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Opinion | Go big, Sen. Jones, or go down trying

Joey Kennedy

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The perception, if not the reality, is that there is nobody to take the late Sen. John McCain’s place in the U.S. Senate as a “maverick,” or whatever one wishes to call McCain.

There is no doubt that McCain leaves a void. He had a reputation for “independence,” if nothing else, even if that’s an exaggeration, which it is.

Let’s get real for a few minutes:

The John McCain since the 2008 Republican National Convention was not the John McCain who built his reputation for being independent and for crossing the aisle to work with Democrats on big ideas.

McCain did cast a vital vote to preserve the Affordable Care Act after he was diagnosed with brain cancer last year. He struggled to get himself to the Senate that day and, with a thumb’s down, dealt President Donald Trump and his Trump Party colleagues a resounding defeat.

But the vote is one that McCain should never have had to cast if his party had even a scintilla of compassion at all for those middle class and hard-working Americans who can’t get health insurance and whose lives and personal finances have been destroyed by astronomical hospital and prescription bills.

Remember this: The United States is the only First World nation that doesn’t ensure decent health care for all its citizens. Why? Because Republicans would rather pass tax cuts for the rich and big corporations than make sure the middle class and working poor have affordable health care. They’d rather attack Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid because Republicans today are cold and cruel and selfish.

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McCain deserves credit for that pivotal vote on health care, but only because his party is Trump’s party, and the members of his party are, for some reason, cowards before a seventh-grade bully.

McCain deserves credit, too, for showing just how petty Trump truly is.

McCain managed to get under Trump’s skin over and over again, unlike other frightened Republicans.

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Even after his death, McCain was able to force Trump into a public display of pettiness: At first, Trump was only allowing the U.S. flag over the White House to fly at half-staff the day McCain died. A day after, the flag was at full staff again. Yes, the classless Trump holds a grudge, even after somebody dies.

In the end, Trump was forced into a rare backtrack. The flag went down again, and will stay half-staff until McCain’s interment Sunday, much to Trump’s dismay.

But let’s not forget that it was McCain who decided, incomprehensively, to make Sarah Palin his running mate in 2008. This emboldened the far-right wing of the Republican Party, and they haven’t stepped back since.

Yes, McCain was a war hero. Yes, for a long time he was the kind of Republican America needed. The kind America needs now. But McCain gave us Sara Palin, which led to Trump. It’s hard to forgive that.

So the Senate needs another “maverick.” It needs somebody, either a Democrat or Republican, who can at least try to do big things, regardless of what the party might want or the party leadership demands.

Why can’t Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama be that person?

Jones really has nothing to lose. He’s finishing the term of Jeff Sessions, so he has to run again in 2020.

Jones won, barely, in a special election against the most disastrous Republican in the state, disgraced former Chief Justice Roy Moore. And if the Washington Post had not exposed Moore as a child predator and molester a month before the election, Jones likely wouldn’t have won that election, regardless of Moore’s other extensive baggage outside his perverted penchant for preying on teenaged girls.

If African-American voters, and especially African-American women voters, hadn’t turned out in strong numbers for Jones, he still would have lost. To a Republican sexual predator.

Jones was given a gift. Maybe he can give us one in return.

While I believe Jones has done an OK job representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate, he’s pretty much staying between the lines. Jones needs to step out and go big.

Many of the programs that McCain pushed never came to fruition, including comprehensive immigration reform and extensive campaign finance reform. But McCain bolstered his reputation for trying.

There’s nothing at all wrong with Jones reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans, as long as he’s reaching for programs that will help Alabama and the nation, regardless of what Alabama and the nation think about it.

What Jones should do, though, is get out front on some really big-ticket items: Yes, immigration reform and proposals like Medicare for All (universal health insurance). He should make himself a vocal and visual champion of bills to protect women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and civil rights.

Be the maverick, Sen. Jones. The maverick from Alabama.

Jones is no flaming liberal. Not at all. But he’s going to be tagged one anyway. That label will stick, regardless of what Jones does, or doesn’t do, in the next 24 months.

Labels be damned.

Go big, Sen. Jones, and the bigger the better.

Because no matter what you do in the next two years, you’re going to be what you surely are not now – that flaming liberal – and that’s whether you want to be or not. So become a dependable, aggressive progressive. Take the moral high road on the important social issues, not the road traveled by most politicians. You know, that road where the ultimate goal is just to arrive at Re-Elected.

Make some noise, Sen. Jones. Get under Trump’s skin and stay there. Be the target of regular presidential tweet-tantrums. (If Attorney General Jeff Sessions can do it, so can you!)

You’re not going to be a loser by opposing everything a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, unindicted co-conspirator proposes. Even if you lose.

