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A disquisition on greed in politics, an introduction with Mr. Blue Suit

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter

“I have no doubt from what I daily see that our whole system is rapidly becoming a mere money-making concern to those who have the control of it.”

US Senator Calhoun, (Circa 1848)

The Big 4 meet Mr. Blue Suit

The State of YullaMama is located in the southern region of North America. YullaMama’s average temperature is well above 90 degrees. It’s warm weather has proven to be a fertile environment for the ice-production business. Currently there are four ice production companies that retain 95 percent of the market share – the Big 4.

The CEOs of the Big 4 met in the Capitol one day for lunch.  One CEO lamented that, “it sure would be nice if there were some way to keep upstarts out of the ice making business.”

Another CEO chimed in, “Hey, what if the State required ice makers to be licensed? The State could set the requirements high enough to make gaining entry into the ice making business almost impossible.”  The other CEOs applauded the idea, but couldn’t fathom how this would be possible.

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As fortune would have it, eating at the table right next to the Big 4 was a man in a nice blue suit who couldn’t help but overhear the conversation.  “Excuse me, Gentlemen. I hate to interrupt,” said Mr. Blue Suit, politely. “My name is Mr. Blue Suit. I work for the Bureau for Community Advancement and I may have a solution for you.”

Blue Suit explained to the Big 4 that the Bureau was a “non-profit”, member based organization, that specialized in helping like-minded business owners change State laws to further “community advancement.” For a small fee, the Bureau could lobby the Legislature of YullaMama, and with Blue Suit’s extensive connections, could get a law passed that would require licensure for any ice makers in YullaMama.

The Big 4 were naturally skeptical. One CEO asked, “If we make this small contribution to the Bureau, can you ensure we get Legislation passed that would make it virtually impossible for new competitors to start ice-making business?”

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Blue Suit dropped his head and laughed with a chuckle that made the CEO feel naive.  Blue Shirt explained that the Bureau controls one of the most powerful Political Action Committees in the sate. The Bureau’s PAC contributes to the political campaigns of almost every elected official in YullaMama. “That means,” Mr. Blue Suit explained while emphatically thumping his pointed finger on the table,  “that these elected officials do what the Bureau tells them to do – otherwise, the Bureau will make sure these politicians don’t stay in office for long.”

“But, won’t there be a public outcry about this?”, asked one of the CEOs. Blue Suit assured them that the standard protocol in these situations was fail safe.  The Bureau would enlist scientist do perform focused research and retain marketing firms to disseminate their “evidence-based” research.

“I’m just spitballing here,” said Blue Suit, “but, we could do some research on the health hazards of contaminated ice. If we could find a couple of cases where people have used ice from some no-name dispensary and gotten sick, well then, there you have it. A bill like this would be all about ensuring the public safety … and ensuring “community advancement”

The Big 4 were in.  They made the requisite contributions and Blue Suit used the influence of the Bureau for Community Advancement to pass the legislations.

Five Years Later

Five years later, the Big 4 found themselves eating lunch again at the Capitol; this time Blue Suit was comfortably seated at their table. One CEO commented, “Blue Suit, we couldn’t be happier with the legislation you passed. The demand for ice in YullaMama has doubled and our market share has remained the same. No new competitors have entered the market, and a few of the smaller fish even had to close shop because of the licensing regulations.”

“I sense a ‘but’ coming here,” Blue Suit observed with a smile.

“Well, your right,” said the CEO. “I wonder if we could do something more. Is there some other strategy that that Bureau could help us with?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” said Blue Suit with a grin like a cheshire cat. “You’ve only just scratched the surface of possibilities. You’ve accomplished market share protection, but that’s just Phase 1. The real money comes from getting your hands into tax revenue. If you can find a way to reach into the public coffers, then … anything is possible.”

