In a column on Wednesday, Alabama Political Reporter Editor-in-Chief Bill Britt noted that Gov. Kay Ivey’s time is now to do big things for Alabama.
That may well come to pass. Ivey, Britt noted, wants to do great things, and among those great things are overhauling “significant portions of the state’s education system,” opening three new prisons under a lease agreement and pushing, along with House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, an increase in the state’s gasoline and fuel taxes to address the state’s crumbling infrastructure.
Those are huge goals, and it won’t be an easy haul. Republicans raising taxes? Making prisons better for inmates? Massive reform of certain education programs that will help public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade?
Republicans have more of a reputation of stopping progress from happening than moving it forward. That’s not a slap at the GOP. It’s just a fact.
Yet, the state’s most popular Republican may can pull this off. Ivey is 74 years old. Though she can run for another term when she’s 78, she may not feel she has the stamina needed to pull off two terms, plus the time she spent as governor after former Gov. Robert Bentley gave up the office in disgrace.
That Ivey wants to leave a true legacy is natural, and if she does, indeed, go big this legislative session, it could happen.
But why stop at prisons, which could find themselves under federal control if they’re not improved, reforming education, even if that reform doesn’t cost any additional state tax dollars, and carving out the millions of dollars needed to fix highways, roads and bridges.
In one sense, Ivey could be like former President Richard Nixon. Not the corruption part.
It took Republican Nixon to open China to the world, and many observers said that only Nixon, once a staunch Cold War warrior, could pull it off.
Well, maybe Ivey, solidly in good with Alabama voters and most lawmakers, is the one to fix the state’s infrastructure, prisons and schools, generally not popular issues with Republicans because, well, such moves cost money, even if the federal government will carry the biggest load in financing the changes.
The hope is that Ivey will really want to go big. She could seal her legacy if she moved to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act as well.
A gas tax and new prisons aren’t nearly as unpopular with the GOP as expanding the ACA – Obama care – but it’s just as important to the state, if not more so.
Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians can’t get health care under the ACA unless the state does expand Medicaid. Rural hospitals would be saved from closing. Billions of dollars in federal money would pour into Alabama, boosting economic development in ways Alabama has never seen.
Ivey doesn’t have to ask Democratic governors who expanded Medicaid in their states starting in 2014, when the ACA came into being. She can ask her fellow Republican governors who, more and more, are moving to expand Medicaid in their cash-strapped states.
Expanding Medicaid isn’t just a Northeast or Northwest phenomenon. Four Southern states — Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky and Virginia — have expanded Medicaid and are already seeing the results. In all, only 14 states have stayed firm in not expanding Medicaid, and a bunch of those states may do it now because of the economic benefits and the access to health care it gives their residents.
Important, too, is that the federal government pays for 90 percent of the cost. Certainly it is worth some new revenue streams to capture the remaining 10 percent state investment.
When Alabama had a physician as governor, he turned his back on the state’s working poor needing access to health care. He didn’t care that rural hospitals were closing. All he looked at was that the ACA was pushed by President Barack Obama. He made a political decision, not a decision to benefit Alabamians, and the working poor have paid a huge price since that decision.
Ivey’s legacy is hers to make. It’s completely in her hands, and only her lack of will can keep it from happening.
Ivey may be the only politician in Alabama who could make this happen, the only Republican who can. Let’s hope she will.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]
Opinion | 1964 Goldwater landslide was beginning of Republican dominance in the South
Our primary runoffs have been postponed until July 14, 2020. It was a wise and prudent decision by Secretary of State John Merrill and Gov. Kay Ivey. Most voters are older and you are asking them to come out and vote and at the same time stay home.
The main event will be the GOP runoff for the U.S. Senate. The two combatants, Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville, will now square off in the middle of a hot Alabama summer. The winner will be heavily favored to go to Washington. We are a very reliably Republican state especially in a presidential election year.
Many of you have asked, “When did Alabama become a dominant one–party Republican state?” Well it all began in the Presidential year of 1964. The 1964 election was the turning point when the Deep South states of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina voted for Barry Goldwater and never looked back. It was the race issue that won southerners over for Goldwater. The Republican Party captured the race issue that year and have never let go of it.
The South which was known as the “Solid South” for more than six decades, because we were solidly Democratic, are today known as the “Solid South” because we are solidly Republican.Presidential candidates ignore us during the campaign because it is a foregone conclusion that we will vote Republican, just as presidential candidates ignored us for the first 60 years of the 20th Century, because it was a foregone conclusion that we were going to vote Democratic.
George Wallace had ridden the race issue into the Governor’s office in 1962. It had reached a fever pitch in 1964. Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson, had passed sweeping Civil Rights legislation which white southerners detested.
