So, Alabama, you walked to the edge of the precipice, and this time didn’t jump off. The state that has given us Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Jeff Sessions, and embraced Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. Was concerned enough about its reputation to not vote for Roy Moore; racist, homophobe… pedophile. The race was close, Moore led most of the time but the urban counties that included Montgomery, Huntsville, ad Mobile, pulled it out for Jones.
So before you start celebrating that Alabama did the right thing. Remember, this was a race that shouldn’t have been close. You flirted with sending the worst candidate since Trump to the United States Senate, knowing who he is and not caring. Yes, a few more of you voted for Doug Jones, but enough of you voted for Moore that you don’t get a pass.
Let’s not forget the Republican Party either. The Republican National Committee was shocked to hear about Moore’s past trying to pick up teenage girls at the mall, or in one case at the courthouse. In alleged disgust, they withdrew funding from the race while still supplying feet on the ground to help Moore until they got caught doing that. As the election drew near and they realized that Alabamians weren’t repulsed enough to make winning impossible. You quietly slipped Moore $1 million in additional funding which no individual admits deciding to do. Ronna Romney McDaniel, the RNC Chair said, “the entire Alabama delegations from the House and Senate” asked us to restore funding. Just afterward, Sen. Richard Shelby indicated he didn’t vote for Moore and made no such request.
Back to you Alabama; former Auburn University and NBA star Charles Barkley said, “At some point, we’ve got to stop looking like idiots to the nation.” Alabama has yet to reach that point. When I was in college, I went to Montgomery to play in a basketball tournament. When it was concluded, I didn’t return to Nashville with my team as it was now spring break but instead took a bus to Atlanta where I then lived. Before leaving, I had a meal in a Picadilly Restaurant where they served buffet style meals. I was surprised when I saw an Alabama State Trooper wheel in the ex-Governor George Wallace. This was a few years after the assassination attempt that left him paralyzed during his run for President in 1972. Say what you will about George, before the shooting he was energetic, robust, and projected strength. The man I now saw was lethargic and defeated, a shell of his former self. In the abstract, I considered Wallace someone to show contempt for if not outright hate. The man before me only generated pity.
The news coverage of the election revealed how extensive voter suppression is in the state. It was a court case in Shelby County that led to the gutting of the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Alabama immediately enacted a Voter ID law that did several other things including making it harder to get licenses in the counties with the highest black populations in the state. Alabama is still very much what we thought it was. They are not to be celebrated for refusing to send a man to the Senate that they wouldn’t let near their daughters, that was banned from the mall. They came awfully close to doing just that because their politics were far more important than their morals. I’ve found that same sense of pity I once felt for George Wallace. #Sad!