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Josh Moon

The world will miss Bus Boycott minister Robert Graetz

Josh Moon

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Rev. Robert Graetz died on Sunday at the age of 92. (VIA HISTORY CHANNEL)

The bomb was meant to kill Rev. Robert Graetz and his family of five. The carload of KKK boys from Selma who tossed it into the Graetz’s front yard that night in 1958, and then sped away, had every intention of killing all inside.

So intent were they that when that first bomb didn’t explode — because the fuse had been knocked loose when it was hurled from the car — they came back and tossed a second bomb in hopes of detonating the first. 

The second, smaller bomb went off. The first never did. And Rev. Graetz and his family suffered only a horrific scare and several shattered windows. 

That was the penalty in Montgomery at the time for a white man and his wife lending aid to Black folks and their Bus Boycott. 

It didn’t deter Rev. Graetz or shake his faith. 

Some 50 years later, he would seek out one of the KKK members in the car that night (they were caught by local police with a list of bombing targets in the car, but were acquitted by an all-white jury). Graetz wanted to meet the man, to talk about their past and to tell him that he forgave him. 

Because that’s the kind of man Bob Graetz was. The absolute best. 

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Rev. Robert Graetz passed away on Sunday. He was 92. 

I met Rev. Graetz and his wife, Jeannie, about 10 years ago. They were running the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Studies at Alabama State University. They might appear to be an odd choice for such a role — an older white couple in charge of a Civil Rights and African American studies center. 

But the Graetzes were never your typical white people. 

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From the moment they stepped foot in Montgomery in 1955, they decided that they would be on the right side of history. Rev. Graetz was assigned — his first assignment out of seminary school — to the predominantly-black Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Church in Montgomery. One of the first people they met: Rosa Parks, who was Trinity’s NAACP youth director. 

A few weeks after arriving, they were committed to the cause and were helping shuttle boycotters around the city, to and from work every day. Rev. Graetz was eventually named secretary in the then-controversial Montgomery Improvement Association, the group headed by Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., E.D. Nixon and attorney Fred Gray that planned and executed the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

As a white man participating in the Boycott, Graetz drew more hatred from the white supremacists, and his family seemed to be in constant danger. Their home was bombed twice. They received constant death threats, including threats directed at their young children. Their car was tampered with on numerous occasions. 

The Graetzes never wavered. In fact, following the second bombing of their home, a bishop came to visit and “strongly suggested” that they accept an assignment being offered. 

During an interview for a 2015 profile for the Montgomery Advertiser, Rev. Graetz told me that, “We were fully aware of the risks and dangers. Just a short time before we came here in 1955, Emmett Till had been murdered. So, we knew what the climate was. There was an awareness that (the Boycott) was a very important activity that we were engaged in. As early as that very first mass meeting, there was a real sense that what was happening here was something that could change the world.”

When they finally did leave, the Graetzes never stopped helping others and attacking injustices with kindness and decency. 

They worked with the impoverished in Appalachia. They have advocated for gay and transgender rights. Rev. Graetz even entered a true den of thieves and served more than a decade as a lobbyist in D.C. 

Throughout his life, though, no matter where he ministered, Rev. Graetz’s mission was always the same: To instill an environment of acceptance and love. 

The Graetzes knew the importance of both, having bounced around the country, living in some of the poorest, most dangerous areas, often receiving wages that weren’t much higher than the impoverished in the congregation. Raising seven kids in those circumstances required help from the village, and that sort of help only comes with love and acceptance. 

In Montgomery, and especially around the ASU campus, where the Graetzes have an apartment, Rev. Bob was beloved. Confined to a wheelchair for the last several years, you would often see Jeannie pushing Bob, both around their neighborhood and at events. Every trip went in stops and starts, as people, young and old, stopped them to chat and share a smile. 

