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Opinion | Find a boogeyman, not the truth

Joey Kennedy

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Unlike many Alabama voters, I don’t simply vote for somebody because they’re of a particular party. This goes for Republicans and Democrats.

I vote for who I’ve determined is the better candidate – not who I think might win. Sometimes the choice is obvious: For example, Tuscaloosa Mayor and Democrat Walt Maddox would have made a much better governor than Republican Kay Ivey. But Ivey won pretty easily, a little because the Alabama Democratic Party is a wreck but mostly because too many Alabama voters were lazy and simply voted straight ticket R.

The same happened in Jefferson County, which is now clearly a Democratic Party county. But some Republican circuit judges who were great jurists were knocked out of office because too many Jefferson County voters were lazy and simply voted straight ticket D.

That pattern will likely to continue until Alabama, one of the few states that still allows straight-ticket voting, kills the awful practice.

We should be doing more to get Alabama residents to vote smart instead of enabling their ignorance. Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held currently by Democrat Doug Jones, claims he’s been wonderful for elections in Alabama.

Merrill has simply carried forward the nationwide Republican Party strategy of voter suppression. No early voting in Alabama. No automatic voter registration. No real effort to allow ex-inmates who have served their time rejoin the voter rolls. The state does little to educate voters on what’s going on at the polls, unlike states such as California that sends every registered voter an objective voter guide for every election.

Republicans like voters dumb. And in the few places where Democrats are in control, they do, too.

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We need to break that cycle. Yet, you have a former state lawmaker and the self-described “state’s leading political columnist” Steve Flowers urging candidates for the Republican nomination for Senate – Merrill, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, and the others – to misleadingly attack Democrat Jones when they make it through their primary.

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Flowers brags about his relationship with Gov. George C. Wallace, an absolute disaster during his terms in office. Wallace set Alabama back no telling how far, but I agree with Flowers on this: He was a masterful politician.

Wallace was successful, Flowers writes, because – as the populist governor supposedly told him in one of their many intimate meetings — “To win you have got to have a boogeyman to run against.”

So Flowers urges Republicans running for the Senate nomination not to pick on each other but, rather, make Jones the “boogeyman.”

In other words, don’t run on your ideas and what you can accomplish, Flowers advises, but rather on misleading propaganda because you think Alabama voters are so dumb they’ll believe whatever you say.

In the Heart of Dixie in one of, if not the most Republican states in America you have sitting in your Republican U.S. Senate seat a liberal national Democrat, who cozies up to and organizes with and votes with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama,” writes Flowers.

Of course, Jones is anything but a “liberal national Democrat.” He’s a Southern conservative Democrat. I wish he was more liberal. And more aggressive. Alabama would do better if he were. Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama don’t scare me.

But there’s no question that Jones is more qualified than Merrill, or Byrne, or an old football coach, or a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court who has a history of chasing after teen girls at the mall.

Jones has represented Alabama well. He’s never been the embarrassment that Jeff Sessions was. Or certainly, that whichever Republican will be if Republicans retake the seat.

Flowers’ best advice to his fellow Republicans, however, is not to run an honest campaign. It’s to run a misleading campaign, one that is meant to instill fear in voters, one that will certainly be xenophobic or racist or homophobic or, probably, all three.

Still, will most Alabama voters fall for it? Yet again? Will they vote against their best interest because a candidate runs as an R? Will they fail to even try to find out what the candidates truly stand for?

Yeah, most likely.

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

 

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