The only non-southern senator to oppose the Civil Rights legislation was Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. When the Republican Party met at the old Cow Palace in San Francisco, they nominated Goldwater as their 1964 presidential candidate. Johnson annihilated him, nationwide, but Goldwater won the South in a landslide.
Before that fall day in November of 1964, there was no Republican Party in Alabama. There were no Republican officeholders. There was no Republican primary. Republicans chose their candidates in backroom conventions. Except for a few Lincoln Republicans in the hill counties, it was hard getting a white Alabamian even to admit they were Republican.
That all changed in 1964. Goldwater and the Republicans became identified with segregation and the white Southern voter fled the Democratic Party en masse. As the Fall election of 1964 approached the talk in the country stores around Alabama was that a good many good ole boys were going to vote straight Republican even if their daddies did turn over in their graves. Enterprising local bottling companies got into the debate and filled up drink boxes in the country stores labeled Johnson Juice and Gold Water. The Gold Water was outselling the Johnson Juice 3-to-1.
Alabamians not only voted for Barry Goldwater but also pulled the straight Republican lever out of anger towards Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights agenda. Most of Alabama’s eight-member Congressional delegation, with more than 100 years of seniority was wiped out by straight ticket Republican voting on that November 1964 day.
Earlier that year, Lyndon B. Johnson, the toughest, crudest, most corrupt and yes most effective man to ever serve in the White House, made a profound statement. As he signed the Civil Rights Bill he had pushed through Congress, he looked over at the great Southern Lion, Richard Russell of Georgia, and as Senator Russell glared at Johnson with his steel stare, Lyndon said, “I just signed the South over to the Republican Party for the next 60 years.” Johnson’s words were prophetic.
Folks, beginning with the 1964 election, there have been 17 presidential elections counting this year. If you assume that Donald Trump carries our state in November, that is a safe assumption, Alabama has voted for the Republican nominee 16 out of 17 elections over the past 56 years. Georgia peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter, is the only interloper for the Democrats in 1976.
The U.S. Senate seat up this year was first won by a Republican in 1996. That Republican was Jeff Sessions.
So folks, in 1964, Alabama became a Republican state and it happened in what was called the Southern Republican “Goldwater Landslide.”
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.
Opinion | The “mainstream media” has been right all along
The mainstream media is just blowing this whole coronavirus thing out of proportion!
Have you heard that one? Possibly from a guy standing behind a podium that has the presidential seal attached to it? Or from one of your friends or family members? Or maybe you believe it yourself.
It’s all “the mainstream media,” the story goes.
They’re the ones sensationalizing this virus that kills less people than car wrecks and seasonal flu. “The mainstream media” is whipping everyone into a frenzy, causing people to go buy up all the toilet paper and bottled water — all over a virus that has a 99-percent recovery rate. It’s the mainstream media’s fault that businesses are being closed and shelter-in-place orders are being needlessly issued by knee-jerk politicians.
Pfft. Stupid mainstream media.
Except, one small thing: “The mainstream media” — whatever faceless, unidentifiable group of journalists to which you have assigned that designation — have been right.
The mainstream folks who work for your local newspapers and TV stations and online news outlets, and for the major national outlets, such as the New York Times, Washington Post and others, have provided the public with incredibly accurate information about this virus.
I don’t want to spend too much time singing our praises here, but APR is a perfect example of this. The collection of information compiled by our reporters has been better, more informative and far more accurate than even the information supplied by the Alabama Department of Public Health. I’ve heard personally from several lawmakers who check what they’re being told by the governor’s office and ADPH against what we’re reporting.
Other outlets in this state are doing similar work and providing their local communities with relevant, specific information and tells the story of this crisis in the places they live.
The reason mainstream outlets have been so successful and accurate in telling this story is mostly because we’ve done nothing but quote and cite the comments and work of reputable, respected doctors and scientists. We have presented you with their projections, their analyses, their breakdowns and their advice.
Back in early February, when President Pompous was telling everyone not to worry, that all is well and that soon we’d be “down to zero cases,” the mainstream media, citing doctors and health experts, told you that was crazy talk and that a real crisis was approaching this country. That soon we should expect a new normal.
I think we know who was right about that one.
As President My Uncle Was A Super-Genius was telling you that one day this will just disappear, the mainstream media was telling you to wash your hands, stay inside and avoid crowds. Because doing so could prevent a scenario in which American hospitals were overrun with patients, depleting our limited supply of ventilators. (The first ventilator story I can find came way back in January.)
And it was the mainstream media that first told you to expect a death toll that reaches into the six figures, and possibly beyond.
Of course, like all things, the reality of the crisis — and the facts and verifiable information — was lost in the political fight, and in the disinformation campaign required to prop up the dumbest presidential administration in history.
