By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama garnered national and global attention from the U.S. Senate special election which vaulted Doug Jones into the U.S. Senate. There are a number of winners and losers from this election.
The foremost winner is of course Doug Jones himself. Jones has had a stellar legal career. He has been a U.S. Attorney, an assistant U.S. attorney, a former aide to U.S. Senator Howell Heflin (D), the successful prosecutor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombers, and he is recognized as one of the foremost legal minds in the profession with a who’s who list of corporate and institutional clients. He has had a stellar career; but now he is a Democrat rock star. He walked into the heart of Trump country in the deep south and emerged victorious. Nobody among Senate Democrats can match that accomplishment and the national press attention he has received gives him far wider popular name recognition than Senators who have served longer and have more political victories.
Social conservatives lost mightily and likely won’t ever recover from this defeat. Roy Moore was their champion. He denounced sodomy, abortion, same-sex marriage and urged America to “be good again.” If elected, Moore would have been in position to influence judicial nominations that will be interpreting the Constitution for the next three decades; now Jones will be and clearly that will impact future decisions on same-sex marriage, abortion, the Second Amendment, immigration, transexuals, the role of the government, etc. Only the President influences the future of the federal court system; than a “swing” Senator and now the GOP has just a one vote majority in the Senate. The social conservatives (most of them from rural Alabama ) defeated the business/establishment Republicans (most of them from the suburbs and cities) in the GOP Primary and then were largely abandoned by the GOP elites on election day in the general election.
The LBGTQ community was triumphant. Judge Roy Moore has been their nemesis for years; not just in Alabama but nationally as well. They contributed mightily to getting him removed from his position on the Alabama Supreme Court and now they helped defeat his Senate aspirations. Fewer and fewer preachers are denouncing sodomy from the pulpit and after Moore very few politicians will want to do it on the stump either and risk the wrath that they have been able to deliver to Moore.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) ended the night in the loser category. Ivey was probably right to set the special election this year rather than leaving it for the next election cycle but she is being second guessed now over the decision. She also looked foolish when she said that she believed Roy’s accusers; but was still voting for Roy Moore and did not remove him from the ticket. The decision to schedule the state Senate District 26 special election on the same day as the U.S. Senate election now looms large as a potential contributing factor to why Republicans lost. She looked awkward through all of this and that the Republican Party lost a U.S. Senate seat just eight months into her tenure is an issue that may breathe new life into the campaigns of her many 2018 challengers.
The Black community in Alabama won. Republicans have ignored them, packed them into Black dominated legislative districts, and openly laughed at their complaints and problems. Republicans are not laughing today. The Black voters flexed their muscles all across Alabama. The polls all had Moore ahead by three to eight points; but that was assuming that Black voters stayed home like they did in the 2016 and 2014 elections. There was 44 percent voters turnout in Montgomery County, much of it generated by the SD26 race energy, versus 34 percent turnout across the state. Moore did not really have a outreach program to Black voters. If he had just gotten 22 percent of Black voters he would have easily beaten Jones. NBA and TV star Charles Barkley openly campaigned for Jones. President Barack H. Obama (D) did robo-calls for Jones. Jones campaigned on the last days with Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma), Senator Corey Booker (D-New Jersey), and Deval Patrick (D-Massachusetts) while Moore made some inane comments about America being its greatest prior to the Civil War. That was twisted by his opponents to mean that America was greatest when we had slaves, a charge Moore let go unanswered. Black turnout flipped many reliably Republican counties blue and that should put fear in the hearts of everyone in the Republican Party.