“YullaMama’s state tax revenue is one thing, and we can reach into that for sure,” explained Blue Suit, “but, But, BUT … the Federal Government, has an unlimited power to tax and print money. Figure out how to get a piece of that and …,” Blue Suit leaned back and raised his eyebrows with an anything-is-possible look.

The Big 4 sat at the table in silence. They mostly looked down at their plate or coffee cup … occasionally glancing at each other. The look each CEO gave to the other made it clear, “We’ve got to do this.” The boldest of the Big 4 broke the silence, “Okay, Blue Suit, lay it out for us. How do we get this done?”

“First, we need to privatize the ice making needs of the schools and prisons,” Mr. Blue Suit was clearly in his element. “We can cite some studies that there has been an outbreak of contagious diseases from in-house ice making. So, it’s essential for ‘community advancement’ that we outsource ice-making to someone to ‘experts’ who are licensed by the State.  And, of course, that would be you guys.”  The CEOs of the Big 4 nodded in agreement with a slight smile.

“Can we can get all that done legislatively – like we did with the licensing bill?”, asked the bold CEO.

“Absolutely. Remember, nobody gets elected or stays elected in YullaMama without our blessing.” Mr. Blue Suit went on, “Next, we have to get you guys tied into Pres. Tupaloo’s infrastructure money. Pres. Tupaloo has promised 4 billion to the State for ‘infrastructure’ if YullaMama will pass 4 or 5 pieces of legislation.  You guys could get a big chunk of that 4 billion as the sole distributors of ice for all the workers out in the field putting up bridges and such.”

“Imagine this,” said Mr. Blue Suit, “we can find a medical doctor who can show that it is essential for workers in YullaMama to have ice on hand at all times for their health – due to the heat, of course. Then we have an analyst do some research to show that it saves a ton of money to have that ice delivered to the workers on the construction site.”

Blue Suit leaned back from the table as before, with the same eyebrow lifting anything-is-possible look, “We are talking millions of dollars of contracts from federal money … and hey, it’s gonna go to somebody. Might as well be you, boys.”

The CEOs of the Big 4 once again sat in silence as the possibilities of Blue Suit’s proposal sank in. After seconds that seems like minutes, the mildest and quietest CEO spoke up, “Something has been bothering me from the beginning of our work with the Bureau. Now, don’t get me wrong … we’ve all gotten filthy rich from the licensure requirement and what you’ve just proposed could triple our net worth.”

“But, here’s my predicament,” said the mild CEO. “I don’t know that what we’ve done and what we are proposing to do is good for the State of YullaMama. People are paying higher prices for ice because there’s less competition.  And, we stomped out all the little guys. And, if we get the contracts to make ice for the schools and the prisons, it’s going to costs taxpayers way more money than just making it in-house.”

Brows began to furrow on the faces of the other CEOs, but the mild CEO continued, “And, I’m not really sure the Federal Government has the right to tax folks the way they do and spend money like we’re talking about. The 10th Amendment gave them very limited powers. Each time the Federal Government taxes and spends money outside those parameters, it sort of feels like stealing. I’m not sure I want to reap the benefits of stolen money.”

Blue Suit leaned forward with a nervous laugh and quickly chimed in, “I get where you’re coming from. Look, lots of folks have that concern, but you can’t turn the clock back.  Our whole two-party system is geared to people, like you boys, reaping the benefits of the tax revenue. Let me break it down to you this way: Republicans scream ‘Pro-Life’ and Democrats scream ‘Criminal Justice Reform.’ The reality is, if either party really cared about those things, they would be resolved yesterday.  But the truth is, if they were resolved, then the respective parties wouldn’t have a platform to stay in power. We just ‘make up’ these social justice issues to keep the right people in power so the Bureau can continue to serve your business interests – the interests of ‘community advancement.’”