Because the president took, per usual, such an anti-science, anti-facts position from the outset, any confirmation of the facts that were long ago predicted by the doctors and scientists, and adopted by the mainstream media and most progressive politicians, had to be debunked or reframed in a manner that undercut the severity of the virus or the potential for death.
And so, on everyone’s favorite phony news network, there came an endless stream of false equivalencies and partial information — all of which were adopted by most Republicans and spread throughout their social media worlds — to the point that those who live within the conservative news bubble have been left believing that the entire country has been shut down by a simple, flu-like virus that is less deadly than seasonal flu and could probably be treated with aquarium cleaner.
And that the shutdown is being carried out, of course, to tear down the economy (that Obama built and Trump takes credit for) in the hopes of defeating an incumbent president (that had the worst approval ratings in history and trailed by double digits in the polls — including in swing states — to the presumptive Democratic nominee).
It’s so stupid it hurts. And that’s actually true this time.
The love that half of America has for being told what they want to hear instead of the actual news is now literally causing death and illness. And it’s going to get worse.
Even ol’ President Open By Easter is now conceding that this virus will likely kill upwards of 100,000 Americans in the short term, and maybe many more. Somehow, in his mind, that is a victory for him.
In reality, there are no victories. Not for the people of this country. Not for the mainstream media. And certainly not for the buffoons who have again discounted science and doctors to adopt and espouse a viewpoint built around political advantage and personal ignorance.
In the coming months, as the reality of this unprecedented disaster unfolds, it should not be lost that so much of it could have been avoided if the American president had relied on facts and science and if many in the American public hadn’t been so quick to choose political preference over hard news.
Opinion | For the love of money, people will die
Just as Donald Trump is leaving it to individual states to set policies on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is refusing to issue a shelter-in-place order to try to curb the virus’ reach.
So local mayors and governors in other states are proactively making decisions to protect citizens and to try to slow the infection down.
Jefferson and Shelby counties are the epicenter for the virus in Alabama, which makes sense because a quarter of the state’s population lives here. As of this writing, there were at least 135 cases in Jefferson and Shelby counties. That’s a meaningless number, though, because as you’re reading this a few hours later, the number could have doubled.
To his credit, Mayor Randall Woodfin proposed an ordinance, passed by the City Council, that orders city residents to shelter in place. There are big exceptions – people can leave their homes to go to work and to the grocery store (although companies like Shipt and Instacart will deliver to your home). They can visit their doctors, and walk outside as long as they keep the 6-foot social distancing standard in place. And Woodfin said the police aren’t going to arrest anybody for leaving their house. This isn’t martial law, Woodfin said.
But it is leverage to keep people at home, and to prevent them from mixing in groups and spreading the virus. This highly contagious disease is moving quickly.
In Tuscaloosa, Mayor Walt Maddox has set a curfew from Friday night until April 3. People are not allowed out of their homes from 10 p.m. to five a.m. The goal, Maddox said, is to reduce social gatherings, especially among the city’s young people.
Again, that makes sense. And Maddox didn’t rule out other steps, either. As of this writing, Tuscaloosa had just 10 cases, but that number is sure to rise. Still, Maddox is making these important decisions before the cases get out of hand.
Yet, Trump says he wants the nation back open by Easter Sunday (April 12). Ivey says she has no intention of issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order.
The motivation for both Trump’s and Ivey’s reluctance to act, comes down to one thing: The love of money.
The economy is taking a pounding, that is true. People are dying, too. But Trump would rather people, sick or well, return to their jobs to give a boost to the failing economy. Then, here’s what Ivey said, as reported by Alabama Political Reporter: “We have seen other states in the country doing that (shelter in place, lockdowns), as well as other countries … (but) (w)e are not California. We are not New York. We aren’t even Louisiana. My priority is to keep the Alabama economy going as much as possible, while we take extraordinary measures to keep everyone healthy and safe.”
You can’t do both. That’s already been proven. So to Trump and Ivey, money matters more than saving lives, even those of ourmost vulnerable people.
Trump was so late taking any action that the virus got out of hand in parts of the country, and deaths spiraled. Testing lagged, emergency personal protection equipment wasn’t ordered. Some senators had enough warning to sell off millions of dollars in stock before the market crashed, but they didn’t send out the alarm because with Trump, if the problem is ignored it doesn’t exist.
But see, Trump can’t lie his way out of this one, even though he’s giving it all he’s got.
Testing is just getting up and running in Alabama, but we still have more than 300 cases in less than two weeks – and the number of cases in Alabama now is rising by double digits each day.
