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Opinion | The politics of deflection, distraction

Joey Kennedy

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By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

With everything going on in Washington, D.C., it’s difficult to predict the result of the midterm 2018 elections.

All indications are that Democrats will have a good year, perhaps even taking over the House of Representatives or the Senate or both.

Let’s learn our lesson, though. Predictions during this Donald Trump era are not certain. Few people thought so-called Republican Trump would defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump did, at least through the Electoral College.

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And look at the string of scandals that surround Trump. The most serious: Possible collusion with the Russians to help Trump win that election, to be sure. And from the outside, it looks as if Trump simply continues to dig that s—hole deeper. If not collusion, obstruction of justice, right?

But looks can be deceiving.

Trump, touting himself as the ultimate businessman and deal-closer, ran his businesses about as sloppy as a tycoon can. Multiple bankruptcies. Scams ranging from a university to meat. In this era of #me-too, many women have come forward accusing Trump of sexual harassment and even rape. Grab ‘em by the you-know-what, right?

Reports claim Trump had an affair with a porn star shortly after his third wife gave birth to his youngest son. Then Trump paid to have that relationship covered up.

During his campaign, Trump mocked a disabled news reporter. His Twitter feed is full of self-congratulations on any number of misdeeds, attacks against perceived enemies, white-power slogans, racist comments, divisive rhetoric.

Trump endorsed an accused child-molester in Alabama for the U.S. Senate.

Any one of these calamities, verified, would be the downfall of most national leaders.

Not Trump. Ronald Reagan was once described as a “Teflon president.” What does that make Trump? Something a lot less stick-free than Teflon.

But you see, Trump’s appeal to a certain base (mainly, racists, white nationalists, Angry White Men, immigration cowards, hypocritical Evangelicals) and against women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and others, is working.

Until it stops working, we’ll continue to see the same sad results. We’ve been saying this for years.

Trump’s deplorable behavior is a winner, for now. Whether it’ll continue the win streak in the 2018 midterms, who knows? We’ll see. But I’m making no predictions.

Democrats and independents will have to develop a counter-message that appeals to reasonable people who will be motivated to go out and vote. They haven’t really shown yet they have that message, other than: “Donald Trump is dangerous,” or “Donald Trump is a traitor,” or “Donald Trump is orange.”

Probably no state in the nation has elected officials who have been as successful by using the so-called hot-button issues than Alabama.

Our politicians are masters of this “dark art.”

That pertains as much to Democrats who controlled the Alabama Legislature before 2010 as much as it does Republicans who control the Legislature now.

Making the state’s African-American people the button worked for decades with white Alabama. African-Americans are still targeted today, but the menu of hot-buttons being used by Republicans now a full buffet: Immigrants, of course; don’t forget gay, lesbian, and transgender citizens; the good people who want reasonable and common-sense gun laws are targeted; those damned independent women who want the right to choose what they will do with their own bodies . . .

None of these red-meat issues are brought up to make life better in Alabama, one of the most poorly performing states in most any quality-of-life category. They’re brought up to keep voters distracted; to make them feel, no matter how low their self-esteem, that somebody else is below them.

It’s the crime of deflection.

While some voters are worried about immigrants taking their jobs (a nonissue), Republicans are quietly working to dismantle the state’s ethics laws. While some voters can’t stand to respect that any couple who loves should be allowed to marry, Republicans are quietly working to undermine government accountability. While some voters fear independent women, Republicans are quietly working to suppress the vote of so many in our state. While some (white) voters fear the truth that it’ll be them in the minority soon, Republicans are quietly working to make sure the laws they pass now primarily benefit them and their financial supporters, not the voters who put them in office.

For me, all bets are off for the 2018 midterms, nationally and in Alabama. For so long, our elected officials have used this same, ugly playbook, and it works.

Maybe voters will truly be motivated to vote this year, and get out in numbers that overcome voter suppression and gerrymandering and those divisive hot buttons.

They haven’t so far, though. That’s what’s scary.

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

 

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Opinion | Maddox is pro-life, pro-gun — and the Ivey campaign is freaking out

Josh Moon

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The Kay Ivey campaign threw a bit of a hissy fit earlier this week.

You probably missed it, since it took place mostly on old fashioned radio and rightwing blogs, but there was outrage aplenty.

Because Walt Maddox, who’s running against Ivey for governor, released his first statewide campaign ad and revealed that he’s both pro-life and pro-second amendment.

And whooooo boy, the Ivey campaign went crazy.