Because that’s who Robert Graetz was throughout his life — a man who brought a smile. When you spoke with him, you knew you were in the presence of one of those rare people who seem to radiate with kindness and decency. The sort of person who made you want to be nicer, to look for the goodness in others, to forgive, to help. He was the kind of man who would call up the racist who bombed his house to make amends. 

That’s who Rev. Robert Graetz was. 

And the world will miss him. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Voter suppression is the only hope for Republicans

Their tactic today is the same tactic of yesterday. Fight democracy.

Josh Moon

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A Black Voters Matter sign (VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The writing is on the wall for Republicans, and it has been for some time now. Across the nation, year after year, they see the numbers steadily move away from them. They already represent tens of millions fewer Americans in Congress, and if recent polling is even close to accurate, they are on the verge of a bloodbath in less than two weeks that could tip the power to Democrats for generations to come. 

Facing such a bleak reality, it might be reasonable forjm to the party platform, discouraging the archaic fights over thinly-veiled racism and bigotry. To stop the never-ending coddling of racists and America’s worst humans. 

But no, that is not their tactic. Their tactic today is the same tactic of yesterday. 

Fight democracy. 

Because the enemy that Republicans can beat is not the better ideas, better leadership, better governance or better humanity of today’s Democratic Party, it is access to the voting booth. 

And they are fighting like hell. 

Gone are the slick talking points and the insistence that every shady hurdle placed between a voter and a ballot is a matter of fraud prevention. Now, they’re not even hiding what they’re doing, nor offering half-baked excuses for doing it. 

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Whether it be limiting polling locations or providing fewer voting machines to predominantly minority neighborhoods or removing polling locations from college campuses or allowing for only one ballot drop-off location or faking drop-off locations, there is an all-out, last-ditch, shameless, desperate attempt to stave off the coming defeat by Republicans. 

And there is no bottom to what they will pull. 

As is usually the case, it was in Alabama where they tested just how low they’re willing to sink. In Alabama, in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed nearly 220,000 Americans and nearly 3,000 Alabamians, they fought everything.

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Even when they knew that doing so would likely — very likely — cost voters their lives. 

And they had a Republican-packed U.S. Supreme Court to go along with them. 

On Wednesday evening, that court ruled, 5-3, that Alabama officials could ban curbside voting, even though there’s no law in the state preventing it and several counties have used it successfully in the past. 

Curbside voting is utilized to aid people with disabilities. In the time of COVID, it was going to be used by several counties in Alabama to make it easier for the most at-risk individuals to safely cast a ballot. They would pull up to the curb, sign the poll book without exiting their car, fill out a ballot, hand it to an official poll worker who feeds it into a voting machine, and, tah-dah, a safe vote has been cast. 

A number of at-risk Alabamians filed a lawsuit against the state saying the ban on curbside voting, coupled with the requirements for absentee voting in Alabama — which state officials also went to court to keep in place — would very much force them to risk their lives in order to cast a ballot. 

It will come as no surprise to you that the majority of those who planned to utilize curbside voting, it was projected, were Black Alabamians. COVID-19 has proven to be particularly lethal for Blacks, and the counties of Jefferson and Montgomery — both with high minority populations — had already planned to implement curbside voting. 

Secretary of State John Merrill and Attorney General Steve Marshall smelled something fishy, which is oddly common among white Republicans in Alabama whenever large numbers of Black people are planning to vote.

But don’t worry, if you were expecting their reasoning for opposing curbside voting to be either absurd or callous.  

In a brief filed in the case, Merrill argued that “some level of risk is inherent in life and in voting.” Merrill also went into a lengthy speculation on how curbside voting could possibly be conducted safely and securely in these counties. 

Again, curbside voting has been done in Alabama numerous times. And figuring out the logistics certainly would have taken less time and money than fighting this ridiculous case all the way to the Supreme Court. 

But, again, fairness, security and safety weren’t the objective. 

Suppression was. 

Because right now, that’s the only hope Republicans have left.

