Things don’t look very good for the splintered Alabama Democratic Party in our state. To say that the future of the party appears to be shaky is a pretty good assessment. Republicans hold every statewide elected office in Alabama and control all three branches of government, including both the Legislative and Judicial branches. There are a number of reasons for this total takeover. For one, it does take a an official poll to learn that President Obama is not very popular in Alabama. His being on the ballot had a negative influence in the 2010 legislative races, helping to elect a number of Republican candidates. The president’s unpopularity in the state has also contributed in some small degree to the current plight of the Alabama Democratic Party. Unfortunately, I don’t see the president’s approval ratings in the state changing very much over the next two years. But the party problems started in Alabama long before President Obama took office.
Democrats need to regroup, decide on both a short and large range strategy, and then move forward. That’s a necessity if things are going to get any better in Alabama. The party must be willing to stand up for ordinary folks and be sensitive to the real issues that affect them on a daily basis. That must happen very soon if the party expects to become a factor in statewide races in 2014.
The Republican Party, on the national level, has totally abandoned working men and women, as well as the elderly and minorities, and that has hurt the GOP in most parts of the country. Public employees, including school teachers, have been treated rather shabbily by the GOP. Ironically, many from each of the groups mentioned above have voted the GOP ticket in recent elections, which was against their own economic and social interests. I have never really understood why ordinary folks could be comfortable voting with right-wingers such as the Koch brothers. Nevertheless, it has certainly happened.
It might be helpful to briefly review the history of the Alabama Democratic Party over the past 75 years in order to put things in the proper perspective. It’s quite apparent, that historically Alabama has never really been a true two-party state. Back in the mid-1900s, there were few real Republicans in Alabama. During that era, the Democratic Party in Alabama was split between Dixiecrats and Loyalists, with the Loyalists being in the distinct minority. The George Wallace era, starting in 1962, pretty much widened that split. It was evident that Gov. Wallace felt no need for any real party affiliation. In fact, he ran successfully against both national parties for years.
In modern times, until 1964 the Republican Party was never a political factor in Alabama. Many attribute the Goldwater sweep that year in Alabama during the presidential race, which was really an anti-Lyndon Johnson vote, as giving birth to the present Republican Party in our state. There were two Republican governors, Guy Hunt and Fob James, elected between 1964 and 2002. But their wins were more the result of something “dumb” the Democrats did than their own efforts. In 2002, the political climate in Alabama really started to change when Bob Riley won a very close race, unseating Don Siegelman, the incumbent governor. Since that time, no Democratic candidate has even had a chance to be elected to the state’s highest office. In the 2010 election, for example, it was very clear from the outset that the candidate who survived the Republican primary would be elected governor.
I have been a Democrat all of my adult life and have no intention of abandoning the party. I will remain a Democrat so long as I have breath in me. But I have to face reality – and that reality is – the Alabama Democratic Party is in big-time trouble. I just hope that local Democratic candidates around the state won’t be hurt in the 2014 elections because of the current split in the party. The factions of the Democratic Party must come together, develop a strategy for growth and then start acting like Democrats again. If this doesn’t happen very soon, things will only get worse in our state. I believe we need two strong political parties in the state for the good of the people of Alabama. Perhaps, that will become a reality one of these days.
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