Force Republicans, including Alabama’s senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, and the other six in Alabama’s congressional delegation, to look themselves in the mirror and deny the cold, cruel, selfish reflection they see.

More important, Sen. Jones: Get. Something. Done. Something important. Something that makes proud legacies.

Who knows? Two years is a long time. You may get re-elected on merit alone; you certainly won’t just be playing it safe.

Go big, Sen. Jones. Really, really big. Or at least go down trying.

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

 

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Opinion | All politics is local. All of Alabama’s mayors races this year

Steve Flowers

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(APR GRAPHIC)

With it being a presidential election year and an election for one of our United States Senate Seats and all of the interest that goes along with those high-profile contests, it has gone under the radar that most of our cities in the state had elections for mayor and city council last month.

Mayors serve four-year terms and to most Alabamians they are the most important vote they will cast this year.

The job of mayor of a city is a difficult and intricate fulltime, 24-hours-a-day dedication to public service.

They make more decisions that affect the lives of their friends and neighbors than anyone else. The old maxim, “All politics is local,” is epitomized in the role of mayor. Folks, being mayor of a city is where the rubber meets the road.

In looking all over the state, it appears that most Alabamians are content with the jobs their mayor is doing.  In almost every contest around the state, the incumbent mayor turned away the challenger usually by a wide margin.  Indeed, a good many of the incumbent mayors in the Heart of Dixie had no opposition.

Many of these incumbent mayors were reelected without opposition. Gordon Stone, the mayor of Alabama’s fastest growing community, Pike Road, will be entering his fifth term as mayor.  Pretty soon Pike Road will have to start calling themselves a city.

Vestavia’s Mayor, Ashley Curry, won a second term without opposition.  This former retired FBI agent has done a yeoman’s job managing this upscale, Jefferson County suburb.

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Jasper Mayor, David O’Mary, who escaped opposition, will begin a second term.  He has run Jasper like a well-tuned engine. Albertville mayor, Tracy Honea, garnered a third term without opposition. Luverne Mayor Ed Beasley was also unopposed.

In the contested races, most of the matchups were no contest. Two of Alabama’s largest and most prosperous cities, Huntsville and Hoover, had mayoral races. Tommy Battle coasted to an easy 78 to 22 reelection victory in Huntsville. If Kay Ivey opts to not run for reelection in 2022, Battle will be favored to win the governor’s race. However, being Governor of Alabama would be a demotion to being Mayor of Huntsville.

Hoover citizens must approve of Mayor Frank Brocato’s job performance. Brocato trounced Hoover City Council President Gene Smith by a 76 to 24 margin.

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Opelika’s popular and effective, longtime mayor, Gary Fuller, turned back his challenger 66 to 34 to win a fifth term.

In Cullman incumbent mayor, Woody Jacobs, won a second term overwhelmingly. Hamilton Mayor Bob Page won a second term. Troy’s 48-year-old mayor, Jason Reeves, won reelection to a third four-year term with 74% of the vote. Incumbent Eufaula Mayor Jack Tibbs won an impressive 68% victory for reelection over two opponents.

Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie may have turned in the most impressive showing.  He shellacked former City Councilman Dean Argo 70 to 30.  His fellow citizens must approve of frugality with their city finances. Wetumpka’s popular and hardworking, longtime mayor, Jerry Willis, turned back his challenger by a 69 to 31 margin. In neighboring Millbrook incumbent mayor, Al Kelley, won reelection 67 to 33. Mayor Kelley has overseen the growth of his city from 6,000 in population to over 20,000. Tallassee reelected Mayor John Hammock to a second term.

Clanton lost their mayor of three decades, Billy Joe Driver, to COVID-19 this year. His successor will be Jeff Mims, who won the election in the Peach City. Mike Oakley won the mayor’s race in Centreville with a 60% margin.  It is proper and fitting that an Oakley will be Mayor of Centreville.

Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley won a landslide reelection garnering 68% of the vote. Incumbent Pell City Mayor Bill Pruitt won reelection by an impressive 73 to 27 margin.Longtime Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon won reelection in the Camellia City. Opp’s first female mayor, Becky Bracke, won a second term with 60% of the vote.

There were two mayoral upsets on August 25. Scottsboro’s incumbent mayor was defeated by challenger Jimmy McCamy.In the thriving, growing city of Fairhope challenger Sherry Sullivan trounced incumbent mayor Karin Wilson.

There are runoffs for mayor in several major cities, including Enterprise, Ozark, Selma, Tuskegee, Alexander City and Northport.  These cities will elect their mayors on October 6 in runoff elections.

Some of you may be wondering about two of the most populous cities. Tuscaloosa and Dothan have their mayoral races next year in August 2021. Tuscaloosa’s Walt Maddox and Dothan’s Mark Saliba will be tough to beat. All politics is local.

