By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—What was once an endangered species is now all but extinct, that being the elected, white Southern Democrat. Turning the “Solid South” Republican began in the Civil Rights era, and is all but complete under the presidency of Barack Obama.
As recently as 1977, there was not a single Republican serving in the Alabama House or Senate. Today, white Republicans hold 26 seats in the Senate and 72 in the House. Of the remaining 9 Senate seats, only one is occupied by a white Democrat, and he was elected in a majority black district. Of the 33 Democrats in the House, only six are white.
Under redistricting by the Republican supermajority, eight Senate districts where minorities accounted for a majority of voters were left intact, and in the House one majority/minority district was added. This virtually insures that a white Democrat would be hard pressed to represent the district in the future.
This would lead to the belief that the white Southern Democrat is not a thriving, political beast.
“We are an endangered species right now, but I take the larger view also,” said Dr. Gerald Johnson, Political Science, Professor Emeritus, Auburn University, “The history of politics in America swings like a pendulum every so many years.
Johnson says, there is an argument that that Alabama is an island unto itself, “add Utah to that equation.”
He sees Reapportionment and voter turnout in this last election as factors leading to the State’s Republican Supermajority in the State legislature.
Johnson points to historically low voter turnout in 2014, which he believes is due to cynicism, apathy and cross-pressure. “Low voter turnout happens when people are cross-pressured,” says Johnson.
In political science, cross-pressure is used to describe conflicting influences on individuals’ political preferences, and suggests that cross-pressured citizens are less likely to participate in the process. An example of a cross-pressured constituent is when a citizen may lean toward Democrats on social welfare issues but toward Republicans on cultural issues like abortion or same-sex marriage.
Redistricting by the State Republican Supermajority has led to a legal pushback saying that the Republican-drawn lines packed black voters into more tightly confined voting areas, a move that the US Supreme Court has suggested is a problem that needs be addressed.
Just this week, the Supreme Court threw out a North Carolina ruling that upheld a Republican-drawn line, citing the Alabama case in its opinion.
Johnson says, that after the Republican’s redistricting plan, “There is not one district that is in-play other than all white/all black, and that has reduced the black influence to where it was in the 1950s.”
Here Johnson takes a harsh, but telling tone:
“They drew the lines to create “Black Gulags” to pack the black districts and thus make them impotent. On the surface, I can’t see how anyone can’t see that. They don’t want to see it. They knew exactly what they were doing.”
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) recently said that the redistricting case was sent back to the lower court on a “technicality.” He said he didn’t believe the State would be required to draw new districts: “We passed pre-clearance by the Justice Department. I believe we will prevail.”
Hubbard stands accused by the State on 23 felony counts of public corruption.
Johnson sees Hubbard as an example of politicians “who talk about rights and choice, not the specific issues,” that are long on propaganda and short on real solutions.
Johnson, who is also a pollster, points to a recent survey that found Fox News is one of the most trusted institutions in Alabama.
“In a list of 30 institutions, which included the Military, the Red Cross and all major news networks, FOX News ranks 4 in institutional confidence,” said Johnson. The prevalence of ideologically driven 24-hour news broadcasts that mostly focuses on hot-button conservative versus liberal issues has kept voters from focusing on local matters. This, Johnson believes, is part of the problem that has cause the State to languish near the bottom in employment, education and healthcare. As well as diminishing the influence of white democrats.
“I believe having the first black president and FOX news has sped up the process…” leading to a State where the electorate is divided between white Republicans and black Democrats.
“Democracy is, for the first time in my professional career, is about ready to run off the tracks unless there’s some intervention in this process,” said Johnson.
Johnson says, “Historically, that was the role of the media, the Fourth Estate. They were able to check and balance and push and shove and scream…and now that’s gone… which just leaves misinformation.”
In a State where the white district elections are decided in the Republican primaries, the Republican candidates accused each other of “being in bed” with President Obama. In a spectacle reminiscent of the State’s racist past, each candidate tried to “out Obama” the other.
Today, Alabama’s governing class is almost exclusively white and male. This Johnson feels does not bode well for the future of the State, as minority representation is virtually non-existent.
But, he does think that it will change in the slow march of history.
Today is Thanksgiving
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.
The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”
After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.
Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.
The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.
About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”
In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.
Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.
William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on one counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another five counts.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his sentence should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.