By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Successful politicians are those who can awaken our greatest hopes or inflame our worst fears. Since the reelection of President Obama, I have been shocked, or perhaps disappointed is a better term, at the reaction by some of my fellow Americans and Alabamians. I can’t recall the last time I heard the N-word, the F-Bomb and smelled the foul stench of racism so blatantly on display.
I am not a lefty, neither am I prone to political correctness, but the hatred of the 44th President of the United States has grown to proportions outside of what I consider civilized. Threats of violence and armed insurrection are so casually bantered about, that I fear for the sanity of my friends on the far-right.
Writing this column makes me uncomfortable because some of these same people are friends. I did not vote for the president in 2008 or 2012. But, to be frank, I didn’t think much of his opponents either.
This man, who is a temporary occupant of the Oval Office, is neither king nor dictator. As a journalist, I believe the media is responsible for a great deal of the hysteria we are seeing manifest in our country. A whole swath of our country believes that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and their kind are thinkers and political savants when in fact they are entertainers who pander to our worst fears and prejudices.
Today, we have group-think-media, pick a bias, we have plenty to go around. There is a news vortex in which people like Dick Morris and Michael Barone can predicted the GOP will break 300 electoral votes in electing Mitt Romney and turnaround after being wrong and make excuses that point the blame at someone else. Meanwhile, more liberal-leaning media was reporting that Obama would be reelected.
Sadly, the 24-hour news cycle has turned more ancillary of a point of view than fact-based reporting. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
It would seem in the current media environment each news outlet in entitled to their own facts.
Recently, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said in response to the GOP loss in the general elections, “We’ve also had enough of thus dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being so simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”
Jindal, is a graduate of Brown University, an Ivy league college, a Rhodes Scholar and a conservative. In other words he is an elite, intellectual, republican, something that the party seems to shy away from. Of course, so were the founders of our great republic, they were the wealthiest, most well-educated, the nonpareil of their generation.
One time my wife and I took Christmas gifts to a family that was in dire financial shape because the husband was inured on a job. He was an independent contractor with no health insurance, no workman’s comp or any kind of safety net. The family had never been prosperous but now it was worse than ever. It was a warmish December night and the family had built a small fire outside of their rented mobile home. The wife said the family was receiving food stamps, and Medicaid for the children. She also said that her husband had filed for disability. As we sat there I became increasingly saddened by these peoples misfortune. The dad handed his two kids American flags and they began circling the fire chanting USA. Suddenly, the father unloaded a hate-filled diatribe against the federal government and the sitting president.
I asked the man if he realized that it was the government who was giving him a leg up during his crisis. To that he answered, they have given me nothing, I earned it. But did he?
There is great talk about secession for the moment, it is a silly notion. It was tried and nullified by blood. Governor Bentley has wisely said he believes we are one nation under God and should remain that way.
However, he has vowed to defy Obamacare by not implementing a healthcare exchange in Alabama. A healthcare exchange was on Dr. Robert Bentley’s agenda before he was elected. He has even establish the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange within the Department of Insurance. Bentley has spent millions of dollars on the exchange and even has a director on the state payroll.
This is political posturing on his part. Does the Governor so fear the Tea Party that he has to pretend? Is he worried about a primary challenge from a Bradley Byrne or Tim James?
Some in the Legislature would move the state so far right as to bring back the Alien and Sedition Act. Is this where the governor is headed too?
Fear and loathing is not a policy any more than hope and change.
Sadly, those with the intellectual heft to lead the state are hostage to the next election. I pray that there are some in the GOP who will heed Jindal’s admonition. We need leaders who have intelligence, integrity and big ideas based on good policy to lead us.
Where is the leader that will inspire us to greatness instead of exciting us with fear?