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Five Ideals Every Republican Should Love About the Alabama Democratic Party

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated; an event which overshadowed the death of a much more remarkable man, C.S. Lewis.  But, such is the way of historicism; we often attempt to grasp at meaning in the past through dates and deaths and wars and events. In contrast, Lewis suggests “that what is really important is the peace between wars and the lives of ordinary people.” While it may be absurd to assert that C.S. Lewis led an “ordinary” life, failing to sit at his feet on this topic would be equally absurd. 

In the last installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, a unicorn named Jewel explains to Jill, the visiting English child, “that there’s not ‘always so much happening in Narnia,” and that in between the visits of the English children there were ‘hundreds and thousands of years … in which there was really nothing to put into the history books.’” This is the great ideal of government: To foster and facilitate a lasting peace that is so dull, it bankrupts the click-bait industry of persistent controversy.

The Principles of the Alabama Democratic Party (ADP) contain ideals by which the party sets its course and measures its success. Contained in these ideals are five landing points, or safe harbors, where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground and work toward a very dull peace, where there is “really nothing to put into the history books.”

(1) Local control of public education.

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The very first principle of the ADP is “[t]hat government functions best when it is closest to the people.” The spirit of this sentiment is foundational to our American system of Government. The risk of centralized, distant, and uninformed government was on the forefront of the minds of the first Americans as they resisted rule from the English Monarchy.

The desire for a government that is “closest to the people” was embodied in the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, which sought to limit the rise of a Federal Government that would distance control of local issues from the people it affected. This struggle for local control is seen in a myriad of issues from criminal justice reform, to immigration policy, to the rights of pre-born persons.

Not least of these issues is the public education of our children. The ADP’s third principle states, “[t]hat a quality system of public education is the cornerstone of all our attainments and the foundation of our hopes for the future; that we must relentlessly strive to attain such a system so that every child is afforded full opportunity to realize his or her God-given potential.”

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two men who were often at odds politically, were in agreement on the importance of public education. Brad Desnoyer, law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, reminds us that:

“Rather than squabbling, Adams and Jefferson knew that public education was at the heart of democracy. ‘The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it,’ wrote Adams. ‘There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.’

“Jefferson, witness to the Revolution, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, and founder of the nation’s first public university, rightfully believed that it was the government and citizenry’s duty to invest tax dollars in public education: ‘[T]he tax which will be paid for this purpose [education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.’”

Republicans should have no heartburn embracing these ideals and can work toward peaceful prosperity by championing the ADP’s efforts to resist distant powers from influencing local education.

(2) Stewardship of Natural Resources

The Stewardship Principle is inherent in all Judeo-Christian religions and common sense itself. When God created Adam and Eve, he made them stewards of creation, charging them to “take dominion” of the earth. Fundamentally, the earth does not belong to mankind; it belongs to God.

Common sense also tells us that, if we are to maximize our enjoyment of our State’s natural resources for our lifetimes and the lifetimes of our children, we must see that it is protected from the inertia of harm resulting from post-industrialization’s peculiar capitalism.

Take for example Acme Corp. Acme produces 1 bazillion widgets per day. In order to maximize their profits, Acme locates its plant beside the Alabama River. The Acme’s factory is cooled by water drawn from the Alabama river. Acme also produces 5 gazillion gallons of toxic waster every day.

Unfettered capitalism, i.e., a desire for profit that surpasses principles of stewardship, could lead to the decision for Acme to dump the used water and 5 gazillion gallons of toxic waste back into the river.

All Alabamians will agree, except perhaps the shareholders of Acme, that dumping the refuse back into the river would be bad … bad for Alabama’s natural resources … bad for the next generation … bad stewardship.

Thus, it is the noble ideal of stewardship that rings true in ADP’s desire to fulfill their ideals:

“[T]he Democratic Party is committed to clean air and water. We recognize that the complex problems of our era necessitate governmental action, control of which must be in the hands of the people and not those whose regulation has become unavoidable.”

Lest it be lost, let’s pause to notice last phrase of the principle: “control of which must be in the hands of the people and not those whose regulations has become unavoidable.” This means that the common Alabamian who lives on and enjoys the river should be the person in control of regulating Acme, not the shareholders of Acme. This is common sense, good sense.

ADP’s guiding principles go on to state,

“That the preservation and protection of our natural resources is a sacred obligation to unborn generations of Alabamians; that the development of our parks, recreational facilities, historical sites and wildlife is among the highest duties of our state.”

