Dem future dim?
Can state Democratic Party
regroup from GOP pummeling
By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Routed in November's elections, can the Alabama Democratic Party regroup to play its part in a competitive two-party political system here?
After the carnage of November, Alabama Democrats were left as a significant minority in both Houses of the state Legislature and won no statewide offices in the cycle. Republicans now control the governorship, the the lieutenant governorship, the attorney general's office, secretary of state, state auditor, all three Public Service Commission slots, the agriculture and industries commission, state treasurer, eight of nine Supreme Court judgeships, six of seven congressional seats, both U.S. Senate posts and all 10 appellate judgeships.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb
represents the faint heart beat
of the Alabama Democratic
Party, although state Sen.
Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill,
was notably impressive in
winning re-election despite
swimming against a rip tide.
The Democratic Party was
left dazed, perhaps to mutter
along the lines of Louisiana political legend Huey Long after a galling setback at the polls: "The people have spoken ... the sons a bitches."
And to think, not so long ago, with the arrival of Guy Hunt (or perhaps more to the point the arrival of Charlie Graddick as the leading vote-getter in the Democrat gubernatorial primary), Alabama was a one-party state. Over an interval of 20 years, Alabama appears again to be a one-party state, only this time it's the GOP calling the shots. And with Republicans holding the pencil during the redistricting of political boundaries, there is all the reason in the world to think the GOP will maintain control. Or will they? Was November 2010 an anomaly, a mere hiccup on an otherwise competitive field?
What is the future of the Democratic Party in Alabama, what strategy should party leaders pursue to regain lost ground? MBT asked its bank of insightful political soothsayers.
"I’m quite serious about what I state here in answer to your question: What is the Democratic Party’s best strategy in Alabama?
Every voter in Alabama – liberal and conservative, black and white, male and female, Baptist and Unitarian, NRA and ACLU, etc. etc. – repeat every voter in Alabama – should register as Republican and vote in the Republican primary.
In other words, the only logical choice is to return to the old one-party system – which really was a no-party system.
That way, there would at least be a shot at occasionally electing a progressive like Big Jim Folsom or Lister Hill. Or more likely, simply exerting a moderating influence.
Of course, regardless of party registration, in the general elections all voters could vote for whomever they choose. I can even see 'Republicans for Obama' as we saw 'Democrats for Eisenhower' in 1952. (Headed, I believe, by Winton 'Red' Blount.)"
-- Ray Jenkins,
retired Alabama journalist
"Not sure there is one with Republicans in control of redistricting. Until the Repubs screw it up or get divided, ADP will occasionally be a vehicle for a personality, circumstance, or an issue that catches fire, but I think we are back to a one-party state for the foreseeable future. Look for splits between reasonable and responsible Republicans and the fringes (activists) of the Tea Party crowd."
-- Wade Perry,
area director, Alabama Education Association
"I have no advice on this subject."
-- John Tyson Jr.,
Mobile County District Attorney, Democrat
"The Alabama Democratic party had a core constituency of public employees, blacks, and those from North Alabama who have voted with the Democratic party since Civil War days when the Republicans were considered the party that invaded the South. I think of my deceased grandmother who embodied the 'yellow dog democrat.'
A number of events have occurred in the past 25 years to chip away at the loyalty of these North Alabama Democrats as more and more began to drift into the Republican primary.
I believe that the last election provided the final blow.
Since these Democrats will provide a more populist tilt to the Republican party (which is also occurring nationally as shown by the fact that more than half of the Republican voters in the last national election were high school graduates or had less education) and since the remnant of the Democratic party in our state will become even more disconnected from the values of these North Alabama former Democrats, I see no way to devise a strategy which the present Democratic party loyalists will approve and which would also be consistent with the populist values of the North Alabama former Democrats. Thus, I see no hope for the state Democratic party to regain these disaffected North Alabama former Democrats.
The next election cycle or two should bring the remaining North Alabama Democrats into the Republican party as they want their vote to count and it will not count if they remain in the Democratic party. The ironic result is that the Alabama Republican party begins to look more and more like the old Alabama Democratic party in the days before 1965.
-- Lee Hale,
attorney, now armchair political strategist
"I frankly don't know what the Democrats can do to dig themselves out of the hole they have dug for themselves. Too much arrogance over too many years has gotten them where they are today, I think. They need to start at the ground level and build with the basic political tools. They forgot what brought them to success in the first place.
For years, they let the Republicans overpower them. Look at Shelby: who has been delivering pork to the state in bigger barrels than the Democrats ever did. I don't know how long it will take the GOP legislature to become as self-assured and arrogant as the Democrats got in the past few years. I suspect not very long."
-- Wayne Greenhaw,
Montgomery political writer/author
"The recent electoral defeats suffered by Alabama Democrats offer us a unique 'soul searching' opportunity. Our state party, like many across the country, needs to come to terms with the message voters delivered both at the polls and by deliberately not voting. Now is the time to inspire new leadership, new ideas, and new candidates to come to the forefront and work alongside our party veterans. In order to regain our competitive footing we must develop a common sense strategy and a set of core beliefs that resonates with the everyday Alabamian. Furthermore, after we've developed the strategies we must find a better way of communicating them to every prospective voter in this state. Our party must be willing to 'court' young and independent voters while maintaining strong ties to the traditional base of the party. I believe it can be done and with hard work, great candidates and common sense ideas it will be done."
-- Rev. Levon Manzie,
Mobile County school commissioner
"First, we are not going to wither!
The national situation contributed significantly to our collapse in November, but was not the only cause. Alabama Democrats have been underdogs for years, simply attempting to hold on to what's left of
our former stronghold.
We must build up our coalitions and build back our grass roots support with the average citizen.
I heard one of our former Democratic leaders state on television that the Democrats had found favor with our citizens by keeping taxes low. If this was Democrats' major contribution to the state throughout the years then we need to wither.
We need a progressive program that offers the state an opportunity to advance. If new funds are required, present the needs to the people and make them part of the plan, showing them where they individually benefit. I believe (though sometimes I wonder) that the people, once fully informed so they understand what's happening, will support growth.
When Democrats begin planning for a new tomorrow (and they will!) and develop, step by step, solutions to our many needs, they will again become the party of the people, having something better to claim than simply 'We didn't raise your taxes.'"
-- Bob Beckerle,
attorney, former local party chairman