Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Democratic Party needs to refocus, regroup with supporters

Last month Alabama voters approved Amendment One, which will allow the state to tap reserve funds to fill its financial gap. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley strongly supported the referendum, which allows policymakers in Montgomery to avoid the task of making deep cuts in the General Fund budget.

Its passage was also a victory for Democrats, though, because it preserves spending for cherished Democratic priorities like Medicaid and mental health. That is why many Democrats and Democratic-leaning interests groups supported the amendment.

Still, Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy couldn’t resist using the opportunity to attack his political opponents.

“After over a hundred years of Democrats getting the job done and making tough decisions on behalf of all Alabamians, it took only two years for the Republican supermajority in the legislature to bring the state to the brink of a financial catastrophe,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Over a hundred years of Democrats getting the job done?

Democrats did indeed control the Alabama Legislature for over 100 years. Their reign came to an end in 2010, when Alabama Republicans rode a national GOP tidal wave into an electoral landslide.

But what type of job did they do?

After a hundred years controlling the legislature, they left the state with one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation. Our school system was improving, but that was primarily a result of Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s leadership on education policy.

Even Riley was unable to advance all of his reform proposals, because of opposition from Democrats and their union allies in Montgomery.

These are disappointing results and should be devastating to liberals concerned about maintaining a progressive tax code and a strong public education system.

Of course, there isn’t anything surprising or particularly important about a partisan statement from a party chairman like Kennedy.

What makes his statement revealing is that Alabama Democrats really do seem to think that, for the past 100 years, they got the “job done.”

Normally, after devastating loses, political parties regroup, identify new leaders and find a new way to advance their priorities and win elections. That is what national Republicans did after they were routed in the 2008 elections, which is how they regained their majority in the U.S. House two years later.

Alabama Democrats aren’t doing any of this. The party isn’t putting any energy into revisiting its past failures, considering new solutions, or advancing a compelling vision for the state.

Instead, Alabama Democrats seem to have absolved themselves of any blame for their 2010 defeat and concluded that they just won’t be able to win in Alabama any more.

That is a terrible mentality. Democrat Sue Bell Cobb, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, resigned last year and declined to stand for re-election.

If she had joined the race, she would be facing off against Republican Roy Moore, with a good chance of winning votes from independents and moderate Republicans. Instead, Democrats are currently rallying around Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance.

Vance is a good candidate, but he only started campaigning in August, after the party was forced to remove Harry Lyon, its first chief justice nominee, from the ballot.

Lyon was removed for calling “gay and same-sex marriage voters” an abomination of God.

Maybe Vance will still be able to win, but the entire debacle is symbolic of a party in disarray. That is unfortunate for Alabama, which desperately needs a strong, vibrant Democratic Party to challenge the dominant Republicans.

Democrats should be forceful and united in condemning H.B. 56, the Republican-initiated immigration bill intended to scare people out of our state. Democrats shouldn’t be working to keep Republicans from passing a charter schools bill; they should be criticizing Republicans for not putting forth a better plan for school choice and education reform. Democrats should have been prepared to battl Moore in a chief justice race from the outset.

Vigorous competition makes both parties improve.

There are many ways Democrats could appeal to the conservative inclinations of Alabama voters, and challenge Republicans to put forward more serious solutions of their own. The Democratic Party still has bright, young talent that could be of great service to the state.

Unfortunately, Democrats aren’t even trying. Even Republicans suffer when the Democratic Party is this bad.


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