“And this is just Capitalism, Boys.” Mr. Blue Suit was starting to sweat, “Greed is good. Greed gives us cars and air conditioning and medicine … and ICE! What we are talking about is just the invisible hand of Capitalism. I’m not proposing anything illegal.” Blue Suit looked at the group for affirmation, but all he saw was blank stares. “Look, my perspective is you get as much as you can from on the public’s dime without going to jail. If you don’t get it, someone else will … someone who is probably a flaming liberal. If that makes me a terrible person, then … I guess I’m a terrible person.”

What Would You Do?

What would you do if you were a CEO of the Big 4.  If you agree with Mr. Blue Suit and would move forward with his proposal, then I don’t know if there is much I can do for you. But if, like the mild CEO, something doesn’t sit right with you about the Bureau’s arrangement, then travel with me on this three part series to explore greed in politics. Part I will focus on diagnosing greed. Part II will explore some of the most sinister examples of greed in Alabama politics. And, Part III will propose solutions to curbing the effects of greed in Alabama politics.

 

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Opinion | Tommy Tuberville ran a good, disciplined campaign for Senate

Steve Flowers

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Old political maxims clearly played out true to form in the GOP runoff for our junior U.S. Senate seat on July 14.

Tommy Tuberville ran a very wise and disciplined campaign.  He steadily stayed on point and simply said I am going to support Donald Trump.  Undoubtedly , when Tuberville decided about a year ago to leave his Florida home and run for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, whoever was advising him knew that the only issue was going to be who could cozy up to Donald J. Trump the most.  They gave Tuberville the script and he followed his playbook to perfection.  He never deviated and never got distracted by issues, questions, or debates.  He simply rode the Donald Trump horse all the way home.  

Trump is very popular among Republican voters in the Heart of Dixie.  That same horse will more than likely carry Tuberville to victory over Doug Jones in November.  Trump will beat Joe Biden 6040 in the state and Tuberville’s numbers over Jones should be close to that same margin.  There will be a lot of straight ticket voting in the Fall.  There are more Republican voters than Democratic voters in Alabama.  

Therefore, Tuberville’s victory illustrates two cardinal maxims of Alabama politics.  Number one is more people vote against someone or something than for someone or something.  Trump said he did not like Jeff Sessions and asked Alabama GOP voters to vote against him and they obliged Trump.  Secondly, Tuberville kept it simple.  He epitomized the old saying, “Keep it simple stupid.”  It is called the KISS formula.  He stayed on message just like a parrot.  He did not have to say much.  Trump said it all.  It also accrued to Tuberville’s advantage that he was a nonpolitician and Washington outsider.  Sessions had sat in this seat in the Senate for 20 years.

Coach Tuberville began the race with some significant name identification.  Thus, the third maxim, you must have name identification before you have a chance to win.  People are not going to vote for someone they have never of.  Tuberville’s name identification numbers were 35% going into the race, which was about as high as Jeff Sessions and a little higher than Bradley Byrne.  That is truly a testament to how popular college football is in Alabama.  

It had been 10 years since Tuberville had coached at Auburn, but Auburn fans traditionally stick together.  I suspect every Auburn football fan in the state voted for Tuberville.  It is like one big family.  It is not just called the loveliest village on the plains, it is also referred to as the friendliest place you ever visited.  

Coincidentally and ironically, Tuberville’s victory is a carbon copy of another Auburn man’s victory for governor 32 years ago.  Forrest “Fob” James won the 1978 Governors race with the same KISS formula as Tuberville.

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Fob James had become wealthy by starting and running a barbell manufacturing company in Opelika.  When Fob signed up to run for governor, the press wrote him off as a rich gadfly.  Fob quietly used his millions to sign up the most brilliant campaign media strategist in the South, Deloss Walker.  Fob was told by Walker never deviate from the script I give you and do not answer any questions.  

There were three heavy weights expected to finish first, second and third.  Former Governor Albert Brewer, Attorney General Bill Baxley, and Lt. Governor Jere Beasley.  As Walker expected, all three spent their time and money beating up on each other while Fob rode a yellow school bus over the state simply saying I am getting back to the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic.  Thus, more people vote against someone and the KISS formula.