If you have not been counted in the census, you have not got many more shopping days to Christmas.

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Opinion | That climate change hoax is killing us

Joey Kennedy

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(APR GRAPHIC)

I grew up with hurricanes. For my first 11 years, my parents and I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, near Beaumont. My father was transferred by the company he worked for, Texas Gulf Sulfur, to deep South Louisiana in 1967. We lived in Houma, in Terrebonne Parish, but Dad worked near Larose, in Lafourche Parish.

Hurricanes were regular events in Southeastern Texas and South Louisiana. Still are, but in much more frequent numbers. And Alabama gets clobbered every so often, most recently yesterday and today. Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, and you can be assured the damage will be extensive, especially from flooding.

Flooding was a big factor in Texas hurricanes too, when I lived there. Hurricane Carla, in 1961, devastated High Island, not far from our home. Flooding was widespread. Carla was a Category 4 storm. But notably, that September, Carla was only the third named storm of the hurricane season.

This year, we’re running out of names. Striking Alabama this week, only a few days after Carla struck Southeastern Texas in 1961, Sally is toward the end of the hurricane alphabet. The National Hurricane Center and World Meteorological Organization are literally running out of names for storms this year.

Earlier this week, and maybe still, there were five named storms in the Atlantic. This is only the second time on record that five named storms are in the Atlantic at the same time. And they’re using up the Alphabet. The first time this happened was 1971, at a time when humans were first becoming aware of climate warming.

Little do we know, that before Sally decided to squat on Alabama, Hurricane Paulette made landfall in Bermuda on early Monday morning. There are so many hurricanes around, we can’t even keep up with them.

They’re like Republican scandals.

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Probably more than any other indicator, hurricanes tell the story of climate change, the very real climate change that Donald Trump and many Republicans deny or call a hoax.

Like the COVID-19 Pandemic. Like so many events that Trump and Trump Republicans can’t (or won’t) believe. Like the corruption that permeates the Trump administration. Like the wildfires destroying the far West Coast states.

That’s not climate change, claims Trump. It’s because California won’t sweep the forests. I call BS. Even on California being responsible for sweeping. Most of the forestland in California is federal land. Most of the burning areas are on or near federal trees. Yet, the state of California spends more money on forest management than the federal government, which owns most of the land. That’s the truth. No hoax.

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Trump should order secret federal teams of ICE forest sweepers to do their jobs.

The hoax from Republicans and the Trump administration is that crazy antifa hit squads are invading the West Coast to reign terror on the populations there. National security experts continue to assert that white supremacists and nationalists are the most dangerous domestic terror threat. But Trump defends those radicals – “they are very fine people” — because they hold up some mysterious white heritage above all others. If Trump is anything, he’s the whitest Angry White Man ever.

Climate change is real. The coronavirus pandemic exists. White nationalists are the most serious domestic terror threat in this country.

Black lives do matter.

Yet, once again and often, Trump shows the orange-hued emperor has no clothes. As Stormy Daniels has previously said, that is not a good look.

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Opinion | The presidential race is underway

Steve Flowers

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020. (STAFF SGT. TONY HARP/AIR NATIONAL GUARD AND GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

Now that the national political party conventions are over and the nominees have been coronated, the battle royale for the White House is in full throttle. The nominees, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, will shatter the age barrier — whoever is elected will be the oldest person ever elected president.

If Trump is re-elected, he will be 75 years old when sworn in. If Biden wins, he will be close to 79 years old. When I was a young man, folks at that age were in the nursing home — if they were alive. By comparison, 60 years ago, when John F. Kennedy was elected, he was 42.

If, by chance, you are worried about their traversing all over the 50 states and keeling over in the process, calm your fears. Trump will campaign in only about 10 to 12 states, and Biden will campaign in probably only two. Why, you might ask? There are only 10 or 12 states that matter in a presidential contest.

Under our Electoral College system, the candidate that gets one more popular vote than the other gets all of that state’s electoral votes.

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. You might say the hay is in the barn in all but about 10 battleground, so-called “swing states.”

There are 40 states that it really does not matter who the Republican nominee is, one or the other of the two party’s candidates are going to win that state and get all of that state’s electoral votes.

Our national politics has become so partisan and divided with such a vociferous divide that old Biden will carry California by a 60-40 margin, and Trump will carry Alabama by a 60-40 margin. Unfortunately for Trump, Alabama only has nine electoral votes. California has 55.

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The election is won or lost in swing states like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It is in these six states that all the campaign money will be spent and where the two aged candidates might campaign. It will all boil down to certain zip codes in these six states. Current polling has Biden ahead of Trump in most of the battleground states.

