We bought a boat. That’s what hundreds of people in Alabama did. They all chipped in and bought a nice, big boat for a bona fide scam artist. They also dumped thousands of dollars into the disheveled pockets of Nazi-whisperer Steve Bannon.
And we tried to give more. Boy, did we try.
The president of the Alabama Senate, Del Marsh, and his Republican pals did all they could. They passed a bill that would have allowed Alabama citizens to check a box on their tax returns and automatically fork over donations to the GoFundMe account set up to build a border wall.
Imagine the boat that Brian Kolfage, Bannon’s co-conspirator in the fraud, could have bought with that tax check-off.
But, alas, some people, like meddling APR editor Bill Britt, looked up a bunch of facts and junk and discovered that the donations could never actually go towards building a wall. And others read the bill and thought it was just stupid. And still more people thought there might be more important things for the Alabama Legislature to take up. So, the bill never made it to the floor in the Alabama House, and it died.
And Kolfage and Bannon had to settle for (allegedly) scamming people out of just the tens of millions that poured in.
Those two were charged Thursday morning by federal prosecutors in New York for swindling thousands of people out of their donations. Because, of course they did. Swindling is what they, and pretty much anyone associated with Trump, do.
Bannon makes the seventh person who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign to be indicted. And just two days ago, we learned that Trump’s son, son-in-law and yet another close adviser were referred by a Republican-led Senate committee to the DOJ for criminal prosecution.
If Trump’s name ended in a vowel, he’d be locked up now on RICO charges.
It’s fortunate that such criminal behavior still shocks the conscience of much of the rest of the nation, because it barely makes a ripple here in Alabama. Where Marsh will face no political backlash whatsoever for his desperately stupid attempts to drag ALGOP voters into bed with obvious fraud.
Why would he? He has an R beside his name on the ballot, and that’s enough.
Just like it was enough for Republican candidates over the last few years, despite at least one GOP state lawmaker being indicted or convicted of crimes in each of the last six years. And in one two-year stretch, the state lost its Republican House speaker and governor to criminal charges.
It hasn’t mattered at all.
In the 2018 midterms, Republicans in the state Legislature added to their supermajority.
Now, such a phenomenon would be easily explained if, say, Alabama were experiencing an economic revolution, a new commitment to public health or even an age of educational enlightenment. We haven’t been.
Our economy, as evidenced by the devastating effects of the pandemic, is built on the backs of service-industry jobs and low-wage workers. Our health care system is one of the worst in the developed world. And our public education system consistently hovers near the bottom nationally on almost every meaningful scale.
And throughout the pandemic, these Republicans that state voters continue to trip over themselves to elect have proven time and again — through their deafening silence — that they have no plan to govern — not during a crisis, not on a normal weekday.
What Del Marsh demonstrated, though, is that the ALGOP does have a plan — a tried and true plan — to win Alabama voters: Fear.
Fear of Hispanics. Fear of Black people. Fear of anyone or anything that looks, acts, thinks, dresses, speaks, worships or loves differently than you.
It is the same fear that Trump is again pushing on the national level. The same fear he used in 2016. The same fear he has used to “rally his base” for the past four years.
In Alabama, we have paid dearly for always responding as expected to the stoking of such fear. Voters here, year after year, vote against their own jobs, against unions that would ensure higher wages and better benefits, against expanding Medicaid and a better health care system, against a fairer tax system that would put money in their pockets, against a less-racist school funding structure that would elevate the whole of public schools, against stiffer regulations for polluting our lakes, rivers and Gulf or poisoning the soil where our children play.
This is what the politics of fear has done in Alabama. And in many cases, that fear has turned to hate, and become impossible to turn.
It’s a pretty crummy way to get votes, and it’s probably the absolute worst way to determine the men and women who will govern your state and country. Because most of the time, you don’t even get a boat out of the deal.