Walker’s initial polling showed that Fob actually had some name identification from being an Auburn football player in the 1950’s.  He was a pretty good halfback.  That poll also picked up that Auburn Alumni yearned for an Auburn man to become governor.

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In this most recent race, it helped Tuberville immensely that the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) endorsed him early in his quest.  This key endorsement gave him credibility and early impetus.  Most of the farmers on the endorsement committee by the way are Auburn graduates and Auburn football fans.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

See you next week.

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Opinion | The inevitable is inevitable

Joey Kennedy

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President Donald Trump

Donald Trump, in full panic mode – and that’s dangerous for the nation – floated the idea Thursday morning in (of course) a tweet that perhaps the Nov. 3 election should be delayed.

We knew it was coming. One event Trump does not want this year is an election. He’s completely bungled the federal (and state) response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, in fact, made it much worse. More than 150,000 Americans are dead; hundreds of thousands more permanently injured. That’s because Trump basically golfed, held rallies, touted fake cures and treatments for the virus, and, as a result, destroyed the economy and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American lives.

Of course, Trump wants to delay the election. He’s so dim, he believes that’s the only way he can stay in office. Except, like on most things, he’s wrong. The president’s term ends Jan. 20, 2021. After that, if there isn’t a president to inaugurate, that opens the possibility House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could become president. That is choice.

But it won’t happen. Because the November General Election will not be delayed. The president can’t do it on his own. It takes an act of Congress to move an election. Remember, too, that if the presidential election is delayed, so are the congressional races. That could conceivably keep Republicans in control of the Senate when an election could very well give that control to Democrats.

That won’t happen, either. Because the November General Election will not be delayed.

Besides, this nation held elections during the U.S. Civil War and in world wars and during other crises and pandemics.

My bet is both of Alabama’s U.S. senators, Richard Shelby and Doug Jones, will oppose moving the election. Jones, a Democrat, is on the ballot against Trump sycophant and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. Jones wants the matchup, because he’s faring well in the polls, and he’s clearly the far better candidate. Shelby is a pragmatist. He knows in the long run (and short run, for that matter), there’s only a dead end for Trump. Shelby usually will go along to get along, but he broke ranks with other mainstream Republican politicians in 2017 by opposing the election of alleged child predator and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

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Too bad other Alabama Republicans in Congress are so far up Trump’s ample bootie that they won’t stand up to him. That’s the way of Republicans, though: Party over country; billionaires over the workaday folks. Weirdly, in Alabama, most common folks support Republicans who want to keep them on the margins; Republicans, who want to keep them in their “place.”

Here’s the real reason Trump would like to see the election postponed:

Trump is terrified. The most important factor to him in the election is himself, and he’s going to get clobbered, if polls hold.He needs to somehow save face if there is any way possible, and there likely isn’t any way possible. Every day Trump spouts something else offensive, or insulting, or just plain stupid and idiotic. He supports Confederate flags and generals and statues, sends secret police to round up Black Lives Matter protesters, then refuses to accord proper respect to honor the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Alabama native and one of the most distinguished civil rights leaders in the nation.

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Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama attended Lewis’ final memorial in Atlanta on Thursday. Trump suggested we delay November’s election.

Every day, Trump’s support wanes.

The economy is close to complete collapse, and Republicans in the Senate and the president can’t figure out the next COVID-19 aid package to help hurting Americans. Democrats in the House passed a plan more than a month ago, a plan to keep unemployment benefits flowing, to support schools, to increase COVID-19 testing. The Republican plan has billions for fighter aircraft, a new FBI building near Trump’s Washington hotel, and, yes, more tax breaks for the nation’s richest people. Oh, and it slashes federal unemployment support for those workaday Americans from $600 a week to $200 a week. A $1,600 a month pay cut. Nice.

Trump and Republicans have walled themselves into a bad place, and, unlike the president’s boondoggle border wall, this wall isn’t easily scaled or breached.

