Alabama House of Representatives Chambers
Alabama House of Representatives Chambers

Whether it was the cruel political grandstanding that led to the draconian abortion ban or the almost comic rebuke of yoga as a school elective, the significant accomplishments of the Alabama Legislature in 2019 can only be described as profoundly tragic. Their cowardly inaction on other bills that would have an immensely positive impact across the state, like the expansion of Medicaid or a state lottery, can only be viewed as pathetic and impotent.

They worked feverishly to compel schoolkids to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but they failed to address significant issues like prison reform. They shot down reducing penalties for marijuana possession, but they ignored science and voted for medical castration for sex offenders.

Yeah, they voted to abolish marriage licenses so that self-righteous, proselytizing probate judges wouldn’t have to sanction same-sex couples. It may be something to think about while you’re legally betting on fantasy sports so that you can afford to pay for the upcoming new tolls on roads and bridges. Or, trying to figure out how the word ‘namaste’ suddenly became an expletive.

It’s beginning to seem that every time our state hits rock bottom, our Republican supermajority borrows a shovel to dig a basement. The collective absence of outrage in the face of this perennial incompetence is indicative of a monolithic, primarily conservative electorate that’s terrified of progress and change.

If Alabama was a juvenile, it would surely be diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder.

The danger is those extremist conservatives aren’t just satisfied with preserving a dysfunctional status quo; they’re actively trying to move Alabama backward. They’re working overtime to erase progress on civil rights and shredding the social safety net. Maybe, they should change Alabama’s motto from “We Dare Defend Our Rights” to something more apropos like, “You’re on Your Own”.

Much of the blame for the imbalance in Montgomery lies squarely on the failed leadership of the state Democratic Party under Nancy Worley and Joe Reed. Instead of recruiting dynamic candidates or crafting effective messaging, Worley and Reed have spent all their energies on preserving their status as bloated fish in an ever-shrinking pond. Alabama Democrats have got to get their act together or the fiasco of the 2019 legislative session will seem like the good ol’ days.

Regardless of partisan affiliation, Alabama voters have got to abstain from their toxic addiction to identity politics and work together to address the real problems that are facing the state. Does anyone really think that mandating the Pledge of Allegiance in middle school is a priority on par with fixing our third-world prisons? Do we really think that elective yoga classes are a path to paganism or reefer madness? Why is gambling on fantasy football, okay, but we aren’t allowed to have a state lottery to raise much-needed revenue for education and infrastructure?

The Republican legislative supermajority is quickly turning Alabama from a national laughingstock into a darkly viable precursor of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s no longer a hysterical, paranoid prediction; it’s an impending reality unless things start to change dramatically. Alabama has hundreds of thousands without healthcare, and its infrastructure is falling apart. Alabama can’t fund essential public services, and its prisons are a global disgrace. Banning marriage licenses was deemed a more urgent legislative priority?

The 2019 Alabama legislative session will be remembered as either the beginning of a tragic and pathetic downward spiral or a loud, demanding wake-up call for real leadership and effective governance. It’s time to “throw the bums out” or learn the hard way what “you’re on your own” really means.

Namaste, y’all.

Clete Wetli
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.