By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
There is a general sense around the State House that the 2017 Legislative Session is different.
But in what way?
Is there a chance we are witnessing an era of cooperation rather than confrontation? Could this be the time where all the citizens in every district matter whether Republican or Democrat?
While this may be overly optimistic, there does seem to be a few seeds of hope.
Since 2006, when Mike Hubbard became House Minority Leader, a state of war existed between House Democrats and Republicans. Hubbard escalated this warfare by using a highly strategic plan he called “Storming the State House,” replacing the Democratic majority with an autocratically run Republican supermajority. Hubbard is gone now, a victim of his greed and corrupt moral character. But those who obeyed his every command, and those who suffered his wrath still hold offices of power and walk the halls of the State House. Hubbard is a convicted felon, but the legacy of his orgy of greed and corruption continue to infect the People’s house every day. And, for the most part, those who were his partners have retained their positions or moved on to become lobbyists reaping significant financial gains.
Hubbard, like a sadist, derived pleasure from inflicting pain on others; but that spirit no longer stalks the State House.
For those who prospered under Hubbard, like masochist still longing for their Master’s touch. Other are just now realizing that the bonds that held them down no longer exist.
A form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in some, in others, a desire for a controlling hand is in part why this session seems, at times, laid back or even disjointed.
Under the even-handed, even-tempered leadership of Speaker Mac McCutcheon, the whip is replaced with persuasion, and the ties that bind are those of conscience.
Mac McCutcheon’s method is something new, and for those who formally relied on inevitable outcomes dictated by the Speaker. Change of any kind can be disorienting, and uncertainty breeds fear among the weak. While not entirely erased, the era of “my-side” politics employed by Hubbard and many who came before him is fading in the House Chamber and in some might say in the Senate as well where Republican Sen. Dick Brewbaker introduced a bill to overturn judicial override in capital murder cases. While presenting the legislation, Brewbaker acknowledged that it was, in fact, a word for word copy of a bill carried by Democratic Sen. Hank Sanders. under the Hubbard Republican supermajority, that would never have seen the light of day.
Brewbaker met with Sanders first asking his permission to carry the bill to which the Democratic Senator readily agreed. The bill passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority and is being carried in the House by Democrat Rep. Christopher England. The bill is expected to clear both chambers. We may very well be witnessing an era change.
Is Republican Rep. Issac Whorton the enemy of Democrat Minority Leader Anthony Daniels? Is Republican Rep. April Weaver the nemesis of Democrat Rep. Merika Coleman? It is highly unlikely in real life, but in the show world of “my-side” politics, it is possible if rallied by a manipulative leader like Hubbard.
Are there differences in approach on some things, yes. But none of these individuals appear to be radicals in thought or manner.
There are leaders who find it easier to govern with the “us versus them” mentality. But are Alabama Republican State lawmakers truly the enemy of Alabama Democrats? Opposition yes, the enemy no. But the national parties as well as the media, both countrywide and within states promotes the idea of division. And there are more than a few political careers made by being against the other side no matter what. This is part of a political construct that uses lies, half-truths and other devices of propaganda to pit one group against another.
In his 1841 work, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay noted, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
Perhaps the herd driven by Hubbard is coming to its senses, and the result is cooperation, not warfare.
It’s only a few seeds I admit, but they are worth nurturing.