The phrases, “sacred obligation” and “highest duties” ring with the echoes of a people that deeply care about ensuring that our enjoyment of creation does not sully creation. I for one can see no room for damning this ideal, and I tend to think those who do have some obligation to report their Acme dividend income to the IRS.

(3) Honesty and Integrity

By anyone’s account, honesty and integrity have been lacking in the landscape of Alabama politics.  Robert Bentley, Mike Hubbard, Jefferson County Fund, gambling money, and the ubiquitous influence of lobbying money on campaigns are just a sampling of issues that could benefit from the ADP’s ideals of honesty and integrity:

“That the people are entitled to honest and ethical government; that it is demanded of all public servants that they make complete, current, public disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest; that in carrying out their public trusts they serve no master save only the people; and that they fairly make and administer the laws without fear or favor. It is the duty of all public servants to relentlessly support and enforce the highest ethical standards without any regard to political exigencies of affiliations.”

Tracing the ways of greed in politics is like tracking a scorpion in a boulder field. Its trail is elusive, and the more you hunt it, the more it hunts you. Greed seeks to daily corrupt all of our motives and decisions. Each political party must take it upon itself to enforce the solemn duties set out in ADP’s ideals of honesty and integrity.

If the Alabama Republican Party embraced this ideal, the silence may have not been so deafening when Luther Strange accepted Bentley’s appointment to US Senate; love of constitutional restraint over access to tax revenue might annihilate gun permits; and the reach of “pro-business” lobbyists into nearly every elected official’s pocket in Alabama would be treated with the utmost suspicion.

(4) Commitment to Cultivated Fields

The ancient Hebrew King, Solomon, had historic success in establishing a nation state that prospered with peace and justice.  He wrote that, “this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.”  The ADP embraces this wisdom in its ideal:

“That it is the duty of our State government to provide imaginative leadership and to strengthen the capacities of our free enterprise system in meeting the challenge of providing decent housing for all Alabama citizens.”

Providing “imaginative leadership” and “strengthening the capacities” of the free market, is a far cry from socialistic mandates from the government which constrain the free enterprise system.  Not only does this ideal rightly articulate the ideal of economic prosperity, it roots its purposes in attention to the needs of the poor.

Stated another way, the ADP’s ideal does not espouse that “Alabama citizens should be taxed to build houses for the poor.” On the contrary, the ADP’s ideal envisions providing leadership to encourage the free market to flourish, without forgetting the poor.

(5) Humility of Openness to Self-Correction

The last principle of the ADP contains a phrase that embodies that rare attribute of humility; a sense of humility which produces openness to self-correction: “that all Democrats are bound to defend, protect and honor our Nation, our state, or Party, that when they are right, it is our privilege to sustain them, that when they err, it is our duty to correct them.”

If wings were given to this ideal, Alabama could soar. If Alabama politics fostered humility of openness to intense feedback and correction, peace and prosperity would flourish.  In this ideal, the ADP has committed itself to creating a culture of self-correction. The faithful implementation of this ideal is essential to maintaining the integrity of any organization.

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I wish the best for the Alabama Democratic Party.  The sure path of Christ is often lost in the dark forest of party-spirit.  The more the ADP succeeds in accomplishing these ideals, the more the fundamental purpose of government is accomplished:  “hundreds and thousands of years … in which there was really nothing to put into the history books.”

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Opinion | Our duty to refugees

Joey Kennedy

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Anybody who pays attention knows that the world has a refugee crisis.

What they may not realize is that the United States has a refugee crisis, too. Not a crisis of people fleeing the United States because of persecution or threats of ethnic violence, or an unstable government out of control, or one ruled by a dictator in brutal control — though certainly another column could address the dangers of us becoming one of those nations.

No, the refugee crisis we face is one we’re helping create but refusing to help solve. During President Donald Trump’s first year in office, the U.S. government set a goal of accepting at least 100,000 refugees from around the world. After Trump got settled in, fewer than half that number of refugees were allowed here.

Now, those “goals” are referred to as “caps,” and in the current year the United States has set a “cap” of just 45,000 refugees. It’s doubtful even that modest number will be met. One reason the refugee crisis is so bad is that we intentionally don’t do our part.

As a free and wealthy nation, we have an obligation to take in refugees from other countries that are at war with themselves: Syria, Iraq (we broke it), Afghanistan (we can’t fix it), and many of the unstable African nations always seemingly at war.

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Other First World nations are doing what they can; we should be doing even more. We’re the largest of the free, democratic nations in the world. With great power comes great responsibility.

