An appropriate illustration for the words “haphazard,” “flailing,” “irrelevant” or “pathetic” for the next edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary might be one of Nancy Worley standing behind a podium emblazoned with the words “Alabama Democratic Party.”
Despite objections from Sen. Doug Jones, the highest-ranking elected Democrat in Alabama and the only one elected to a major statewide office in over a decade, Alabama Democrats decided last week to give Worley another term as party chairman.
The decision — made at the behest of party boss Joe Reed, whose official title is head of the Alabama Democratic Caucus — drew criticism from other Democrats all over the state and the party’s allies among the pseudo-elite in Alabama’s media.
Aside from not recognizing the fragility of Alabama’s modern Democratic Party coalition, which revolves around the state’s African-American power structure, left-wing grassroots activists and the trial lawyers, blessing Worley’s leadership was not the only ridiculous thing Reed did last week.
According to a column from AL.com’s Roy Johnson published last Thursday, Reed likened Jones to former Democratic Alabama Gov. George Wallace because Jones supported a failed effort to install new leadership in the state’s Democratic Party.
“There was a big battle,” Reed said to Johnson about a fight in 1974 over who would lead Alabama’s Democratic Party. “Governor Wallace came on the floor where the delegates were and nominated [Florence attorney and former State Senator] Bert Haltom to run against [incumbent Democratic Party chair Robert] Vance. The delegates rejected it and reaffirmed our support for chairman Robert Vance [by a 66-51 vote].”
“The same thing [happened] this weekend,” he reportedly added.
Apparently in Alabama Democratic Party politics, when a Democrat orchestrates something his colleagues find wrongheaded and misguided, he may expect those colleagues to play the race card against him.
In this case, playing the race card against the guy who prosecuted two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for Birmingham’s 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing might prove difficult. Thus, this time at least, Reed insinuated racism indirectly, via associating Jones with one of America’s most prominent racial demagogues.
Here’s the problem with Reed’s Jones-Wallace analogy: In 1974, Democrats controlled every lever of power in Montgomery. Alabama’s two U.S. senators, James Allen and John Sparkman, were Democrats. The remaining Republicans in Alabama’s House of Representatives were holdovers who rode the coattails of Barry Goldwater a decade earlier in the 1964 presidential election.
The bottom line: Alabama’s Democratic Party in 1974 was in much better shape than the weak and feckless apparatus that exists in 2018.
It’s curious why some in the Alabama Democratic Party want to maintain the status quo. Do they not recognize that the youth movement in their party, deserved or not, is garnering a lot of positive press? Even though they hold nonpartisan offices, media darlings such as Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox are at least offering the perception that the Democratic Party in Alabama is showing signs of life.
Then, to go as far as humiliating your party’s highest-ranking officeholder, Doug Jones, by not only defeating Peck Fox, the candidate he backed, but likening him to George Corley Wallace?
The justification for keeping things the way they are in Alabama’s Democratic Party is beyond wrong and ill-advised. It requires an element of performance art that in this case is bordering on bad dinner theater.
No one is going to buy into the notion that an “aw, shucks” milquetoast moderate Democrat like Doug Jones is anything close to George Wallace.
Meanwhile, nationally we are told to believe there is a blue wave coming. It’s a midterm election after an election of a new president of a different party than the president before. Based on history, this should be a big election cycle for Democrats, and even more so in ruby-red Alabama because Democrats were able to elect Jones a year earlier.
Instead, 2018 is shaping up to be a disaster of epic proportions for Democrats in Alabama. Donald Trump maintains a high approval rating in the state. With the possible exception of the contest for Alabama Supreme Court chief justice between Republican Tom Parker and Democrat Bob Vance (son of the above-mentioned Robert Vance), Democrats are set to lose by huge margins in November.
According to polling, Maddox is on track to lose by double digits in November to incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. None of the U.S. House races in November are competitive. There’s a collective “who?” chorus when you run down the list of Democratic nominees running for statewide office — that is, until you get to the Alabama Attorney General contest between Republican incumbent Steve Marshall and Democratic nominee Joe Siegelman, who is the son of disgraced former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.
Yet, if you believe the Democratic Party cheerleaders embedded in Alabama’s political media, which includes the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman, the mere fact that the Democratic Party was able to field candidates for these major offices is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Meanwhile, Alabama Republicans are set to have their summer meeting this weekend in Maddox’s hometown of Tuscaloosa. Even coming out of last year’s embarrassing loss in the U.S. Senate special election, they have to be laughing at the debacle that is the Alabama Democratic Party.
Perhaps ALGOP chairwoman Terry Lathan should mail a check to Joe Reed and encourage him to keep up his good work, because his shameless antics are going to ensure Alabama remains Republican for a long time.