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Opinion | Electing Tuberville could cost Alabama billions

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

Josh Moon

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Money matters in Alabama. Oh, I know that we’re not supposed to say that out loud. That we’re supposed to promote our image of southern grace and hospitality, of churchiness and care, of rich people never getting into heaven. 

But the truth is greed is our biggest character flaw in this state. 

Every problem we have can be traced back to our unending thirst for dollars. Our ancestors didn’t keep slaves because they hated black people. They did it because they loved money and the difference in skin color gave them an excuse — a really, really stupid excuse — to mistreat other humans to take advantage of the free labor. 

Our rivers and lakes and dirt aren’t filled with poisons from factories because we’re too dumb to understand how this works. They’re that way because our politicians are paid off to turn a blind eye to the dumping of toxic waste. 

Our schools aren’t terrible because we have dumb kids or bad teachers. It’s because we’re too cheap to pay for them. 

You see what I mean? It’s our lust for the almighty dollar. Every time. 

We love money. 

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Which makes me seriously wonder why so many people in this state are going to vote for a man who will cost us all — and especially our biggest businesses — so much of it. 

Tommy Tuberville will be like a money vacuum for Alabama. Billions of dollars will vanish for this welfare state that relies so much on federal contracts, federal programs and federal dollars. 

If you doubt this, don’t simply take my word for it. Just Google up the press releases from Sen. Richard Shelby’s office from the last, say, six years — the most recent span in which Republicans have controlled the Senate. 

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Almost every single release is about Shelby securing millions or billions of dollars in federal funding for this project or that project, getting the state’s share of dollars from a variety of different programs and initiatives implemented by Congress. 

Shelby and I obviously have different political viewpoints, but it’s hard to argue that the man has been successful in securing money for Alabama. Lots and lots of money. 

Money for airports and roads. Money for defense contractors in Huntsville. Money for the port in Mobile. Money for car manufacturers. Money for farmers. 

Money. Money. Money. 

Shelby can do that because of three things: He’s on the right committees, he’s a member of the party in power and he’s liked by the right people.

Tuberville will be none of those things. 

Most pundits are predicting that Democrats will take over the Senate, tipping the balance of power and giving the party control of both houses and the White House. 

That automatically means that a first-time senator in the opposition party will have little to no say in any decisions. 

But what’s worse for Tuberville, and for Alabama, is that other Republicans don’t like him either. 

Establishment Republicans essentially openly campaigned against Tuberville in the primary, tossing tens of millions of dollars behind his opponent, Jeff Sessions. They even favored third-place finisher Bradley Byrne over Tuberville. 

It’s not hard to understand why — he’s clueless. 

I know that’s a Doug Jones talking point, but this one happens to be true. Let me give you an example: On Thursday, Tuberville tweeted out what was meant to be a shot at Jones, claiming that Alabama’s current senator wouldn’t meet with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee because Jones knows “he won’t have much time in the Senate to work with her.”

If you’re unaware, the Senate doesn’t “work with” the Supreme Court. They’re separate entities. 

Combine that with his other nonsensical answers on COVID relief, school reopenings, the Voting Rights Act, senate committee assignments, education, foreign affairs — really, the list is almost endless — and it shows how little work he’s put in over the last two years to understand this job he’s applying for. 

Now, that might be just fine with Alabama voters who care more about the party affiliation and owning the libs, but it’s not OK with grownups who take the job of running the country seriously. 

And those people — both Rs and Ds — don’t like Tuberville or his here-for-an-easy-check-like-always approach to one of the most serious jobs in the world. 

He will be frozen out of the most sought after committee assignments. His voice will carry zero weight. His presence will be all but forgotten. 

And in the process, so will Alabama. Especially in two years, when Shelby retires and his senior status is lost. 

In the meantime, Jones is highly respected by senators on both sides of the aisle. He already has a presence on top committees, and is so well liked within the Democratic Party that he’s on the short list to be Joe Biden’s AG, should he not be re-elected. 

