If you ever wondered why Alabama politics is as dysfunctional as it is surreal, watch the 9/20/2019 episode of Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal that features interviews with AL GOP Chair Terry Lathan and her AL Democratic Chair counterpart, Nancy Worley. Of course, an adult beverage, in this case, maybe more of a mandate than a suggestion.

Lathan’s interview is first and she’s simply smirking like the cat who ate the canary. She begins by answering questions about recent controversies involving electing the state school board, but quickly transitions into a fact-free attack on Common Core classroom standards. Then she defends the AL GOP resolution condemning Minnesota U.S. House Rep. Ilhan Omar that was sponsored by AL Republican House member Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant). Wait, who? Hanes? Oh, yeah, Hanes’ only other memorable, but equally embarrassing, achievement during the last legislative session was introducing a bill to allow the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to create regulations for “biosolids composed of treated human sewage as fertilizer.”

Eww.

For that stinker, he won the “Shroud” award that ridicules legislators for proposing bills that have zero chance of passing. 

Then, Lathan wraps it up by saying how excited she is that Alabama just loves Trump even more than West Virginia and that she’s counting on straight-ticket voting and high turnout to beat Democratic Senate incumbent Doug Jones.

She doesn’t utter a word about the issues facing Alabama or articulate any specific agenda. It can be summed up as “We’re on the Trump Train” and “Whatever they’re for, we’re against!”

Sigh. It might be time to refresh that adult beverage before Worley begins.

Well, aside from her odd, wide-eyed staring, Worley begins by sounding almost rational, but she quickly becomes defiant and defensive when answering questions about why her DNC credentials were revoked in response to her failure to, well, do her job. She trivializes it by saying that she can lead just fine without them. Her response was entirely expected and equally pathetic. But then, she begins to characterize the whole controversy regarding the incompetence and corruption in the state party as wholly racially motivated.

Ok, maybe just one more adult beverage before we continue…

To her credit, Worley ends her defensive word-salad, awkward responses without mentioning Hell or water hoses. Instead, she painfully tries to paint the whole situation as one in which she is a martyr suffering against the “jealous” forces that would deprive her of leading the state party to her idea of greatness, whatever the Hell and water hoses that might be. 

I’m sorry, I know we’re only two-thirds in but we’re going to have to cut you off for your own good.

Worley does throw out a few bullet points alluding to issues like jobs and healthcare, but they are just hollow mentions without any substance or specifics. Also, she seems to mention them more as a rhetorical ploy to avoid answering questions about her own failing job performance than any pronouncement of any actual party policy or position.

So, that’s Alabama politics in a nutshell. It’s either extremist right-wing Trumpophile rhetoric or the ramblings of a delusional chair who thinks everyone is out to get her and that everything is racially motivated.

The reality is that hundreds of thousands of Alabamians still lack access to affordable healthcare. The reality is that the state has slashed unemployment benefits and continues to neglect people who genuinely need help. The reality is that Alabama needs prison and education reform. In fact, Alabama has real problems and it needs real solutions.

Of course, we do have leaders like Sen. Doug Jones and AL House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) who have gone to bat for working-class Alabamians. We need more of them.

As for Lathan, her trip on the Trump Train is going to end up a lot like that old song about Casey Jones when his train hit a caboose. As for Worley, she should have bowed out a long time ago. It’s Worley’s last stand and we’re all hoping it’s going to be over quickly.

Alabama, it’s time to deal with the issues that face our state. 

Alright, you can have one more, just so long as you’re not driving…

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