It should have been a great week for Alabama Democrats.
Coming off a surprise decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that essentially disqualified congressional district maps drawn by Republicans after the 2020 census, the Dems of Alabama were looking to add a new congressman to the Alabama delegation. On top of that, they had been handed a gift-wrapped argument for challenging future maps all around the state, and possibly curtailing – even if slightly – some of the Republican gerrymandering.
How did they greet this fantastic news?
By fighting with each other, of course.
The absurd argument over the absurd new changes to the bylaws again took center stage, as the chairman of the ADP penned a letter calling people racists for daring to challenge a process that had left ADP vice chairman for minority affairs Joe Reed running the show for years.
Specifically, Randy Kelley, the ADP chair, called former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones – a guy famous for prosecuting KKK members – a racist.
It was a stupid, lazy insult. And one that is far from true. If Doug Jones is a racist, God help the rest of us.
But that’s where we are now. Flinging petty insults and pretending as if this ordeal is in some way more complicated than one faction attempting to hold onto power while another tries to take it away.
Because it’s not.
The Alabama Democratic Conference, headed by ADP vice president of minority affairs Joe Reed, wants to retain the power it has enjoyed for years. Other members of the State Democratic Executive Committee believe that power is unequal and wrong, and that the party’s bylaws – prior to the 2019 change – do not reflect the current state of inclusiveness required by the Democratic National Committee.
Those 2019 changes ushered in new caucuses for the party, giving equal voices to all minority groups. By doing so, it weakened the strength of the ADC when it came to electing leadership and controlling the direction of the party.
And that’s where the “racist” allegations come into play. Because by weakening the power of the ADC, the party’s Black caucus, members of that group believe that the new bylaws weakened the Black vote, and by doing so, the new bylaws violated a federal consent decree that requires a certain percentage of Black voters in the SDEC.
But that’s only true if ADC members are the only Black voices counted.
The reality is the new caucuses INCREASED the percentage of Black votes in the SDEC while simultaneously lessening the percentage of white voters. I’ve seen the numbers. It’s true.
But those new Black SDEC members didn’t necessarily vote with the ADC. In fact, a whole bunch of the new Black voters from the Youth and LGBTQ+ caucuses voted in favor of electing Rep. Chris England, a Black man, the new chairman in 2019.
So, now, the ADC, led by Kelley and Reed, want to ensure that they don’t lose power again. To do so, they passed new-old bylaws that removed several of the new caucuses, reducing them down to committees that have far less power than caucuses.
Not a good look for a party that sells itself as a haven for inclusivity and equal rights.
It’s an even worse look when you consider some of the underhanded tactics utilized to achieve approval of the new-old bylaws, such as a $50 fee to vote and very suspect count of the voters.
Those new-old bylaws are, of course, being challenged. So there will be a fight over that in the coming weeks. And there are certain to be more letters and name calling and petty disagreements.
In the meantime, as far as I can tell, there is no effort whatsoever being undertaken to do any of these things: raise money, identify quality candidates, raise money, publicize the party’s agenda, raise money, push back against horrible GOP policies, raise money, train candidates or raise money.
The party’s social media remains dormant. I don’t know of any emails sent out touting accomplishments or requesting donations. I’m unaware of the party employing a PR person. And I’ve spoken to several would-be candidates who claim they can barely get anyone on the phone.
On the other side, there is a well-funded, stacked machine just waiting to draw up some new maps. Just waiting to carve out just enough from Rep. Terri Sewell’s district to make her district and the new, second majority-minority district very competitive for Republicans.
Is that likely to happen – that Dems lose their only seat after all of this?
No. Because Terri Sewell is a damn good congresswoman who works hard for that district and a lot of moderate Republicans like her just fine.
But it certainly won’t be because she received great support from her party. Because right now, it’s incapable of providing any such support.
But it’s very capable of completely blowing this opportunity to put another Alabama Democrat in Congress.