By Jack Campbell
When recording artist Cher released the hit “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” in 1971, she never envisioned that song would characterize the leadership of the GOP in Alabama some 45 years later. Even the people who are not historically tuned in to current affairs realize our state Party is headed for a disastrous future, plagued by public officials who are tainted by greed, extramarital sex, thievery, and secret, backroom deals.
On top of that, our Governor, House Speaker, and Senate President Pro Temp, who have no knowledge of the history of the Alabama Republican Party, are now running it. Governor Bentley is one of the “Tramps” mentioned in the song with his disgusting sexual overtures toward an equally- trashy gubernatorial “advisor.” Then we have a Speaker and Senate Leader–Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh–who are the “Gypsies,” (polite term for carpetbaggers) moving to Alabama from Georgia and West Virginia respectively. Their appreciation for and knowledge of the history of the Alabama GOP is non-existent.
That’s not all. Don’t forget about the “Thieves.” There is a trial gearing up in Lee County where the Speaker is charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption. But he had plenty of help in building the case against himself from the Kool Aid drinking House members and lobbyists who rubber-stamped his get-rich-quick schemes, enabling him to continue wielding the coveted gavel.
As we prepared to lay Former Chief Justice Perry Hooper to rest, I reflected on the rich but tumultuous history of the Alabama Republican Party going back to the 1960s. In a conversation I had with a former Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman, now a federal judge, we talked about the early struggles we faced in getting people to say out loud they were Republicans. And finding people to serve on the local Republican executive committee or attend GOP meetings was a daunting task.
The early days of the Party featured the agony of attempting to recruit candidates to run under the GOP banner. Local business conservatives wouldn’t run for office as a Republican because that might hurt their profits. All of the local sheriffs and commissioners were entrenched Democrats because “that’s the way my Poppa always voted.” It was also difficult to get people to say in telephone surveys that they planned to vote Republican. Finding a landowner who would allow a GOP candidate to erect a campaign sign on his or her property was next to impossible.
The current elected Republican leadership is feasting off of the banquet the early pioneers like Perry Hooper, Red Blount, Bill Bates, and Ginger Austin prepared for them. But they don’t know or care about the hard work that went into building the Party from the ground up. It was not easy– sometimes unpleasant–but well worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
Bentley, Hubbard and Marsh have committed the unpardonable sin as Republican leaders. They have turned a blind eye to the financial crisis in which the state of Alabama finds itself. Forget fiscal responsibility when their trump card is raiding trust funds and raising taxes and fees rather than finding long term solutions. Remember, we have a breast-groping governor whose “affair of state” took precedence over the real affairs of state. All that crap about “Alabama is open for business” is a sick joke. The jobs are going to Florida and Texas., not Alabama. Why would any self-respecting business person want to relocate to the “Pay to play” state Alabama has become?
If you don’t believe the chicanery is going on right in front of our eyes, just look at the current $800 million legislative proposal to build new prisons. While that sounds noble, remind yourself that no study has been commissioned, no land has been bought, no bids have been solicited and no real price tag has been tabulated. These crooks in Montgomery expect the taxpayers to give them cart blanche to solve the dire prison situation because we should “trust” their judgment. That’s merely a code word for “grab your wallet.”
As someone who has actively participated since 1976 in the crusade to build the Alabama GOP, I am sincerely offended by the action or lack thereof of the people we have entrusted to lead us. They should all be swept out, replaced by men and women who have the morals, heart, mind and soul to pull the state’s ox out of the ditch. So, the next time you hear “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” call your state senator and representative to demand they make that the official state song.