In a bizarre, angry statement, Ivey’s handlers called Maddox a liar — an allegation for which they offered zero proof — and then tossed in some Sarah Palin-like buzzwords and pretended to be just aghast that Maddox would say such things.

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“Walt Maddox promises not to lie, yet he just told two lies in 30 seconds. That takes lying to a whole new level – even for a politician like Walt Maddox,” the Ivey campaign wrote, and then paused for a breath.

While that all might seem a bit over the top, it’s actually understandable.

Because the phony issues of abortion and guns are all the Ivey campaign has.

If they can’t use those, and instead have to run on Ivey’s record of staying the hell out of sight, they’re toast. And they know it.

So, they can’t sit idly by and allow Maddox to tell people what he believes. They have to attack him and call him a liar.

And as proof of his lies, they offer … well, nothing.

Because mayors, like governors, don’t have a voice in the abortion argument. So, Maddox has no record of opposing abortion. He has two children, so he’s at least been pro-life twice. And there’s nothing to suggest that he doesn’t believe exactly what he says he does.

As for guns, I have a newsflash for you rightwingers: lots of people on the left own and enjoy shooting firearms of all sorts. Quite a few of us are pretty good at it. And even more of us think that owning a gun for personal protection is a right that we’d like to protect.

The fact is there are a whole bunch of Democrats who fall all over the map on both issues. Because both issues, despite what the fringes of both sides would have you believe, are incredibly complicated and nuanced.

Of course, that’s not the way the Ivey campaign wants to present them. There’s only abortion and not abortion, guns and not guns.

But how Ivey herself would respond to the specifics of each question — for example, what would she do in the instances of rape, or does she favor stronger protections to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms — is unknown.

That’s because she’s refused to debate, where the specifics of complicated issues often get exposed as candidates go back and forth and voters are given an opportunity to better understand the issues and the candidates’ positions.

Ivey has run scared from those, because she knows the truth.

Walt Maddox isn’t some super-liberal. He’s a moderate with a better track record of actually doing things. If Ivey participated in a debate with Maddox, and his actual views and ideas were presented side-by-side with hers, all the PAC money in the world couldn’t save her.

Instead of debating, Ivey continues to hide behind her PR people and participate in 2-minute press scrums and softball radio interviews — places where she can toss out folksy soundbites without ever being truly challenged on her beliefs, lack of ideas and zero accomplishments.

Her handlers are hoping to do just enough to distract voters from these facts.

Maddox took away two of their shiny objects this week.

That’s why they were so mad.

 

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Bill Britt

Opinion | The people have a right to know if their attorney general is a cheat

Bill Britt

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If there is a shred of integrity left at the Alabama Ethics Commission, it will immediately convene an emergency hearing to settle the issues of whether the State’s Attorney General Steve Marshall violated campaign finance laws.

For nearly three months, the commission has failed to rule on whether Marshall knowingly ignored the state’s Fair Campaign Practice Act in taking $735,000 in illegal contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association. RAGA is not registered with the state and commingles its funds with other political action committees, masking the donors contrary to Alabama law. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton knows Marshall’s contributions were unlawful, so does Secretary of State John Merrill, but no one is willing to act. Even Marshall himself is on the record saying the type of contributions he received from RAGA are illegal and banning such contributions was, “the only legal protection standing between Alabama voters and the reality or appearance of quid pro quo corruption.”

Perhaps the larger question for the Commission and the Alabama Republican Party is should a candidate who willingly takes illegal campaign contributions be allowed to remain on the ballot?

In the least, the voters in Alabama have a right to know if the Republican nominee for the state’s top lawyer violated the law.

The primary function of the state’s attorney general is to represent the state in legal matters, protect the people and seek out and prosecute public corruption.

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The Ethics Commission must call a special hearing to address the allegation against Marshall before the Nov. 6 election.

If the commission refuses to act, it will confirm it is merely an extension of the political corruption that plagues our state.

Ethics Director Albritton and Secretary Merrill have made it clear in statements and previous writings that Marshall’s acceptance of the RAGA funds is an unlawful act.

Merrill, in 2015, asserted out-of-state PAC contributions made to an Alabama candidate are illegal if the PAC is not fully compliant with Alabama laws which require registration and full disclosure of its donors.

RAGA is not registered in Alabama, and its donors are not immediately disclosed under Alabama law because it accepts PAC-to-PAC transfers which mask the original donors.

