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Opinion | Something terrible? Alabama’s got a scheme for that

We have no ideas about fixing health care or public education or rampant pollution. But we’ve got plenty of awful schemes.

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Why are Alabama’s schemes always so awful? 

You ever noticed that – that we only scheme for bad things? Like keeping prisons awful. Or overturning the Voting Rights Act. Or suppressing the Black vote. Or chasing away Hispanic workers. Or turning vulnerable transgender kids into comic book villains. 

We’ve got a scheme for all of that. We’re willing to pay attorneys millions upon millions to craft Supreme Court arguments and insane legislation to do these things. 

But we never see a headline about our conservative lawmakers’ brilliant scheming behind the scenes to find a way to get poor people health care. Or to make sure Black citizens in the Blackbelt have access to modern sewers. Or to stop companies from dumping waste that’s making it impossible for us to eat fish from our own rivers. 

It’s never, ever anything good. And it’s almost always something terrible. 

Like the headline we ran on Thursday for an APR story from editor in chief Bill Britt about the ALGOP scheme to overturn Section 2 of the VRA. 

Just to recap: Alabama Republicans, led by Attorney General Steve Marshall and ALGOP chair John Wahl, decided to suffer through public ridicule and ignore a Supreme Court order as part of a longshot plan to get Alabama’s redistricting case back in front of the High Court – this time in the hopes that one justice will change his mind and flip his vote.

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It’s an insane plan. 

But one we’re perfectly willing to try and pay for because it accomplishes something … awful. 

Upending an Act that ensures the voting equality of all citizens, and seeks to end the systemic racism in the voting process that harmed Black Alabamians for generations. 

Not because Black Alabamians are really starting to take over the state’s political institutions, or because white conservatives are suffering setback after setback. White conservatives control every statewide office, every statewide elected judgeship and all but one cabinet position. In the Alabama Legislature, out of 140 seats in the state legislature, just 32 are Black Democrats, and 104 are white conservatives. 

In the meantime, there are health emergencies all over the state. There are human rights abuses occurring daily in our prisons. Just a couple of weeks ago, the state’s Department of Environmental Management released its annual fish consumption guidelines, and we still can’t eat fish from some of our largest rivers and lakes due to ongoing pollution. 

But no grand plans for any of that. No schemes. No tricky legislation. No outside attorneys stacked up on contracts to concoct genius legislation that addresses any of it. 

Why? 

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Is this who you are, Alabama voters? The type of people who value upending the Voting Rights Act more than you do assisting your fellow citizens, regardless of their race or economic status? 

I suspect that you are. 

Because if you weren’t, why would our attorney general worm his way into a press conference about a Hoover woman who faked her disappearance – promising to throw the book at her – while simultaneously ignoring for months the child labor violations that have occurred all over the state? 

Remember those? Remember the harrowing and infuriating reports of multiple children – some as young as 12 – being employed by a Hyundai supplier, and how a local police department reported the violations to the AG’s office and nothing ever happened? It was instead Reuters that exposed the atrocities. 

You know why? 

Because the AG thinks that’s what you value. 

That you want to see the Black girl punished for her misdemeanor crime, but you don’t care about the Hispanic children being exploited by major corporations. 

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Now, don’t misunderstand the point here – Carlee Russell should face charges and I have no problem with her paying restitution for the taxpayer dollars she’s wasted. She lied. There are consequences to that. 

But Russell’s actions pale in comparison to the child labor offenses that have been uncovered across the state. 

And let’s be more honest: Russell’s fake kidnapping has cost taxpayers far, far less than the millions we’ve paid out for ridiculous experts to testify in cases defending Alabama’s worst legislation. Like the millions we’ve paid to “experts” to defend a ban on transgender medical treatments – a ban that is almost certainly unconstitutional. 

But that’s what you want, right? 

I mean, it would be easy to blame Steve Marshall for all of this (and I’ve certainly blamed him for plenty in the past). It would be easy to just lay this all at the feet of Alabama’s Republican lawmakers (and I’ve done that too). 

But the simple fact is they’re political animals. They want to get votes and stay in office and advance to the next highest office, and the way to do all of that is to appease the majority of voters. That’s you. 

And you keep telling them that you prefer awful over compassionate, hate over acceptance and love, discrimination over equality. And that’s why we keep getting these awful schemes.

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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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