There’s this episode of the TV show “Seinfeld” in which Elaine stumbles upon a bizarro world — a world where everything is the opposite.
There’s a George with a good job and none of the issues. There’s a normal Kramer. And Jerry is kind and considerate and not self-involved.
Elaine is astonished by this.
On Tuesday morning, I came to understand exactly how she felt.
Because on Tuesday morning, an Alabama governor stood behind a lectern, with the weight of Trump-loving conservatives breathing down her neck and a billion-dollar budget shortfall staring her in the face, and Ivey didn’t blink.
She didn’t do the politically convenient thing. She didn’t cater to big business. She didn’t take advantage of the cover provided to her by the governors of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Kay Ivey instead leaned on science.
I nearly fell out of my chair.
In a lengthy press conference, in which she took questions from reporters and never waivered, Ivey held firm to her stay-at-home order that will remain in place “at least until April 30.”
“We’ll see past then,” Ivey told everyone.
She also said her opinion on when the state was safe to fully reopen “doesn’t count,” but instead it will be the research and data and opinions of the doctors and scientists that she will lean on.
In general, the message Ivey had was this: Our testing capacity stinks and until we get it up, this state can’t reopen businesses or lift the stay-at-home order.
Because it isn’t safe.
She also took a sly shot at the governors who have reopened, despite their states also lacking in testing capacity and failing to meet the set of benchmarks supplied by the White House, saying that those states “have the same problems we do” and their governors are responsible for doing what’s in the best interest of their states’ citizens.
Asked by a reporter what level testing needs to be at for Ivey to feel comfortable in lifting her order, Ivey said flatly: “Well it needs to be better than less than one percent.”
It was, in its totality, quite possibly the most intentionally surprising press conference from an Alabama elected official that I’ve ever witnessed. In fact, the only time I’ve been more stunned is the day Robert Bentley called a press conference to try and explain that a recording of him describing in detail how he fondled a staffer wasn’t evidence of a physical relationship.
But this one was a good surprise. Which probably makes it more surprising.
Because that’s not what Alabama governors do.
They do backroom deals and underhanded tricks and bending over backward to reward the wealthy and big mules at the expense of the average Alabamian.
But maybe reality was too much this time.
We’re moving towards 50,000 American deaths and 200 dead in Alabama. (And medical professionals suspect those numbers should be much higher and would be if COVID-19 deaths were counted in the same manner as flu and heart disease deaths.)
We have about a half-million cases of coronavirus nationwide and more than 5,000 in Alabama. And growing.
And what hope there is — data showing Alabama cases not rising as fast — is undercut by the fact that we’re testing less than 1 percent of the people of the state and we’re not testing at all in 10 of Alabama’s 67 counties. Nine counties in Alabama have tested less than 100 people in the nearly two months since we started searching for this virus.
So, Ivey, despite the mounting pressure from her party mates and donors, made a tough call. She made the right call, and took a hard stand — that we won’t be lifting Alabama’s stay-at-home order until our testing gets better and we meet the benchmarks set by the White House.
We do not expect such from our governors in this state. We do not expect them to stand strong in the face of those usual powers, to shirk off the calls from ill-informed know-nothings — like Congressman Mo Brooks and several other Republican state lawmakers — and instead do what’s best, even if it’s tough, for the majority of the people.
There is certainly a history of Alabama governors taking stands.
Just very few of them have been for what’s right.