Secretary of State’s letter addressed out-of-state PACs meddling in Alabama elections

For his part, in June, Albritton told al.com that he had informed other campaigns that similar donations would not be legal.

Merrill and Albritton make it evident that Marshall’s acceptance of the RAGA funds is a violation of the state’s campaign finance laws.

On too many occasions, the Commission has bent to the narrow interests of well-connected individuals or the broad considerations of powerful special interests. For once, it should look to protect the state’s voters from an attorney general who would skirt campaign laws for personal gain.

The right remedy in the Marshall situation lies with the Alabama Republican Party, which is responsible for pursuing such violations and taking appropriate action, but the so-called party of law and order has taken a pass on the Marshall fiasco, choosing to remain silent.

Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan and the Executive Committee could end the charade by immediately moving not to certify Marshall’s votes in the upcoming general election. Of course, this would mean conceding the race to Democrat Joe Siegelman. This might not be palatable, but how much more bitter is a win by cheating?

Since the party will not act on the issue, it falls to Ethics Commission Chairman Judge Jerry Fielding who can swiftly move to bring the Marshall matter before the Commission.

For years, Fielding enjoyed a sterling reputation as a respected jurist, but slowly over time, his willingness to allow questionable compromise on the Ethics Commision has taken the shine off his former standing. Marshall’s case is an opportunity for Judge Fielding and the entire commission to affirm the rule of law applies to everyone, even an appointed attorney general.

It is now time for the commission to act because the people have a right to know if their attorney general is a cheat.

 

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Opinion | In the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh disaster, let’s finally start living well

Joey Kennedy

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Folks, Brett Kavanaugh is now a justice on the United States Supreme Court. We can’t do anything about that. For now.

This man, who despite credible accusations that he is a sexual predator, still didn’t deserve a place on the highest court in the land even if no accusations had been made. Kavanaugh showed he could easily become unhinged in his bizarre testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, even rudely challenging questioners when they asked about his excessive drinking and sex games as a high school and college student. He lied to the Judiciary Committee and America, even before that disturbing day following the brave testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. His crocodile tears and mock anger were embarrassing.

The cloud Kavanaugh brings to the Supreme Court will remain until he dies, but, seriously, there’s nothing we can do now. When Donald Trump, a sexual predator himself, apologizes to Kavanaugh for him having to answer for his bad behavior, we know Trump has little respect for the court, or women, or, indeed, humanity.

So here we are. We’re angry, sure, and we have a right to be. Even the one woman who could have made a difference, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, turned her back on the many women who have been raped and sexually assaulted during their lives, to vote for a man credibly accused of sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl and others.

Old, angry white men — knowing they won’t be in power much longer or even among the majority in this diverse, growing nation of non-white citizens — rammed through Kavanaugh’s nomination, even as a great majority of Americans opposed it. The geezers have to live with what they’ve done, as does beer-loving boofer Kavanaugh, who will always have a tattered reputation among decent people, no matter how long he serves on the Supreme Court. They won a battle; however, friends, this is a war.

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And that war, we can win.

Our voices can be heard. Let’s not let our anger and depression and frustration over what happened during the torture of the Kavanaugh confirmation make us forget the power we do have.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill predicts that just 35 percent to 40 percent of Alabama’s more than 3.3 million active and inactive registered voters will turn out of the Nov. 6 elections.

I think turnout will be much higher. And I think that, finally, Democrats and Independents will swamp Republicans in overall numbers at the polls. I’m not being naïve; it’s likely Republicans will still win most races – voters in Alabama have a long history of voting against their best interests and Republicans know their gerrymandering. The hot-button issues Republicans love to mine – immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights, race issues, even their evangelical god – will drive many low-information voters to the polls.

Still, a lot of smart voters will be there, too. So I expect some surprises on Nov. 6. I don’t think Republicans, so comfortable in their arrogance, have any idea what kind of giant they have awakened.

With the #MeToo movement energizing women, the March for Our Lives movement motivating young voters and others disturbed about gun violence, the failure to protect young immigrants and children now in danger of deportation inspiring families from all ethnic backgrounds, the cruel attack on access to affordable health care rousing those without easy access to doctors and hospitals – Republicans may have stirred up voters in a way we have never seen during our lifetimes.

Yes, even here in Red, Red, Red Alabama.

