By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
I’m often criticized for picking on the Republican political leaders in Alabama. I’m accused of everything from being a Democrat to being a “libtard.” I admit to being a liberal. But I’m not a Democrat. I’m an Independent. I vote for Republicans and Democrats – whomever I deem best qualified in a particular election.
However, if I am to observe and comment on state government in Alabama, inevitably, the focus is going to be on Republicans. They are in charge. Republicans hold every constitutional office; they have supermajorities in the House of Representatives and state Senate. They occupy every seat on the Alabama Supreme Court. All but one member of our congressional delegation are Republicans – some of them about as whacky as many of our state-level officeholders.
We mostly get the government we deserve, so I guess we deserve the lecherous Dr. Robert Bentley; the charged-with-felony-corruption Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard; the practically impotent Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh; and the embarrassing, homophobic Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roy Moore.
Alabama voters put these people in office. Despite these officials’ ineptness, their crudeness, their cold insensitivity, they keep getting re-elected.
Yes, we mostly get the government we deserve, and we apparently don’t think we deserve much. These past few months show that. Moore’s rants against marriage equality and his defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue may cost him his office (please!). Again. Moore is suspended with pay now as ethics charges against him go through the process.
Medicaid, which physician Bentley cruelly refuses to expand to help Alabama’s working poor get the health care they need, was vastly underfunded, by millions of dollars, in the recently ended legislative session. People will die because of that. Literally.
Bentley wants new prisons — $800 million worth of them — without a plan, a study, or an impact statement. As Bentley’s disastrous two terms in office near a close, it may be time to pay off supporters; an undefined, multi-hundreds-of-millions in prison construction may do the trick.
I could go on and on, but it’s depressing. The Legislature wouldn’t even consider a modest bill to regulate chaining and tethering of dogs, a serious problem in Alabama. Why take the chains off dogs before they take the chains off Alabama’s citizens, and they’re not about to do that.
Alabama Republicans’ political woes are the subject of regular national news stories, including those by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who noted this week that all three Alabama branches of government are in turmoil. That’s a nice way to say it.
We’ve certainly had corrupt and lascivious Democrats before, but I don’t think we’ve had them across all three branches of government at the same time — at least since I’ve been observing Alabama politics.
Bentley may even call an expensive, useless special session in a desperate bid to get his $800 million prison boondoggle through the Legislature. He can call a special session, but it’s unlikely he’ll get his prison wish. Indeed, like Hubbard, Bentley may end up literally getting prison instead.
With Bentley’s junior-high-like sex scandal and other accusations, including that he may have illegally tapped into his critics’ medical records, he has even less political capital than ever, and, frankly, Bentley never had a whole lot.
At least jury selection for Hubbard’s trial is scheduled to start Monday. Opening statements begin a week or so later. Maybe in a few weeks, we’ll be clear of that embarrassment.
Moore, meanwhile, remains hatefully homophobic and complains that people are just picking on him. Poor, poor pitiful him. When is Moore going to figure out he brings this turmoil on himself? He’s not an objective Chief Justice, but I’ll give him this: He doesn’t pretend to be.
Which brings us back to the point: We mostly get the government we deserve. Bentley, the Legislature, folks like Moore: They hoodwink voters election after election into deciding against their own best interests.
And instead of hanging our heads in humiliation and disgust, we boast that we are proud to be against LGBT rights and immigrants and the poor and minorities and a woman’s right to choose.
Alabama may deserve more, but Alabama voters certainly don’t.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column each Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]