By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
I’ve been away for a few days in Virginia visiting a long-time friend. This is a friend I have traveled to Cuba with a dozen times over the past decade and a half. We haven’t returned to Cuba since 2013; he’s developed Parkinson’s disease, and such long-distance travel isn’t possible for him anymore.
The Rev. Richard Peerey is doing well, considering. We are, of course, aligned politically. We’re both blue dots in red states, though Alabama is much redder than Virginia. We are bothered by how the Republican primary is going. The hate and divisiveness apparent is against all we believe.
We believe, as people of faith, we should strive to take care of the least of these. We’re frustrated by how big corporations and state governments do all they can to keep their workers at the lowest pay grade, lay off loyal employees with impunity, and, where legislators are concerned, plot strategies to make it difficult for the poor, especially the working poor, to move up, to receive the benefits that’ll help them do that, to put food on their tables so their children won’t go hungry.
This isn’t a story about Cuba. Today, it’s a look at Alabama — in many ways, as Third World as Cuba — and the steps our state takes to be, well, cruel to our poor, who make up much of its population.
And here’s what struck Richard and me as we talked before the fireplace in his living room: When you get down to it, when you peel the onion (and you don’t have to peel far), what you see is the “mighty” GOP.
Democrats aren’t intentionally trying to hurt poor people. Republicans most certainly are, in every way — from denying benefits, both food and health; in making it more difficult to vote; in making the hardworking poor improve their status — keeping their boots firmly planted on poor folks’ throats.
Gov. Robert Bentley recently signed into law a proposal that prevents Alabama cities, and specifically Birmingham, from raising the minimum wage paid to the working poor — a decision made by the Birmingham City Council. It applied only to Birmingham. If Birmingham voters didn’t like the decision, they could elect a new City Council.
Yet, Mountain Brook state Rep. David Faulkner (a Republican, of course) didn’t like it, even though the minimum wage increase wouldn’t apply to his Tiny Kingdom.
Most of his colleagues in the House didn’t like it, either. Nor did most senators. Nor did the governor, the Christian physician Bentley, who signed the bill even as he was giving his top administrators massive pay raises. All Republicans, these.
Then there’s state Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) who has dropped a bill that would further restrict people from qualifying for food stamps and other financial support in many areas. It’s already difficult for poor people to qualify for Alabama’s meager benefits. The bill may not take benefits away if the working poor have cars, as reported at one time, but the additional hurdles imposed are significant.
The cruelty is astounding. Yet, many of these Draconian, Orr-like lawmakers owe their offices to the very people they so flippantly harm. They don’t care. They are heartless, mean spirits.
They have shown time and again they cannot govern. How about passing real budgets that pay the way without slashing already slashed public services? All these Republicans do is bloviate, continue their cruelty to the least of these, then go to church on Sunday.
We’ve heard people who attended a recent Donald Trump rally yell at a Muslim man to “get a job!” But we learned the man is on active duty in the U.S. Military. We regularly see protesters at Trump gatherings beaten up by Trump supporters, with Trump encouraging such actions and promising to pay any legal fees that result.
These are the Republicans. This is how far their party has fallen: Below any gutter.
Their obvious hate for women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others not like them isn’t even tokenly disguised anymore.
We see this in Alabama far too regularly. We’re seeing it on the national stage daily in the most important election we have as a country. We see it in the U.S. House, in the U.S. Senate, in the Alabama Legislature, and in the Alabama governor’s office.
We see it every day at Trump rallies and others, where the rhetoric is so hateful and divisive we may never recover. Or, at least, not recover for a long, long time.
Republicans: This is what YOU have created. YOU allowed (encouraged) this to happen. YOU are the face of hate today and not simply here In the United States, but across the world. YOU’LL have to fix it.
But YOU won’t.
You are the Castro brothers — except at least the Castros are patriots in their country. You’re just in it for yourselves, and Alabama and the United States be damned.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]