Alabama ranks in the bottom 10 states in education, health care, infrastructure, poverty, infant mortality, life expectancy, upward mobility and corrections. If you’re scoring at home, that’s basically everything.
From birth (assuming you survive it) to death (which will likely come much sooner), the most important aspects of life will be worse in Alabama than almost anywhere else in America. U.S. News and World Report has consistently ranked the state as one of the three worst to live in, based on a variety of factors and measurements.
And this isn’t new.
Alabama has languished at the bottom of such rankings for as long as I’ve been alive, and a solid 100 years before then. Poverty and poor governance have been a way of life here for generations, and it never ever seems to improve.
Because of days like last Thursday in the Alabama House of Representatives.
Last Thursday’s House calendar — the list of bills the body plans to take up for consideration — was one of the all-time worst. It was designed that way, according to Democratic Rep. Sam Jones, who said Republican Rep. Mike Jones (no relation), the chairman of the House rules committee, didn’t allow the calendar to make its usual progress through the committee, which is comprised of both Democrats and Republicans.
Instead, Sam Jones said, the calendar just sort of plopped out.
On it were these super-pressing issues: banning transgender children from playing youth sports, requiring that physicians save the life of a child born alive, imposing new Jim Crow-esque laws on Black protesters and making it harder for the disabled and elderly to vote by banning curbside voting.
This is literally why we can’t have nice things.
Not a single item listed above addressed an actual problem. In fact, most of them will create more problems. And the men and women responsible for putting them on the calendar and voting for them know full well that they’ll cause problems and likely result in costly lawsuits that the state will lose.
Because — and this is where we get to the heart of the problems in this state — these ridiculous “issues” matter to the hardcore Republican base. The most reliably conservative voters — and the voters that are most reliable for Republican candidates — care about such issues.
They believe that there’s an onslaught of male teenagers who will “pretend to be girls” in order to compete and dominate in female athletic events in order to … well, I’m not really sure. But it’s a huge issue. Trust them.
Same for “born-alive babies” — the incredibly cruel practice of allowing babies who were being aborted, but by a miracle survived the procedure, to suffer and die without medical assistance. Something that happens exactly never.
According to numerous doctors who have testified before Congress and been interviewed by various news organizations, it would be impossible for a fetus to survive a standard abortion prior to 22 weeks. In fact, every documented case of a baby being “born alive” in the U.S. in 2019 involved a “catastrophic pregnancy,” in which the mother and delivery team knew the baby wouldn’t survive. Instead of choosing to abort the child, the parents had instead chosen to deliver and compassionately care for their doomed child — an unimaginably awful situation for all involved.
Now, if Alabama House Republicans have their way, those devastated parents have to deal with the indignity of a bunch of politicians trying to paint them as monsters.
And that has to be the intent here. Because in any other situation in which a child is born alive and can be saved through basic medical care, not doing so is murder and is covered by existing laws.
You see what I’m saying? It’s an emotional ploy — a trick to stir up anger and outrage and drive the conservative base to the polls.
Same for the anti-riot bill. Everything it claims to criminalize is already illegal, but the bill makes it much easier for police to scoop up innocent protesters and hang a BS charge on them. Charges that will keep them locked up for a full 24 hours, causing innocent people any number of unfixable problems.
All so Republicans can make a play to the base and show them that they’re keeping those trouble-making Black people in their place.
And here’s the thing: None of this is popular statewide.
I know you’ve been led to believe otherwise, but it’s not true. Check the polling on any of these issues and you’ll find that a majority of Alabamians don’t agree with any of these bills.
But gerrymandering means it doesn’t matter what the majority thinks.
Because Republicans have so thoroughly stacked and packed Democrats into “Democrat districts,” and then made crossover voting in primaries illegal, they have created a situation in this state where they merely have to win the votes of the most hard-line Republicans.
And because hard-line Republicans are some of the most easily manipulated, self-centered voters on the planet, we end up with pure lunacy that serves only to stoke the anger of those malleable voters.
And not a single thing that addresses a real problem in this state. Not a single bill that will help anyone. Not a single bill that will change any of the numbers I mentioned at the top of this column.
This is why Alabama is what it is. And why there’s so very little incentive for change.