Luther Strange managed to lose yet again. Luther should never have accepted that tainted appointment from Governor Robert Bentley (R). It is likely that Del Marsh or Mo Brooks could have beaten Moore in the Primary; but Luther used DC lobbyist dollars and Mitch McConnell to set up a runoff between him and Moore. Then he and his buddys spent millions trashing Moore even though every pollster, including Luther’s own tracking polls, had Moore winning the GOP runoff and emerging as the GOP nominee. Once he squandered a small fortune and whatever good will he had left in the state and LOST convincingly to Moore; Luther then petulantly refused to endorse Roy Moore. There are claims that GOP operatives created the whole underage women narrative and then one of them Tim Miller planted it with WAPO. Luther could have come out and publicly demanded that the RNC and RSLC support electing the Republican nominee; but no he either stayed out of it or undermined Moore from behind the scenes. Luther went from being a generally likable political figure to perhaps the most polarizing figure in GOP politics in Alabama, outside of Moore himself. Luther Strange managed not only to crash and burn his once promising political career, he took out a safe GOP Senate seat, imperil the President’s judicial nominees, and cost the GOP any chance to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The Alabama Democratic Party got a win. They have not won any statewide election since 2008 and really have not seen an energized Democratic base since that election. Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley largely remained behind the scenes; but she inherits an energized base, a new generation of grassroots Democratic organizers that are dedicated to progressive principles and ideas, and a Republican Party that appears divided and beaten down. Whether or not she and Democratic Candidates like Judge Sue Bell Cobb, James Fields and Walt Maddox can capitalize on this momentum is open to question.
President Donald J Trump (R) suffered a massive blow in this race. First he opposed Moore, then he embraced Moore, then he distanced himself from Moore, and then he finally embraced Moore again. Now he is distancing himself from Moore again; but he lost a reliable Senate vote in Luther Strange and a lot of Presidential prestige. His support arguably did as much to energize Black voters for Jones as it did conservative voters for Moore.
This was a big win for the ‘Washington Post’. The aging legacy newspaper has a big reputation; but a lot of that had become ancient history rather than current reality; until Amazon exec Jeff Bezos bought it for a discount a year ago. Moore was cruising toward what should have been an easy win, until WAPO got involved by dredging up women who claimed to have been previously involved with Moore. The move flipped the script on the election from Making America Great Again to what happened in 1979. I find that sort of gotcha journalism sleazy and unprofessional; but the Democrats got this Senate seat largely because of their efforts.
The biggest loser had to be Judge Roy Moore himself. If you run for office enough you will normally lose an election. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser in any contest, and if you count the primaries, a lot of people lost in their bid to win back this Senate seat. Moore lost more than a cushy job. He has been called “pedophile”, “pervert”, “child molester”, and faced a level of national ridicule and scrutiny in his personal life that far more powerful men have never experienced. After 70 years of service in the Army, in the Vietnam War, as a prosecutor, as a judge, as Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, as the head of his Foundation, as a father, a grandfather; whatever he does in this life Moore will always be best known for the two most serious accusations against him, that if true were one time incidents 38 and 40 years ago, and if not true amounted to slander. Few men and women would want for their lives on this Earth to be known for and judged by what they did in their darkest moments and certainly not for the worst lies their political enemies can concoct. Judge Moore lost an election; but he also lost his good name and reputation and that might not be fixable in this life. This kind of intensely personal attacks and charged negative political attacks is why many people do not want to go into politics.
Opinion | On the Nov. 3 ballot, vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1
On Nov. 3, 2020, all Alabama voters should vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1. Vote no on Amendment 1 because it could allow state law changes to disenfranchise citizens whom the Legislature does not want to vote. Because Amendment 1 has no practical purpose and because it opens the door to mischief, all voters are urged to vote no.
Currently, the Alabama Constitution provides that “Every citizen of the United States…” has the right to vote in the county where the voter resides. Amendment 1 would delete the word “every” before citizen and replace it with “only a” citizen.
In Alabama, the only United States citizens who cannot vote today are most citizens who have been convicted of a felony of moral turpitude. These felonies are specifically identified in Ala. Code 17-3-30.1.
Without Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution now says who can vote: every citizen. If voters approve Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution would only identify a group who cannot vote. With Amendment 1, we, the citizens of the United States in Alabama, thus would lose the state constitutional protection of our voting rights.
In Alabama, no individual who is not a United States citizens can vote in a governmental election. So, Amendment 1 has no impact on non-citizens in Alabama.
Perhaps the purpose of Amendment 1 could be to drive voter turnout of those who mistakenly fear non-citizens can vote. The only other purpose for Amendment 1 would be allowing future Alabama state legislation to disenfranchise groups of Alabama citizens whom a majority of the legislature does not want to vote.
