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Opinion | George Wallace was right

Larry Lee

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For some of us who are long in the tooth, we can recall that when George Wallace ran for president as a third-party candidate, he often said  “there was not a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans.

And looking at Alabama today, it’s hard to argue with what he said. For all intent and purposes, yesterday’s Democrats are now today’s Republicans.

A quick history lesson explains.

After reconstruction, Bourbon Democrats took control of state politics.  They were the large landowners, mill and mine owners and anyone with substantial wealth.  They were the elites and proved it in 1901 by writing a state constitution that disenfranchised thousands and thousands of yeomen farmers and others they felt were not their equal.

Grandpa was three years old in 1901.  But he and all his family and neighbors were just cogs in the Bourbon Democrat wheel.  They picked their cotton, sawed their lumber, raised their food, mined their coal and worked endless hours in textile mills.

The one thing they did not do was VOTE — unless they paid a poll tax of $1.50 a year because they did not own property. And when you were a sharecropper, as grandpa was, and usually went deeper in debt from one season to another, $1.50 was a handsome price to pay.

Basically the constitution of 1901 said that those who did not own property were second class citizens and were not worthy of having a voice in who got elected to office.

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(Grandpa served in World War I and it was only when the probate judge of Covington County gave him a waiver from the poll tax for his military service that he could vote.)

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Now the Republican supermajority in the Alabama Legislature has adopted the Bourbon Democrat philosophy and put an amendment on the ballot March 3 that will disenfranchise people across the state by taking away their right to vote for members of the state school board.

That’s right.

Just like the 1901 constitution did to grandpa, the Bourbon Republicans want to make me a second class citizen. They want to hand pick our state school board because they obviously don’t think I — and every other citizen in this state — have enough sense to go to the ballot box and cast an informed vote.

They believe they are smarter than the average citizens of Alabama. We should only be seen and not heard. We should put our fate in the hands of these modern-day elites.

And here is my message to them.  When I vote NO to amendment one on March 3, I will simply say, “Grandpa, this one is for you.”

 

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