using some form of the same themes.

Even after race was no longer such a hot-button issue, Democrats still won. The last Democrat elected governor, Don Siegelman, didn’t use race; he used the hot-button lottery.

That may have gotten him elected, but because Siegelman’s lottery proposal was so difficult to understand, and because Republicans and other conservatives used hot-button, non-sequitur religious arguments against it, the lottery was doomed.

“Go to church on Sunday, or the ‘lottery’ will get you!”

Well, something like that.

After Siegelman was defeated by Republican Bob Riley, Alabamians have elected nothing but Republicans to the state’s top office since, and most other statewide offices as well.

Democrats may have used hot-button racial and other issues to get elected, but Republicans perfected the hot-button campaign.

The evils of immigration and undocumented residents.

The traditional marriage “threats” posed by lesbian, gay, and transgender residents.

Democrats are corrupt. Democrats only want higher taxes and more spending. Democrats hate your mother, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

As it turns out, Republicans are the party of corruption in Alabama. Consider just the past few years, when the governor (Robert Bentley), speaker of the House (Mike Hubbard), and Chief Justice of the state (Roy Moore) were removed from their respective offices because of corruption (or, in Moore’s case, twice for not adhering to his oath of office, another form of corruption). Other Republican lawmakers and public officials have been caught up in corruption scandals. Some are in prison right now, though Hubbard, for some reason, remains free.

Too, Republicans figured out a way to keep the people who won’t vote for them from voting at all.

Alabama has some of the most restrictive ballot-access laws in the nation. Both Democrats and Republicans share the blame, but Republicans, with a supermajority in both the House and Senate, could have opened the ballot more.

They refused. The more candidates on the ballot, the more choices voters have. Can’t have voters having choices; can’t have different ideas floating around out there.

The more people out there who vote, the less chance Republicans have of winning. So they passed draconian voter ID laws. That locks out or scares away many voters who would likely vote for Democrats or a third party. Qualified voters who don’t have photo IDs are more likely to be poor and minority, generally voters who elect Democrats or who certainly don’t vote for Republicans.

Republicans gerrymandered the state to such an extent, their districts are usually considered safe. They even gerrymandered moderate, thinking Republicans out of their own districts so those reasonable officeholders couldn’t win against the far more conservative Republicans.

Republicans now have weakened the state’s ethics laws so much, their favorite kind of corruption – using their offices for public gain – is practically legal.

It’s a mess, to be sure.

That’s why this year is so important. With the December win of Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones over Republican Molester Roy Moore, Democrats and independents are charged up.

There actually are more Democrats running for office this year than Republicans. Many are women. Many are African-American women. The governor’s race this year not only features Republicans challenging the incumbent, but Democrats elbowing their way in.

True, many of the Republicans running for office are the incumbents. But Democrats and independents are fired up.

And with Millennials and post-Millennials becoming qualified to vote, and with a renewed interest in activism because of the #MeToo movement, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the #NeverAgain gun restriction movement, the #DACAnow immigration movement, and the radical shift in public opinion surrounding LGBTQ issues, it very well may be a new day.

Yes, even in Alabama.

Imagine our hot buttons turning out to be a real push for reasonable gun control. Or “Equality for All,” that would make the lives of immigrants and the gay community and women and, yes, sadly, still, African-Americans feel truly included.

Imagine hot buttons that truly matter.

Those are the hot buttons we can press with pride. If we will.

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

 

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Pro-Life Democrats, unicorns, and such

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 6 min
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