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Opinion | The dangerous game of political theater in Alabama

A surge in legislation seeks to control and dominate the rights and freedoms of individuals.

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In the realm of politics, the ancient art of role-playing has evolved dramatically, particularly in the first quarter of the 21st century. This evolution has shifted from mere posturing to full-fledged political theater, with high stakes that could send states and the nation spiraling toward a bleak horizon of idiocy.

The 2024 Legislative Session in Alabama serves as a stark example of this problem. Here, lawmakers have capitulated to the demands of the Christian Right, pushing the state closer to Christian nationalist policies. This surge in legislation seeks to control and dominate the rights and freedoms of individuals, justified by a gross misinterpretation of biblical scripture. It’s a Machiavellian display—cunning, deceitful, and ruthless political performances, all employed to cling to power and manipulate the ethical compass of others to maintain or gain an advantage.

Consider the controversial HB164, also known as the “porn ID law,” which requires pornographic websites to verify visitors’ ages with a government-issued photo ID. This law ostensibly aims to protect minors but is more about restricting adult freedoms under the guise of moral sanctity. It was passed not out of genuine concern but as a political maneuver to placate fanatics and prevent an even more odious law, HB167, from passing. Both measures had been sidelined in the past by reasonable lawmakers who understood the absurdity and frivolous nature of the proposed bills. However, this term, the lawmakers gave in to right-wing religious pressure and high-powered lobbyists, opting for the lesser of two evils.

HB167, which proposes that all mobile devices in Alabama come with a pre-activated obscenity content filter, presents significant technological, legal, and economic challenges. Despite these concerns, it sailed through the House and now awaits a Senate decision. If the bill comes to the Senate floor it will pass because no Republican lawmaker wants to be perceived as enabling access to pornography for children. Yet, everyone with common sense knows this bill is overly aggressive and will not protect children any more effectively than the porn ID law.

The absurdity of these laws is apparent. Anyone with a basic understanding of technology knows that a 15-year-old with an internet connection can easily bypass parental controls and age verification software. This legislation doesn’t truly protect children; it simply placates a vocal group of moralists.

Government, once a symbol of collective will, has become a tool of oppression, wielded to stifle dissent and mandate a singular worldview. If this trend continues, Alabama will become a state where freedom of thought and expression is suppressed—a tragic outcome orchestrated by a minority imposing its radical beliefs.

It’s clear that the Republican Party, once a beacon for individual freedom and a bulwark against big government, has become akin to a holy roller tent revival. It’s no longer about inclusivity or principled conservatism but about appeasing a small band of angry crusaders.

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Governing has become performative for many, like state Rep. Susan DeBose, who walks the halls of the State House with a social media assistant following closely, providing real-time updates to her online followers. DeBose is a self-righteous “church lady” straight out of an SNL skit. This isn’t governing—it’s playacting. Other lawmakers deliberately make outlandish statements or act like demigods to gain invitations to talk radio shows. This isn’t governing—it’s insanity.

Look at the measures enacted during the 2024 session: bans on Black and gay history, pro-white supremacy legislation under the guise of anti-CRT and ESG and even a court decision declaring a frozen embryo a human being—each step justified by a narrow religious viewpoint rather than science, history, or logic. The government is being used as an iron fist to stifle freedom of thought and expression, imposing a yoke of conformity driven by the demands of the religious right.

Amid this backdrop of conformity and manipulation, Alabama, and indeed any state suffering similar circumstances, needs leaders willing to resist these radical agendas. We don’t need figures of historical stature like Reagan, Churchill, or Truman—just individuals with the courage to speak the truth and act responsibly.

If we fail to champion such leaders, we will all suffer under the weight of these playacting politicians and their cowardly enablers, who are too frightened to stand up and declare, “enough is enough.” It’s time for a change, lest the political theater of today become the tragic governance of tomorrow.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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