In 2020, the ballots in Florida and Colorado have similar amendments on the ballots. As in Alabama, Citizens Voters, Inc., claims it is responsible for putting these amendments on the ballots in those states. While Citizens Voters’ name sounds like it is a good nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), it has secret political donors. One cannot know who funds Citizen Voters and thus who is behind pushing these amendments with more than $8 million in dark money.
According to Citizen Voter’s website, the stated reason for Amendment 1 is that some cities in several other states allow non-citizens to vote. My understanding is that such measures are rare and only apply to voting for local school boards.
And why would a local government’s deciding that non-citizens can vote for local school boards be a state constitutional problem? Isn’t the good government practice to allow local control of local issues? And again, this issue does not even exist in Alabama.
The bigger question, which makes Amendment 1’s danger plain to see, is why eliminate the language protecting “every” citizen’s right to vote? For example, Amendment 1 could have proposed “Every citizen and only a citizen” instead of deleting “every” when adding “only a” citizen. Why not leave the “every” citizen language in the Alabama Constitution?
Amendment 1 could allow Alabama new state legislation to disenfranchise some Alabama citizens. Such a change would probably violate federal law. But Alabama has often had voting laws that violated federal law until a lawsuit forced the state of Alabama not to enforce the illegal state voting law.
The most recent similar law in Alabama might be 2011’s HB56, the anti-immigrant law. Both HB56 and Amendment 1 are Alabama state laws that out-of-state interests pushed on us. And HB56 has been largely blocked by federal courts after expensive lawsuits.
Alabama’s Nov. 3, 2020, ballot will have six constitutional amendments. On almost all ballots, Amendment 1 will be at the bottom right on the first page (front) of the ballot or will be at the top left on the second page (back) of the ballot.
Let’s keep in our state constitution our protection of every voters’ right to vote.
Based on Amendment 1’s having no practical benefit and its opening many opportunities for mischief, all Alabama voters are strongly urged to vote “no” on Amendment 1.
Opinion | Amendment 4 is an opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution
The 1901 but current Alabama Constitution has been amended about 950 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have riddled the Constitution with redundancies while maintaining language and provisions — for example, poll taxes — that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it.
A recompilation will bring order to the amendments and remove obsolete language. While much of this language is no longer valid, the language is still in the document and has been noted and used by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth opportunities.
The need for recompilation and cleaning of Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.
In 2019, the Legislature unanimously adopted legislation, Amendment 4, to provide for its recompilation. Amendment 4 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot will allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Service to draft a recompiled and cleaned version of the Constitution for submission to the Legislature.
While Amendment 4 prohibits any substantive changes in the Constitution, the LRS will remove duplication, delete no longer legal provisions and racist language, thereby making our Constitution far more easily understood by all Alabama citizens.
Upon approval by the Legislature, the recompiled Constitution will be presented to Alabama voters in November 2022 for ratification.
Amendment 4 authorizes a non-partisan, broadly supported, non-controversial recompilation and much-needed, overdue cleaning up of our Constitution.
On Nov. 3, 2020, vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 so the work can begin.
Opinion | Auburn Student Center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color
The year 1987 was a quiet one for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.
This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.
Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.
These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.
We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.
Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.
In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86 and with a Ph.D., a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.
We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.
In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.
Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.
Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”
Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.
Opinion | Alabama lags behind the nation in Census participation with deadline nearing
The United States Census is starting to wind down around the country with a Sept. 30 deadline for the national population to be completed. However, a United States District Court has recently ruled that the date may be extended another 30 days to allow more time for the census to take place.
Regardless of the deadline, Alabama has work to do when it comes to the census.
To date, the national average for participation around the country has been almost 65 percent for the census.
Unfortunately, Alabama residents are providing data to the census at a lower percentage, around some 61 percent of the state population.
There is already concern among state leaders that if that number does not reach above 70 percent, then the state will lose a seat in Congress, a vote in the electoral college and millions of federal dollars that come to the state every year.
The percentage of participation has varied widely around the state, from a high of 76 percent in Shelby County to a low of 36 percent in neighboring Coosa County.
State leaders are making a final push to request Alabama residents fill out the census in the last month before it is closed.
We will find out later this fall if Alabama passes the national average of participation in the census compared to other states to retain both its future representation and share of federal dollars.
In the meantime, Alabamians need to fill out their census forms.
The state is depending on it.