Republicans, and especially Trump, want to delay the inevitable. But here’s the problem with that: The inevitable is, yes, inevitable.

 

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Opinion | It will be Trump vs. Biden in November. Conventions will be anticlimactic

Steve Flowers

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The presidential race is onward. It will be incumbent Republican Donald Trump vs. former Vice President and 36-year veteran Democrat, Delaware U.S. Senator Joe Biden in the November 3rd General Election.

Both men have clinched their parties’ nomination.  Therefore, the Democratic convention, July 31-August 2 and the Republican convention set for August 25-28 will be anticlimactic.  It is doubtful that either convention will break any television rating records.

However, there will be one record shattered in this year’s presidential contest.  Trump and Biden will be the two oldest presidential contenders in history.  Biden is 78 and Trump is 74.  Actually, Trump was the oldest person to ever be sworn in as president four-years ago.  So if Biden wins he will really break the record at 78.6 years.  By the way, the youngest president was John F. Kennedy, who was 43 when he was sworn in as president in January of 1961.

This has already been one of the most unusual presidential election years in American history.  The COVID-19 pandemichas turned the world upside down, especially the American economy. The economy is the pivotal issue that decides presidential elections.  Prior to the pandemic, the economy was Trump’s trump card.  The economic collapse caused by the pandemic was not Trump’s fault but it happened on his watch.  There is an old political maxim that says, “If you claim credit for the rain, then you gotta take blame for the drought.”

Trump was not in the lead prior to the pandemic disaster.  He is certainly behind the eight ball today. The country is divided like never before in our history.  You either live in a red Republican state like Alabama or a blue Democratic state like California.  Under the electoral college system of selecting our president, the election is won or lost in the swing states like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

Current polling has Biden ahead in all of these pivotal states.  He has double digit leads in Michigan and his birth home of Pennsylvania. It looks like Joe Biden is favored to be the next president at almost 80 years old. Therefore, it is extremely important who he chooses as his running mate to be vice president.  

Biden has unequivocally stated that his vicepresident will be a female.  His choice probably will boil down to California Senator Kamala Harris. Originally, it was between Minnesota Senator, Amy Klobuchar and Senator Kamala Harris.

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Senator Klobuchar would have been an excellent choice.  She was well qualified and thoroughly vetted.  She is Minnesota’s senior senator having represented her native state since 2006.  She is very popular in her home state and would probably have brought the swing state of Minnesota into the Democratic column.

However, she withdrew her name for consideration after it became apparent that the Democratic Party base demanded Biden choose a female candidate of color.

Senator Kamala Harris, 55, has had a stellar career.  She is very well qualified to be president.  She ran an excellent campaign for the Democratic nomination earlier this year and is a U.S. Senator from the largest state in the Union.

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She was Attorney General of California prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate from the Golden State. She classifies herself as AfricanAmerican. Her mother was an Indian/American/Canadian cancer researcher.  Her father was a Jamaican born businessman.

By selecting Senator Kamala Harris, Biden chooses a person of non-white ethnicity.  African American women are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party and the most reliable Democratic voters.  Senator Harris would energize the base.  Turnout is the key to any election.

Odds are that if Joe Biden is elected president in November, he will probably be a one-term president.  At almost 80, it is doubtful that he would run again in 2024.  Therefore, his choice for his running mate and vice president would be favored to be elected president in four years and could become president before then.

There is a tried and true maxim in politics, more people vote against someone than for someone.  The Democrats plan of attack is for Biden to do nothing, say nothing and let Trump beat himself.

It will be an interesting and important choice for Biden as he or his advisors select his vice-presidential running mate. Again, turnout is the key. Therefore, do not count Donald Trump out until it is all over. Republican voters who are older turnout to vote at a higher rate than Democratic voters who are younger.  You can bet your bottom dollar that Trump will carry Alabama over Biden in November.

See you next week.

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Opinion | Why should Will Dismukes resign?