These refugees are not “illegal” immigrants, as xenophobes like to refer to undocumented migrants who come into our country looking for a better life. These are people – good men and women, girls and boys and, yes, babies — who are the targets of ethnic violence or victims of war – many of them the victims of wars we brought brutally to their land.

Deyana Al-Mashhadani is one of these refugees. I met Deyana, now 19, on Thursday during a civil rights tour by refugees under the auspices of the Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) organization based in New Haven, Conn.

IRIS provides services for hundreds of refugee families. Deyana and 11 other young women visited important civil rights sites in Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama over the past week.

Their pilgrimage was funded completely through private donations. Two Southerners who work for IRIS, Ashley Makar of Birmingham and Laurel McCormack of Georgia, helped put the week-long trip together.

Thursday, I joined the group as it visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (the just-opened lynching memorial) and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery. The sites are projects of the Equal Justice Initiative. While the National Memorial for Peace and Justice focuses on lynchings across the South of more than 4,000 African-American men, women, and children between 1877 and 1950, the Legacy Museum deals more with enslavement and unfair incarceration of African-Americans throughout our state’s ugly history.

Both visits were emotional experiences for me; I can’t imagine how the dozen young women refugees were feeling as they observed the exhibits and learned the tumultuous history of our region. What memories will their tour dig up? They’ll write about their experience.

But consider Deyana’s history: Born in Iraq, she and her family fled after the 2003 war started – the one started by us. Her family’s Bagdad home was caught in a crossfire between two rival groups. They huddled in their basement as bullets ripped through their home. After that, the Al-Mashhadanis knew if they stayed: “You die,” said Deyana.

In any event, Deyana said, you see “people die in front of you.”

They relocated as refugees to Syria where they lived for eight years until the civil war exploded there. They moved to Turkey, where after three years, they finally were allowed to come to the United States as refugees.

Deyana and her family are among the lucky few. For the most part, Deyana said, she and her family are treated well. Despite all the forced relocations her family endured, Deyana is well educated. She speaks three languages fluently – Arabic, Turkish, and English – and has started college. She is studying biochemistry and hopes for a medical career.

Yet, so many refugees aren’t as fortunate as Deyana and the other young women on the bus to Montgomery Thursday. The women on the trip this week are from Iraq, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Congo Brazzaville. They are finishing high school or entering college. Another Iraqi, Fatima Al Rashed, 18, is headed to the University of Pennsylvania this fall on a full academic scholarship.

These women will make America a better nation.

They do remember, however, where they come from. And they know, as well, that they probably can never go back.

“If I was in Iraq, I could never continue my education,” Deyana said, emotion teasing her voice. “My life is here.”

Our nation does have great power. Yes, it does. Nobody will deny that.

But do we understand our great responsibility?

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: Primary runoffs next week

Steve Flowers

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Well folks, if you vote in the Republican primary you may want to go back to the polls next week and finish selecting the GOP nominees for several important state offices. If you are a Democrat the only reason you will need to vote on Tuesday is if you have a runoff in a local race and there are very few of those around.

We are still a very red Republican state. There are 29 elected statewide officials in Alabama. All 29 are held by Republicans.  When all the votes are counted in November, that 29 out of 29 figures will more than likely be the same in the Heart of Dixie. The Blue wave has not reached here. There were twice as many Republican voters, 590,000 to 283,000, as Democratic voters on June 5.

In addition to having all 29 state offices held by Republicans, six out of seven of our members of Congress are members of the GOP. That will also remain the same when the dust settles in the fall.

The only contested Congressional race is for the Second District, which encompasses most of the Montgomery River Region, including Elmore and Autauga Counties, coupled with the Wiregrass. It is a very conservative district.  Therefore, it is a Republican seat. The winner of the GOP runoff between Martha Roby and Bobby Bright will be the Congressman. Whichever one is elected will vote consistently conservative with the GOP leadership in Congress.

Roby is on the ropes because she vowed openly, two years ago, that she would not vote for Donald Trump for President.  That unnecessary display of disloyalty has made her very unpopular in the district. Trump has a 90 percent approval rating among Republican primary voters in southeast Alabama. She would have lost two years ago if the primary had been held after her statement. There was an unprecedented number of write in votes against her.  She has been considered very vulnerable since that time.

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National special interests stuck to their script and stayed loyal to the incumbent and loaded her up with Washington money.  She was able to outspend her four male opponents by an over 2 to 1 margin. However, she fell short in the primary garnering about 38 percent. Bobby Bright received 27 percent and is well known and liked in the district. However, President Trump’s endorsement of Roby three weeks ago may have wiped the slate clean for Roby and given her a clear path to reelection.

