By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In the immediate hours and subsequent days since Mike Hubbard was reelected Speaker of the House—despite being indicted on 23 counts of felony public corruption—the big question has been, “what were they thinking?”
From the reports leaked from the Republican Caucus meeting held privately, away from voters and the press, 59 Republican House members voted to reelect Hubbard, 8 voted for a replacement, 2 abstained and 3 were absent.
So, we ask, “what were they thinking?”
It was a secret ballot, and unless some feared a handwriting analysis, they were free to vote their conscience.
All of the members present were aware of Hubbard’s legal problems and the potential that in the coming months he may be found guilty of at least some of the crimes with which he is charged.
So, why did they act to reelect?
The eight who voted against Hubbard may have had varying motivates, but the underlying theme was they believed it would be bad for the State and bad for the Republican party to be represented by a man facing felony criminal charges, related to his official position in the House.
Those who voted for Hubbard can be divided in to two basic camps: the “True Believers” and the “Go Along to Get Alongs.”
The “True Believers” are around 25 individuals who are part of this cult of personality, of which Hubbard is their leader, no matter what.
The newly-minted legislators who took control of the State House in 2010, were crusaders who accomplished something, in their minds, heroic. They had triumphed in a battle against 136 years of corrupt Democratic rule of State government. Along with their brothers-in-arms they had done something truly historic, something that their fathers, grand-fathers and even great-grand-fathers would not have believed possible.
They were special, they were different and the voters and the press and most especially their leader had confirmed it.
Most of these men had been handpicked from relative obscurity by the leader, Mike Hubbard. He gave them the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves, a calling to many beyond their wildest dreams.
Hubbard was “The Leader,” of the Republican revolution in Alabama. He was “The Man.”
Hubbard’s personality and leadership style follows classic examples of cult leaders who are eventually found to be corrupt.
Former FBI Counterintelligence Agent Joe Navarro, writing for Psychology Today, notes that certain movement leaders exhibit the same personality traits: “They all have or had an over-abundant belief that they were special, that they and they alone had the answers to problems, and that they had to be revered. They demanded perfect loyalty from followers, they overvalued themselves and devalued those around them, they were intolerant of criticism, and above all they did not like being questioned or challenged. And yet, in spite of these less than charming traits, they had no trouble attracting those who were willing to overlook these features.”
In his book, Them and Us, Dr. Arthur J. Deikman identifies four basic behaviors that influence fanatical group thinking: compliance with the group, dependence on the leader, avoiding dissent, and devaluing the outsider.
The “True Believers” within the caucus have fallen into the same pattern of behavior which has allowed dictators and cult leaders to lay waste to moral law across history.
Even, if Hubbard is found guilty of his crimes the True Believer will also remain steadfast in their belief that he was innocent, it is the only way they can keep some seeing themselves as flawed and wrong.
The cult of personality surrounding Hubbard is strong and currently unshakable.
To understand the others it is important to realize that the House Caucus under Hubbard is a type of fraternity, with special rites, privileges and punishments. To rise in the ranks of the House fraternal order, the members must obey, and even those who disagree must go along to get ahead. It was this group that gave Hubbard the majority he needed to remain speaker.
For years there have been rumors and suspicions that Hubbard was a crook, or at least that he played fast and loose with the rules. This is not surprising in government, and is often considered just the way the game is played.
The “Go Alongs To Get Alongs” made the conscious choice to do what was ethically wrong for personal gain or to avoid personal loss, which is much the same thing.
Perhaps, they said to themselves, “If I vote against Mike, I will not be a committee chairman or I can’t do this or that for my district, so I need to put aside what is best for what is good.”
This may seem like a very rational choice, given the current authoritarian state of the House Caucus, but it’s a choice that betrays the very notion of Republic and moral law.
According to sources inside the party, a plurality of this group were leaning toward voting Hubbard out as Speaker, until Rep. Barry Moore was acquitted. The fear of Hubbard surviving his trial caused these to run from the moral high ground and fall on their knees, rather than, perhaps, their sword.
However, to compare the case against Moore, case with the one facing Hubbard, is a false narrative invented by Hubbard.
If Hubbard is found guilty of any of the charges the state has accused him of many in the the go along to get along clan will claim to be one of the eight who voted against Hubbard. Never will so many claim to be a part of such a small number.
What will be the aftermath of this vote? What will be the legacy if Hubbard is in fact convicted of the any of the crimes of which he now stands accused?
Alabama is a state that perhaps understands football better than any other, so, the legacy of the Penn State sex scandal might serve as an appropriate analogy.
The Penn State child sex abuse scandal revealed in 2011 was a result of longtime former university football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assault of at least eight underage boys on or near the university. Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of sexual crimes against young boys.
While the crimes Sandusky was convicted of were heinous, the cover-up and denial ruined the legacy of one of the countries most legendary football programs.
An investigation commissioned by the PSU board and conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh found that Penn State President Graham Spanier, Head Coach Joe Paterno, along with athletic director Tim Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz, had known about allegations of child abuse on Sandusky’s part as early as 1998, and were complicit in failing to disclose them.
Freed stated that these men and Penn State had shown a “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims” for 14 years and “empowered” Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse.”
For now, from Washington, DC to Washington County, not one Republican leader has raised their voice to question the wisdom of reelecting a man who is under felony indictments.
Penn State now lives with the legacy of crimes, cover-up and acquiescence. In the near future, the same may be said about Alabama’s Republican leadership and the Republican House members who reelected Hubbard.
What were they thinking?
The “True Believers” were not thinking.
The “Go Along To Get Alongs” were thinking of themselves.
And those who voted to replace Hubbard…they were thinking about all of us.
Speaker Mike Hubbard once called corruption “an albatross around our neck in the State.”
Now, that storied bird has a name…and it is Hubbard.