By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama needs a vibrant two-party system. In truth, it has never had one in modern times.
Democrats controlled the State for a long time, with Republicans holding only a few offices. Then, in 2010, Republicans swept into control, with a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature and winning every statewide office. It has been that way ever since.
I’m not a Democrat or Republican, and I vote for candidates in both parties. But I’m not trying to blow smoke, either. My politics certainly lean left, which means more often than not I identify more with Democratic Party positions, especially on a national level.
Frankly, though, whether Democrats or Republicans control Alabama’s elected offices, the State is controlled more by populists, along the lines of former Gov. George Wallace.
Many of our politicians rarely run on ideas about how to make Alabama better; instead, they pick hot-button issues – race or immigration or marriage equality – to “inspire” voters.
Sadly, that works, and it works too well. Until political candidates run on ideas and win, that strategy will likely continue. And continue to the detriment of the best interests of most Alabamians.
We need a functioning Democratic Party in Alabama, and here’s hoping that the recently announced Summer of Revival program reported on by Alabama Political Reporter’s Brandon Moseley is a success. Moseley writes that state party “will partner with county parties and external allies to invest in local organizing projects over the summer, which will increase the Party’s capacity to elect Democrats up and down the ballot” in elections to come.
While obviously the state Democratic Party needs a lot of organizational work, the Republican Party isn’t in great shape, either.
Even with a supermajority in the Legislature, Republicans have been bickering with each other since they took control. With so few Democrats to fight, they turned on themselves.
And we can’t be reminded enough that the three top Republican office holders – former Gov. Robert Bentley, former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and former Chief Justice Roy Moore – lost their positions because of misbehavior.
Indeed, never has the Democratic Party been in a better position to take advantage of those Republican disasters, and some others. Whether it can is the Big Q, and the Big A is: probably not.
Republicans – and likely Democrats – will still run their populist campaigns, thin on real issues and fat on hot-button issues.
If Alabama voters bite, and there’s nothing in recent political history to believe they won’t, we’ll once again get the same kind of government we deserve.
Let’s hope we do see a resurgence in the Democratic Party, not because it, too, is playing up the emotional issues, but because it starts discussing and debating the real issues facing Alabama, and there are some doozies, from our strapped budgets to Medicaid to child welfare to home rule.
It won’t do to simply campaign against Obama (he’s gone) and the Affordable Care Act; Republicans own that strategy anyway.
Discussing issues, real issues, would be the State Democratic Party’s real Summer of Revival.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]