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Opinion | Party unity is overrated

I’m proud that Democrats are insisting on free and fair elections, both within the party and without.

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The Alabama Democratic Party has been feuding. Some say we’re wasting time, arguing with each other when we should be arguing with the Alabama Republican Party. I get it. I, too, wish the argument had been settled already so we could focus our attention on solving Alabama’s very real problems.

But I’m not ashamed to be having this fight. I’m proud that Democrats are insisting on free and fair elections, both within the party and without. I’m proud that Democrats are fighting for meaningful minority representation – for closed captioning, for wheelchair ramps, for ensuring that the party is not run solely by old men. I’m proud that Democrats are fighting about rule of law and good governance and transparency. Those are principles that are worth fighting about.

Honestly, Republicans should be embarrassed that they aren’t fighting internally. Rather than patting themselves on the back for remaining unified, they should be ashamed by all the principles they have sacrificed on the altar of unity. Courage of conviction is a lost art in the GOP.

The GOP used to be devoted to military readiness. Now, Alabama Senator Tuberville is holding up military appointments, resulting in more than 200 unfilled positions, and leaving the U.S. Marine Corps without a commandant. Because of his grandstanding, it’s likely that Space Command will be moved away from Huntsville. He is playing chicken with the military, and he is going to lose. But rather than him facing any consequences for his recklessness, it will be the people of Alabama and military families who suffer. Sure it’s disastrous for the very people you claim to care about, but at least you have party unity!

The GOP used to take pride in its devotion to the rule of law. In 2022, David Cole broke the law by voting in and running for House District 10 despite not living in that district, an instance of voter fraud that Republicans would criminally prosecute if it weren’t done by one of their own. A judge has ruled that the Republican controlled House must vote on whether to kick him out for breaking the rules, but they have avoided that vote in the name of party unity. Just like they did when former ALGOP Chair John Wahl used a fake ID to vote – also an egregious crime when someone outside their club does it. Sure this behavior by their own leaders is hypocritical and undermines the rule of law, but at least you have party unity!

It’s not just the Alabama GOP, of course. It is a national GOP trend. President Trump first bucked traditional Christian family values with a long history of marital infidelity, porn and sexual assault of women. You might have expected to see religious leaders in the party insist it was unacceptable and fight to get him off the ballot, but instead they stood by him in the name of party unity. Later he peddled conspiracy theories about election fraud and refused to participate in an orderly transfer of power. You might have expected patriots to argue that dedication to the Constitution would outweigh their commitment to any one politician, but they don’t. Heck, lots of Republicans even lie about whether they believe the lie. All in the name of party unity.

Here, at the Alabama Democratic Party, we are fighting. We are having a meaningful debate about how to operate in a multiracial society, how to share power, how to balance the preferences of the majority with the rights of the minority. We’re discussing how to move forward while taking seriously the fact that we can’t simply decide to be colorblind and expect racism to disappear. We can’t stop teaching our painful past and expect that the next generation will not be impacted by it. It’s not easy to be honest about the problems we face and the fact that we don’t all agree about who is and isn’t oppressed. It’s not easy to talk earnestly about who deserves a seat at the table and who might feel a little cramped by those additional chairs. 

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The GOP, meanwhile, is avoiding meaty conversations by suggesting that there’s nothing to see here. That abortion can be banned without women dying, that the outcome of elections can be questioned without threatening democracy, that white nationalists can serve in the military while we claim to be a colorblind society. But anyone who lives in the real world knows that sweeping your problems under a rug doesn’t solve a dang thing. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a multiracial, multicultural world requires compromise and a carefully constructed set of laws that balance our individual rights with our responsibility to others.

So, no, I am not embarrassed by the fight within the Alabama Democratic Party, because voters deserve to have at least one party that is willing to have a knock-down, drag-out fight for a functioning and principled Democratic government. 

Tabitha Isner is vice chair of the Alabama Democratic Party.

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