Trump, for the first three years of his presidency, reigned over a tremendous economic boom. He had a fighting chance at re-election based on one factor: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

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All that changed in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit our nation and devastated our economy. All the growth of three years has been devastated. During the same month of March, the aging Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, captured the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

Under the Electoral College system, Trump has to carry most of the key battleground states in order to win. Current polling has Biden ahead of Trump in most, if not all the pivotal swing states because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the economy was busting through the roof, Trump could claim credit for the thriving economy.  Likewise, the economic recession caused by the coronavirus is not Trump’s fault. However, it happened under his watch. There is a tried and true political maxim: “If you claim credit for the rain, then you gonna get the blame for the drought.”

There is also a cardinal rule in politics: all politics is local. Folks, Biden was born and raised in Pennsylvania — in the blue-collar city of Scranton, to be exact. Even if Trump were to miraculously carry all five of the large, pivotal states, he will have a hard time carrying Pennsylvania.

I know most of you reading this do not like to hear this dour outlook for Trump. But there is hope. First, I am pretty good at predicting and analyzing Alabama political races — not so much when it comes to national politics. In fact, I am usually wrong.

Another golden, proven caveat in politics: they only count the votes of the people who show up to vote. Older voters tend to be Republican. And older voters are the ones that show up to vote.

We will see in six short weeks.

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Opinion | The bully-in-chief angling for a landslide — against himself

Joey Kennedy

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President Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention

Donald Trump loves picking on Democratic Party-led cities where protests and unrest are regular or even nightly occurrences. We never hear Trump discuss Democratic-led cities that continue to have some protests but very little protest violence.

Birmingham is one of those cities. Sure, just as the #BlackLivesMatter protests began after the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers, we had a scary night where looters and destroyers went through downtown, breaking windows and acting the fool.

That didn’t last long. Mayor Randall Woodfin and the city police leadership have done a remarkable job in quelling violent protests. One important step was removing a Confederate memorial from a downtown park in a city that didn’t exist in the Civil War.

That’s not to say Birmingham is not a violent city. It’s one of the most violent where gun violence is concerned. As in any large metropolitan area, there are locations that have the most concentrated violence and are a continual challenge for law enforcement and the residents who live there.

There’s not much mob violence in Birmingham, though. Certainly not like that which exists in Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington. Trump won’t highlight success stories in Democratic Party-led cities, even those in a Republican-controlled state.

I do find it hypocritical that Trump isn’t as tough on states where the COVID-19 spread is the worst. As of early this week, there were nine states that had uncontrolled rates of infection, and Alabama ranked No. 8. All the states ahead of Alabama have higher populations, but a few high-population states, including New York, which at one time was the epicenter for coronavirus outbreak, has a very low infection rate today.

Infection in New York, a Democratic Party-controlled state, is less than 1 percent now, because state leaders did what they needed to do to control the spread.

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Alabama, not so much. Indeed, of the nine states with the highest infection rates, seven are led by Republicans — Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Missouri and Maryland.

California, the most populous state in the nation, and Virginia, are the states in the top 9 that are led by Democrats.

So why isn’t Trump battering those Republican-run states like Texas and Florida and Georgia, high-population states where the virus continues to quickly spread, like he picks on Democrat-run cities that have protesters?

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Because Trump is all LAW & ORDER (attacking peaceful protesters) and not HEALTH & SAFETY (devising a plan to deal with COVID).

Trump basically ignores the virus. We’re nearly 200,000 deaths into this pandemic (nearly 2,300 in Alabama), but Trump golfs, and campaigns, and keeps his head in the sand trap. He admitted in a recorded interview with journalist Bob Woodward that he knew the virus was deadly, but still did nothing. Nada. Zilch. In fact, he intentionally downplayed the danger. And Americans, by the thousands, died. (No telling how many he figuratively shot and killed on that corner at Fifth Avenue.)

I will say this, Trump keeps digging that hole in the sand for himself. He’s alienated so many groups of people that about the only “humans” left to vote for him Nov. 3 are the Angry White Men, most whom are racist and petrified of the day, coming soon, that they’ll be the minority race in this nation.

The latest group that was targeted by Trump for his bellicose bullying was the U.S. military — top generals and admirals, the rank-and-file soldiers and sailors, wounded veterans, and our military dead. Suckers and losers, they all are, says Trump, a man who dodged the draft during Vietnam by getting daddy to pay off a doctor to say Donny had bone spurs.

If Trump is trying to lose in a landslide, that’s OK with me. But targeting Black and brown people, women, Native Americans, our military, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants — that’s definitely not a strategy for success.

Because as hard as it is for Trump to believe it, there simply aren’t enough Angry White Men in the nation to save him this time. And all the other angry people, the great majority, are highly motivated to vote against him.

Trump can’t lose soon enough.

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

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