Earlier this year, I was on a panel for a debate of gubernatorial candidates at Alabama Boys State’s annual meeting at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
One night, the GOP candidates debated; the next night, the Democratic Candidates debated.
Only two Republicans showed up; all of the active Democrats were there.
Whatever you think about the value of political debates, that certainly shows that Democrats value open discussion of the issues far more than Republicans.
Even now, with only two candidates for governor remaining, the Republican, not-elected Gov. Kay Ivey, refuses to debate Democrat and elected Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.
But give credit to then-GOP gubernatorial candidates Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and state Sen. Bill Hightower for showing up at Boys State and answering questions, even if their answers were strictly following the Republican Party line.
Toeing the line.
One of those lines is that in-person voter fraud – that is, people showing up at the polls pretending to be someone they aren’t and voting – is as common as Kay Ivey refusing to debate.
That simply is not true (in-person voter fraud, that is, not Ivey refusing to debate).
Republicans continue to claim such voter fraud occurs, though there is no evidence for it. But they must toe that line because they so vehemently support strict voter identification laws that don’t actually protect against non-existent fraud, but do, in fact, suppress voting.
During that Boys State debate, Hightower said he believes there is massive voter fraud at the polls. But he’s not the only Republican. Alabama GOP Chair Terry Latham believes there’s massive in-person voter fraud. Indeed, find me a Republican who doesn’t believe it; or at least, find me a Republican who will say he or she doesn’t believe it. Publicly.
Can’t do it. They got to toe that line.
President Donald Trump said he believes more than 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election that put him in the White House.
Indeed, as APR colleague Josh Moon pointed out in his column this week, the scam “voter fraud commission” Trump established after he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton was disbanded shortly after it was, uh, banded.
Not even a scam commission could scam up enough fake votes to make it work. Or scam up any fake votes at all. Because they don’t exist.
But Republicans aren’t going to drop that lie, err, line. Many Republicans don’t believe it, but they’ll repeat it because they think their supporters believe it.
Besides, they have to toe the line.
On that Tuesday night in late May, I don’t believe Hightower thought in-person voter fraud really existed, but for whatever reason, he had to say it did. Latham is a smart lady, and I don’t believe she thinks there’s in-person voter fraud, either. But Hightower and Latham and other Republicans will keep saying it. Because that’s what it takes to be a Republican: toe the lie, err, line, or get out of the line – even if the line is an outright lie.
Don’t want to vote for child molester Roy Moore for U.S. Senate? Too bad, he’s the Republican. If you’re a Republican, you’d better vote for the molester. Toe the line.
Don’t really think we need a wall separating the U.S./Mexican border? Too bad, that’s Trump’s idea, and Trump says he’s a Republican. You’d better support the wall.
Know in your heart that a trade war is bad for Alabama auto manufacturers and other businesses? Too bad. That’s Trump’s trade war, and Trump says he’s a Republican. You’d better support tariffs or, if you’re a Republican in Congress, at least take no action to interfere with them.
Know in your heart that President Trump is, indeed, owned by the Russians? What’s the big deal? Trump says he’s a Republican: “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”
Know in your heart that Republican Kay Ivey should debate Democrat Walt Maddox? If you’re a Republican, don’t you dare say that out loud.
Don’t say it. Toe that line. Toe it! Or you’d better get out of the line.
Want to be a Republican? Critical thinkers need not apply.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]