The choice seems pretty simple. On the one hand is a competent, prepared and serious statesman who knows how to maneuver his colleagues to get the most for the state. On the other hand is an unprepared, uncaring, lazy carpetbagger who doesn’t understand any process. 

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Doug Jones believes in Alabama voters, even if they don’t deserve it

For some reason, Jones still has faith. 

Josh Moon

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones speaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Doug Jones still has faith in the people of Alabama. How that can be, I have no idea. But he does. Trust me, I asked him, and then asked him if he was sure. And then asked if he heard the question correctly. 

Current polling has Jones, Alabama’s current U.S. senator, trailing challenger Tommy Tuberville by double digits. Jones is a Democrat. Tuberville is a Republican. And that is the only reason for the state of the polls. 

It doesn’t matter that Jones has been anything but a liberal during his two years in D.C. He’s sponsored more bipartisan legislation than any other senator, and he’s generally well liked by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. 

Even here in Alabama, among those who plan to vote for his opponent, the knocks on Jones are vague and lacking in substance. For most, there’s no real vitriol or outrage. It’s almost as if the people of the state are pre-programmed to zombie-walk into a voting booth and vote for the GOP candidate because, well, hell, that’s what everyone else is doing. 

Forget, of course, that the GOP candidate in this instance is an unprepared carpetbagger who doesn’t live in this state and who doesn’t know really basic stuff about governance, like what the Voting Rights Act is, and who doesn’t have a position on anything. That candidate is also currently in hiding, refusing to speak publicly or have any of his campaign events recorded, apparently believing that Alabama voters would rather vote for a comatose imbecile with an R beside his name than a qualified Democrat. 

It’s pathetic. 

But for some reason, Jones still has faith. 

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“I think this state is full of fair minded people,” Jones said. “If you look back to 2017 and what happened with our campaign, the people of this state proved that they will take a look at a better candidate. Our problem as Democrats in this state is that for so long we haven’t had the resources to get our messages out, to promote good candidates all over the state, to give people that other option. That’s going to change.”

It already has. 

No matter what happens in Jones’ Senate race, perhaps the biggest change in Alabama politics moving forward has already occurred — Jones and his faction of the Alabama Democratic Party, the Reform Caucus, wrestled control of the party away from Joe Reed and Nancy Worley last year. That changeover has resulted in a new energy within the party, particularly among younger voters and women, and it has helped spur what has been ADP’s most profitable year of fundraising in years. 

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There have been growing pains, and quite a few people have learned that building a party almost from scratch is not an easy or quick task. But ADP, at this point in time, is finally in a position to start identifying quality candidates, attacking vulnerable ALGOP incumbents and establishing a viable second party in this state. 

“You can’t build a house without a foundation,” Jones said. “What we did in 2017 is lay a good foundation. The house isn’t built yet, but you can definitely see the framing.”

That is not to say that Jones is giving up on his race with Tuberville. Polling in Alabama is notoriously unreliable, and he still sees a handful of pathways to victory. 

Without the straight ticket voting option on Alabama ballots, the race would be neck and neck, and Jones might actually have a slight advantage.

And why wouldn’t he? 

I mean, for God’s sake, it’s not like things are great under Republican rule. We’re last in almost everything good and first in almost everything bad. From education to health care to infrastructure to ethical government, tell me where things are going swell, please. 

Even in the good economy (thanks, Obama!) prior to COVID, this state’s jobs numbers were built on low-wage, service-industry gigs that vanished like smoke at the first sign of economic trouble. 

“Besides send a bunch of people from their party to prison, what have (Alabama Republicans) done in the 10 years they’ve been in charge?” Jones said. “Everything is worse. Sure, they’ve attracted some businesses in here — and that’s the thing they talk about — but what has that done for us?”

Not much. 

Our schools are still near the bottom. Our health care system is bordering on third-world, and at least five hospitals are on the verge of economic collapse right now. We can’t manage to get people the unemployment compensation they’re owed. We have no plan for coronavirus and Alabama Republican leadership, outside of Gov. Kay Ivey, hasn’t even bothered to pretend to address the situation. 

