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Opinion | The final, fatal blow to the Alabama Democratic Party?

Recent actions to eliminate new caucuses and block votes at an executive committee meeting could spell doom for the party.

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The Alabama Democratic Party cannot survive what happened to it on Saturday. 

Yes, it is a party that has been in disarray and suffering through dysfunction for years now. Yes, it is a party that is barely holding onto the super-minority of seats it has in the state legislature as it is. Yes, it is a party that has spent way too much time fighting with itself and way too little time promoting candidates, recruiting candidates and challenging Republicans. 

But until Saturday, the one unifying aspect of the party – the one thing that Democrats all over Alabama could agree on, if on absolutely nothing else – is that the ADP is a party where discrimination isn’t tolerated and equality is the goal for all. 

Sadly, that no longer seems to be the case. 

In an effort to grab power, a handful of people in the ADP tossed those basic tenets aside. They ignored the rights of some minority groups. They reportedly sought to illegally block the votes of others, using surprise “poll taxes” and apparently miscounting the votes. 

We already have a party in this state that behaves that way. We didn’t need another. 

But that’s apparently what we have now. Or, at least, that’s what we got at Saturday’s executive committee meeting, where a group of ADP leaders eliminated caucuses for youth, LGBTQ+ and the disabled, and greatly reduced the powers of several other minority caucuses. 

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It was an ugly and bewildering scene, watching as the leadership of a party that is this state’s sole hope for equality, diversity and inclusion obliterated those beliefs in a quest for unchallenged power. 

To be clear, this was a move that benefitted one person – Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed. This move is the ultimate payback for his very public defeat in 2019, when the Democratic National Committee forced changes to ADP’s outdated bylaws and created the other minority caucuses. 

Those caucuses led directly to Reed’s preferred candidates being booted, and the candidates preferred by then-Sen. Doug Jones being elected. A “new day” was declared, and to be fair, there was quite a bit of momentum and excitement – much of it flowing from the Youth Caucus – within ADP. 

It didn’t last long. 

The party was never able to capitalize on that excitement, even with the national party pumping money into the coffers, and no one ever figured out how to mend the fence between the New Dem Party and the Old Dem Party. 

And slowly, Reed began to rebuild his ship. Last October, in a stunner, Reed’s hand-picked candidate for chairman, Randy Kelley, won. 

The last six months have not been smooth. 

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Reed and Kelley have clashed repeatedly with several others in the party, including vice-chair Tabitha Isner. Saturday was their second attempt at shoving through new bylaws to eliminate the DNC-mandated caucuses. And in the meantime, according to those closest to the situation, the party has done very little in the way of candidate recruitment or training. 

Look, I like Joe Reed. I honestly do. And while I don’t agree with what he’s doing, I think I understand (and respect) his motivations for it. 

This is a man who devoted his life to helping Black citizens, like himself, obtain equal rights. He has fought that fight on the most un-level playing field imaginable for all of that time.

That fight is what he knows. That fight is what he’s still fighting. 

Reed believes that ADP is best served by him and the Alabama Democratic Conference – the party’s Black caucus – being in control. His supporters feel that way too. And when they see an effort to remove both, they believe that to be a bad thing. 

As much as I can, I get that. 

Black people in this country, and in this state especially, have fought a long, hard and deadly battle for something approaching equal voting rights and representation. The members of the ADC were never, ever going to be OK with relinquishing the power they’ve managed to win through those many battles. And no one should have ever expected them to. 

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But likewise, no one should be OK with what happened Saturday. Least of all people who have endured that sort of discrimination and those sorts of dirty tricks. 

Right now, ADP is the only possible chance for so many minority groups to get a fair shot in this state. And while, yeah, the party is facing almost unsurmountable odds in digging out of its current political hole in Alabama, the only possible way forward and up is by way of diversity and inclusion, by accepting all people and giving all ideas and input value. 

That didn’t happen Saturday. 

In fact, the opposite happened. 

And I fear that it might have buried the ADP for good. 

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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