Winning the Republican nomination for Attorney General and Lt. Governor in Alabama is still pretty much tantamount to election in Alabama, although the Democrats have a viable candidate for Attorney General in young Joseph Siegelman in November. Don Siegelman’s son Joseph along with youthful Tuscaloosa mayor, Walt Maddox, have viable chances of winning as a Democrat in November.

The GOP race for Attorney General has been the best contest in the primary season. Troy King began the race as the favorite and will probably prevail next Tuesday.  There were four formidable horses in this race. King has previously served as Attorney General and therefore was perceived as the incumbent. Bentley appointee Steve Marshall had been a Democratic DA for a while. This one will boil down to who votes.

In a GOP runoff, only the hardcore Republican base will vote. Those voters will not be excited about Steve Marshall who was appointed by Robert Bentley and as late as a few years ago was expediently a Democrat who was appointed by Don Siegelman. In fact, he voted for and contributed to Barack Obama. My guess is that folks will vote for Troy King, a lifelong Republican.

The race for Lt. Governor will be close between Twinkle Cavanaugh and Will Ainsworth. This contest has attracted more attention and money than ever. The odds say that there is a 50-50 chance that whoever wins this contest next Tuesday will ascend to Governor over the next few years. Our current governor moved from Lt. Governor to Governor without being elected. It has happened more than once over the past few decades.

If you vote on Tuesday, you will be in a pool of about 10 to 12 percent of voters. Therefore, if you show up, your vote will be enhanced exponentially.

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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Bill Britt

Opinion | BCA takes out the trash, finally

Bill Britt

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In a last-ditch effort to save the Business Council of Alabama from the dung heap of political obscurity, President and CEO Billy Canary was pushed out of the business association late last Friday after he waged an ugly and protracted battle to remain in power.

Canary’s fight to keep his job has left the once powerful business interests a hollow and factored alliance with an uncertain future. He didn’t care if he destroyed BCA; it was all about his ambitions.

For years, Canary, along with now-convicted felon former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and former Gov. Bob Riley, reigned over an unparalleled orgy of greed and corruption.

Canary, Hubbard and Riley’s perverse domination of the state’s political landscape was supreme, and even now, the tentacles of their profiteering are evident from the Capitol to the State House and beyond.

Even during this election cycle, Canary has used BCA’s political arm, Progress PAC, to back disreputable candidates who seek to overturn the state ethics laws that convicted Hubbard, advocate for so-called education reform that profits Riley’s business interests and to stall efforts to create a statewide lottery in favor of gambling concessions for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

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During Hubbard’s last years in office, PCI Vice Chair Robbie McGhee joined forces with Hubbard, in hopes of exercising more sway over Republican legislators. Over the previous year, he coupled the tribe to Canary with the same end in mind. McGhee, who faces a reelection challenge in August, casts himself as a Hubbard-Canary protege. Even now, he tells candidates who come calling for campaign contributions, “We are BCA,” meaning the tribe, under Canary, is controlling many decisions being made at the business association.

McGee, like Hubbard and Canary, is viewed by many as a pariah in the state capital where he still hopes to further the Tribe’s gambling operations by lavishing money and entertainment on Republican lawmakers. Twice now, McGhee has chosen poorly and tarnished the Tribe’s reputation in the bargain. With McGhee’s backing, Canary gave at least $250,000.00 to appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall so that he will continue Riley’s bingo wars.

Hubbard stands convicted on 12 felony counts of using his office for personal gain and other criminal violations of the state’s Ethics Act, yet he remains free because of the corrupting influence of Canary and others of his ilk.

During Hubbard’s trial, Canary said, “I love Mike Hubbard like a brother.” He even waxed poetic, saying his friendship with Hubbard, “Blossomed like any blessing in life.”

So infectious are the remnants of their power that even after two years Hubbard remains free because Court of Criminal Appeals Justices Samuel Henry Welch, J. Elizabeth Kellum, Liles C. Burke and J. Michael Joiner will not rule on his conviction.

Canary, in a face-saving announcement, says he is taking a position as a, “senior fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” which is a nothing job.

Canary, like Hubbard and Riley, pimped the state like a cheap whore, and now he’s busted for the user he is. He left BCA in shambles, and don’t think for a minute that the coalition that left BCA isn’t coming back just because the executive committee finally took out the trash.

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Five Ideals Every Republican Should Love About the Alabama Democratic Party

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 9 min
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