And with all of that going on, Alabama voters are preparing to send a candidate to the U.S. Senate who hasn’t offered a single detailed plan for any of those problems. Instead, Tuberville has rolled around the state saying “Donald Trump” as often as possible and literally telling people that he doesn’t know how to solve tough problems. 

But Jones won’t give up on those voters. He’s going to continue his campaign, continue to spread his message, continue to let people know that there is at least one person in the race who’s actually trying to address the state’s problems. 

“Democrats have done a lot for this state over the years,” Jones said. “I think there are still a lot of people out there who know that.”

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Elections

Opinion | New AUM poll: We’re all losing

Slap an R out beside the name of an actual tree and 60 percent of Alabama voters would slog into a voting booth and declare that the tree best represents them. 

Josh Moon

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Nothing matters anymore. A new poll from Auburn University Montgomery proves that point. At least as far as Alabama voters are concerned, there’s nothing that a Republican can say or do — short of allegedly molesting young girls — that can swing the vote from R to D.

That poll from AUM showed President Donald Trump with a 20-point lead over former Vice President Joe Biden and shows former Auburn coach and current Florida resident Tommy Tuberville with a solid 12-point lead over current U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

So, see? Nothing matters.

Slap an R out beside the name of an actual tree and 60 percent of Alabama voters would slog into a voting booth and declare that the tree best represents them.

It’s pathetic.

I mean, really, at this point, what would it take to sway voters in this state? Because this polling was done after more than 200,000 COVID-19 deaths and after the president was caught on tape lying about the seriousness of the virus.

So, lying to the point of killing the population of Birmingham isn’t a deal breaker for Alabama voters.

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Nor is lying about pretty much anything.

Because Trump has done so nonstop from the start. In fact, it’s hard to think of a single thing that he hasn’t lied about.

Remember when he said he was going to save the coal industry? Nope. Didn’t do that. It’s actually much worse now.

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Remember when Mexico was going to pay for the wall? Nope. Didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, we stole money from military housing to pay for a portion of it.

Remember when he was going to have a beautiful, wonderful health care plan to replace Obamacare? Nope. Despite fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, neither Trump nor congressional Republicans have even an imaginary health care plan.

Remember when he said he’d protect pre-existing conditions? Nope. The thing that actually protects them is Obamacare, and Trump is currently suing to kill those protections.

Remember when he said in April that the coronavirus was basically like the flu? Nope. Turns out that in February, he told Bob Woodward that the virus was much worse than the regular flu.

Remember when he said … you know, I could go on and on and on like this. Because the list of nonsensical, hyperbolic, ridiculous things that this president has said is almost endless.

But what’s the point? You know these things are untrue and you’re voting for him anyway.

And you’re also going to allow the most ignorant U.S. senator in modern history to tag along. Because that’s who Tommy Tuberville will be if you elect him — the dumbest.

Dumber than Ted Cruz. Dumber than Kelly Loefler.

Tubs will stroll in on day one without knowing what the Voting Rights Act is. Without a position on climate change. Without a position on the economy. Without a stated position on COVID relief.

The Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman sent basic questions to both the Jones and Tuberville campaigns, asking them both straightforward questions about climate change. It was the second round of such questions, and both rounds got the same response.

Jones sent detailed answers. Tuberville ignored them.

Why? Because you don’t give a damn.

Tuberville hasn’t answered a single question about anything so far. Not one.

He’s up 12 points and you know — YOU. KNOW. — that he is by far the less qualified candidate in the race. You don’t have to say it out loud. Everyone knows it. And we all know you know it too.

That’s a sad state.

And I fear that there is no bottom. Because, really, what would it be?

If 200,000 dead Americans doesn’t do it, even as you’re listening to the president admit he’s lying to people about it, what would be the catastrophic event that actually did turn Alabama voters?

I’m not sure I want to find out.

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