The virus is especially dangerous for people who have compromised immune systems or lung, heart, and liver problems. Like my wife, Veronica. Like one of my great students at UAB who has cystic fibrosis. Like many grandmothers and grandfathers, and aunts and uncles out there. Like our good friend Jo Ellen O’Hara, the longtime food editor at The Birmingham News back when it was a newspaper. Jo Ellen is 82 and now living at Fair Haven retirement center. We saw what the novel coronavirus did to nursing homes in Seattle, Washington.
Young people are getting sicker, too, with a good percentage of hospital admissions, nearly half in some places, being people up to age 49. Anybody can get sick, and anybody can die.
That’s why the health experts and scientists urge the lockdowns and sheltering in place. Because as long as it’s business as usual,the virus will keep spreading, and making people sick, and killing.
People take a chance when they fill up their vehicles at the gas station; who knows who filled up at that pump before you and left the virus behind. Wear plastic gloves when you pump gas. Opening a door can transfer the virus to your hand, and it’ll get inside you if you touch your face. That’s what all the hand-washing and don’t-touch-your-face warnings are about.
But for Trump and Ivey, a “few” deaths are just the price we have to pay to keep the money “rolling” in.
These are some screwed-up priorities.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]
Opinion | U.S. Senate runoff moved to July
The GOP contest for who sits in our number two U.S. Senate seat has been delayed until July 14, 2020 due to the coronavirus. The winner of the battle between Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville will more than likely be our junior US. Senator for six years.
Neither are spring chickens. Sessions will be 74 and Tuberville will be 66, when the winner takes office. This is not the optimum age to be a freshman U.S. Senator because seniority equates to superiority in the U.S. Senate. Given their age of arrival neither will be given much deference or have much influence. Sessions’ 20 years goes for naught. He does not get his seniority back. Instead, he goes to the back of the line as would Tuberville.
Sessions really does not want to be influential. During his tenure he wanted to be the choir boy and Eagle Scout of the Senate. He was the most honest and conservative member of the Senate. He wore that badge proudly and would again.
Tuberville is planning to be Trump’s bodyguard and valet. He will not know where the bathroom is, what committees he has been placed on, or where to sit, much less how to pass a bill or get anything accomplished for Alabama. After about six years he will realize he is a Senator from Alabama, not Arkansas or Florida. His only mission as a campaigner appears to be that he can shoot a gun and wants to be Donald Trump’s pawn.
The irony with this Trump love affair is legitimate polling that points to a Tuberville victory also reveals a Trump loss. Trumpprobably is not going to be president when either Tuberville or Sessions takes office. Anybody with a cursory knowledge of how our president is elected under the Electoral College System realizes that if Trump loses any of the key pivotal battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Pennsylvania, he loses the Whitehouse. If Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee, current polling clearly has him favored to carry all of those states. He is pretty much a lock to win his home state of Pennsylvania.
The winner of the Tuberville-Sessions contest will be our junior senator. Either one will beat our anomaly, Democratic interloper Doug Jones, probably 60 to 40. Being the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate Seat in the Heart of Dixie is tantamount to election, especially in a presidential election year with Donald Trump atop the ticket.
It really does not matter which one is elected, they both will vote conservatively and look at their roles as being a reactionary ideologue. Neither will garner much power. However, that does not matter when you have Senator Richard Shelby as your senior Senator. He has enough power that we really do not need a second senator.
Most pundits were saying Tuberville had momentum and washeading towards a victory, especially with Trump’s endorsement. However, with 15 weeks to prepare rather than 10 days it is a new ballgame.
Allow me to share two cardinal caveats I have shared with you over the years, and which I have recently shared with national media people who have asked for my insight on this race. First, Alabamians have shown a unique but overwhelming aversion to one politician endorsing another for another office. I was taught this rule of Alabama politics when I was a young legislator.
It is a cardinal rule in Alabama politics that you do not get involved in other races. Alabamians have a very dim view of this practice. They seem to inherently say, “We elected you to your office. You ought to be thankful for that and not show an arrogance that you are so good and anointed that you want to tell us who to vote to place in another office.”
George Wallace, in his hey-day, when he was at the height of his popularity, would endorse someone and invariably they would lose. Less y’all forget, Trump endorsed Luther Strange for this same seat. He then lost to Roy Moore. Then Trump endorsed Roy Moore and he immediately lost to Doug Jones. Alabamians do not think much of endorsements, in fact they resent them.
The second caveat is Alabamians will universally, overwhelmingly vote for someone from their neck of the woods. It is called “Friends and Neighbors” politics. Jeff Sessions lives in and is from Mobile. The voter turnout in Mobile-Baldwin is going to be the highest in the State because there is a tossup runoff race between Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower to fill Bradley Byrne’s 1st Congressional District seat.
We will see in mid-July week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us.
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