Will Dismukes and his love for all things confederacy aren’t an outlier in the Alabama Republican Party. The party has sought those voters. It has encouraged those views. It has backed legislation supporting those insane beliefs.

Josh Moon

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Rep. Will Dismukes is facing criticism for attending and speaking at a birthday celebration for the first Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. (WSFA)

There is no reason for state Rep. Will Dismukes to resign. Not as far as the Alabama Republican Party is concerned. 

Oh, sure, a few members of ALGOP have made splashy headlines over the last two days, as they’ve called for Dismukes to resign or generally berated the young Republican for his decision to post about attending the birthday party for the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. 

But really, what right do Alabama Republicans have to call for Dismukes to resign? 

This is the sort of behavior, the sort of people — the hate and ignorance and callousness and racism — that ALGOP has been embracing for years. The party has pandered to it, encouraged it, raised money off of it and never — not even a little bit — felt bad about it until the day it might cost them votes. 

I mean, stop it with the “this is not my party” nonsense. 

What are you talking about this isn’t your party? Have you been living under a rock? 

Let us review, please. 

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You are the party that a few years ago passed the most racist immigration law in America, correct? 

You are the party that repeatedly pushed for and eventually passed a law to protect confederate monuments, correct? (It’s also worth noting that the original version of this law would have allowed for removal of Civil Rights Movement monuments.)

You are the party that had a member — a member who is still serving — pass around an email during a legislative session about training monkeys, a thinly-veiled, racist reference to black Democrats, right? 

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You are the party that pushed for a new voter ID law that solved zero issues with fraud and placed another roadblock between Black voters and the polls, right? 

You are the party that broke the law to pass the AAA act, which rerouted public schools’ dollars from Alabama’s poorest and Blackest schools to private schools, helping to aid white flight, right? 

You are the party that earlier this year passed a resolution calling for forcing out Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar because you believed Facebook memes, right? 

You are the party that for years has resisted criminal justice reform, to the detriment of thousands of Black Alabamians and their families, right? 

You are the party that routinely — with a wink and a nod — paints a picture of Black families on public assistance as moochers and deadbeats, slicing the benefits to the bone and requiring worthless drug tests, right? 

You are the party that has remained silent as Black Alabamians rallied for better representation, more equal justice and the removal of Civil War participation trophies, correct? 

You are the party that has repeatedly coddled the believers of the “lost cause” theories of the Civil War, told them their opinions were just as valid and went to bat for them on legislation, correct? 

You are the party that continues to protect the funding of the Confederate Memorial Park — Alabama’s most well funded park, right? 

This is who the ALGOP is. Stop pretending otherwise because Dismukes didn’t know better than to do the quiet parts in public view. 

Had this happened prior to the current reckoning taking place in America, not a peep would have been said. How do I know this? Because it’s not like Dismukes has been hiding his racism this whole time and then slipped up. 

The guy is active on social media, routinely referring to the Civil War as the “war of northern aggression.” He has attacked Black Lives Matter, said nasty things about those wanting to remove confederate statues and went on a media campaign to save the funding for Confederate Memorial Park. 

Not a single elected Alabama Republican ever uttered a word. 

Just like no one in the ALGOP ever speaks up when Mo Brooks goes on one of his weekly racist rants. Or the Trump administration does something blatantly racist. Or one of the state party members posts a racist meme on social media.

Never a peep.

These things matter. And they don’t just matter in the absolute worst cases, when voters might turn away and public sentiment is decidedly against you. 

They matter every single day to minorities in this state and around the country. Not for some petty political reason, but because these issues are a matter of fairness and decency for other human beings. 

So, sorry, but as it stands, Will Dismukes and his love for all things confederacy aren’t an outlier in the Alabama Republican Party. The party has sought those voters. It has encouraged those views. It has backed legislation supporting those insane beliefs.

You don’t get to run away from years of that deplorable behavior with a few press releases and tweets.

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