I mean: Really? Fewer than half of Alabama’s voters showing up in less than a month for the election of our governor, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and other important offices? A 65 percent level of apathy in the wake of Kavanaugh and the re-victimization of thousands and thousands of women raped and sexually assaulted by men during their lives? In a day when our elected representatives refuse to pass reasonable gun restrictions and mental health reforms? When race relations are getting worse, not better? While our gay and lesbian friends and family members are openly being discriminated against? As millionaires and billionaires are getting whopping tax cuts, but hard-working individuals can’t even earn a living wage, and lawmakers are actively working to prevent them from doing so?

Sixty-five percent of Alabama voters staying home during next month’s election?

Maybe so. But perhaps not.

We need to take a Xanax, tap down our anger and misery over Brett Kavanaugh claiming his soiled seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, and work hard during the next month and weeks to make certain voters know who is running for office, who they’re voting for, why they’re voting for them, and then, dammit, turn up at the polls in record numbers to actually vote.

My wife, Veronica, often says: “The best revenge is living well.”

Let’s get out and vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and let’s finally start living well.

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

 

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Opinion | Democrats have three viable candidates, but Republicans will prevail

Steve Flowers

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In politics, perception is reality. It is perceived and therefore factual that a Democrat cannot win a statewide race in Alabama.

The proof is in the pudding. We have 29 elected statewide officeholders in the Heart of Dixie. All 29 are Republicans.

In addition, 6 out of 7 of our members in Congress are Republican. We have one lone Democratic member of Congress. Terri Sewell occupies the seat in Congress designed to be held by an African American.

We do have a temporary accidental anomaly U.S. Senator in Doug Jones. However, as any nominal political observer knows, he is only there until the next election. He is the epitome of the political adage that more people vote against someone than for someone. People were simply voting against Roy Moore and more liberal money poured into Alabama to beat Moore than has ever been sent into Alabama in history and probably ever will be. It was the only race in the country and every socialist liberal group or individual in the nation jumped on board to beat Moore. That anomaly will never happen again.

To his credit, Jones is not a demagogue. He is and has always been a liberal national Democrat. He has been a card carrying, bonafide liberal his entire adult life. He is ideologically more at home and comfortable buddying around with Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi than with Richard Shelby, Robert Aderholt or Bradley Bryne. He has campaigned for, contributed to and been a Democratic delegate for Walter Mondale, Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He is a true believer.

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He has felt his oats a bit and gotten involved in trying to change the state Democratic Party organization, which by the way is not very organized. He endorsed his candidate Peck Fox against Nancy Worley for the chairmanship of the defunct Alabama Democratic Party. Worley prevailed because Joe Reed still controls the reigns of the Democratic Party brand in the state.

Make no doubt about it, the Democratic Party is the party of African Americans in Alabama. There are a few liberal white Democrats in the state that Reed parades out as face cards. However, he wants it to remain his party, and essentially that is the case.

Make no mistake about it, Alabama politics is still driven by race. Whites are primarily Republicans. Blacks are totally Democratic. Politics is nothing more than simply counting. Basic math if you will. There are simply more white folks that vote than black folks who vote. That is why 29 out of 29 state officeholders are Republican.

The Democrats have fielded three viable candidates for statewide office in the upcoming November General Election. They will run good races, but they are not going to win. It will be 29 out of 29 come January.

Walt Maddox is the best candidate that the Democrats have had in several decades for Governor. Maddox is 45 and has been Mayor of Tuscaloosa, one of Alabama’s premier and most prosperous cities for 10 years. He is better qualified and much more able to serve as Governor than Kay Ivey.

However, Kay is a Republican quasi incumbent, running in a very good economic time. Her handlers are doing an excellent job of running out the clock and keeping quiet. All they have to do is show pictures of Kay cutting ribbons, claiming credit for economic expansion, aligning herself with Trump and clinging to Confederate monuments. The bottom line is she will win because she is the Republican candidate.

Joseph Siegelman, the son of former Governor Don Siegelman, is a viable candidate for Attorney General. He not only is viable but is vibrant and attractive. He is 30-years old with movie star good looks and he also has a good-looking dog. He exudes integrity and ethics. However, Marshall will prevail over Siegelman because he is the GOP candidate. Although it may be surprising how many votes young Siegelman gets. A lot of folks, including a good many moderate Republicans, believe Siegelman’s dad, Don, was done wrong. He will reap a good many sympathy votes.

The third viable Democratic candidate is Robert Vance, Jr., in the race for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He will run a good race. However, Tom Parker will prevail because he is the Republican candidate.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama 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 | The politics of deflection, distraction

by Joey Kennedy Read Time: 4 min
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