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Opinion | Refuse to be ignored

Joey Kennedy

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Watching the way Republicans in Alabama are campaigning for their offices – statewide, congressional seats, Legislature – is discouraging to people who care.

They are running invisible campaigns against their Democratic opponents. Their strategy appears to be out-of-sight, out-of-trouble-with-their-views. They don’t want to stick their heads up too far and end up the victim of the next Doug Jones. Jones, remember, defeated disgraced former Chief Justice Roy Moore in that special election for U.S. Senate last December.

So like un-elected Gov. Kay Ivey, they’ll just keep their heads down and refuse a stage, especially for debates, with their Democratic opponents.

That’s the Coward’s Campaign. Basically: “We won’t defend our ideas, because we really have none. We’re for Trump. That’s all that matters.”

And maybe, in Alabama, that’s all that does matter. Supporting the racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, paranoid Donald Trump will do what’s most important: Get us elected.

No, that’s not what matters. What matters is crafting programs and strategies to improve the stake of all Alabama citizens, to help bring Alabama up from its last or near-last ranking in almost every quality-of-life category, a position the state has been mired in forever.

New thinking, new ideas, that’s what needed.

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Duck and run, that’s what entrenched Alabama politicians – overwhelmingly Republican these days – believe is the best plan to keep their taxpayer-supported jobs these days.

And then a breath of fresh air sweeps through the state, if only for a moment.

On Tuesday in Birmingham, the March for Our Lives “Road to Change” campaign made a brief stop. Students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., joined local March for Our Lives student organizers in a panel discussion.

The crowd that packed Highland United Methodist Church heard about America’s future. These students do have ideas. Of course, their main focus is reducing the out-of-control gun violence across America.

They aren’t after your guns. They aren’t “crisis actors” taking advantage of the Feb. 14 massacre that killed 17 of their fellow students and teachers. They are changing the conversation nationwide concerning gun violence. And they’re not shutting up.

“I think what happened in Parkland woke up a lot of people,” said one student. Yeah, but didn’t the killing of 6- and 7-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School do that? Didn’t the bloody carnage at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub do that? Didn’t the nation’s largest-in-history mass shooting at that Las Vegas concert do that?

Well, yes. But the difference is that the students from Parkland aren’t letting the news cycle or the next shooting – and there have been many since Margorie Stoneman Douglas – silence their campaign.

They refuse not to be heard, and they’re doing a helluva job refusing.

“March for Our Lives is not partisan,” said a panel member. “Gun violence happens in all communities. Gun violence isn’t partisan.

Sure, there are people who are opposed to any sort of gun regulation. There are those who want as much gun regulation as possible. But just because people oppose you doesn’t mean you quit talking, said Ashley Causey, the Helena student who founded the Birmingham area March for Our Lives campaign.

“Whenever you have opposition to an issue, that’s a learning moment for both sides,” Causey said. “Learn to talk.”

And learn to listen.

Arming teachers, for example, a dangerous idea that Alabama’s Kay Ivey doesn’t oppose.

The individuals at Tuesday’s “Road to Change” event were asked to raise their hands if they’ve ever had a teacher they didn’t want to have a gun. Practically all the hands, hundreds of them, went up.

“The solution to gun violence isn’t more guns,” said one MSD student. “We don’t need reactive measures; we need preventative measures.”

When we get beyond the gun violence discussion, however, perhaps the most powerful message – weapon – these Parkland and local students have:

Vote!

To back up that message, the March for Our Lives movement registers thousands of new – and mostly young – voters at every event. They were doing it in Birmingham Tuesday evening.

Unlike so many current Alabama registered voters, these new voters are motivated to get out and cast their ballots. They not only want change; they want to be the change.

That’s why Ivey and other Republicans owe it to voters to explain their vision and their ideas, not hide from hard questions and turtle-up every time they bump into one of their constituents when they dare venture out in public.

These Parkland students, and by extension, many millions of young, involved people across the nation, will be heard.

“We refuse to be ignored,” said one student.

And, they will.

Kay Ivey and other politicians who believe they can get away with ignoring voters need to pay attention.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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