Alabama Republicans Pretend To Be ‘Shocked’

Clete Wetli | April 10, 2020 | Opinion Article

Who could have foreseen that hundreds of thousands of citizens without healthcare insurance and 17 hospitals closing over the last decade would be a huge problem if, for instance, a pandemic was to strike Alabama?

Who could have known that the meager unemployment benefits in Alabama that were woefully inadequate in good economic times, would be regarded as downright insulting during a time of crisis?

Certainly, no one could have predicted that underfunding, understaffing, or altogether eliminating government agencies and programs would be particularly devastating to Alabama if there happened to be an unprecedented economic downturn, right?

Yet, after years of decimating the social safety net and eliminating those ‘wasteful’ offices like the CDC Pandemic Response Team, Republicans claim to be just ‘shocked’ that the government (in which they hold a Supermajority in Alabama) can’t effectively manage a crisis. Trump and his Alabama Republican apologists have all been saying that ‘nobody’ could have possibly seen this coming. Nobody?

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Except, we did. Almost everyone did. We just assumed a plan and resources were in place.

To be perfectly honest, Alabama Republicans knew an unforeseen crisis may occur, too, but they’ve spent their time over the last decade catering to big-money special interests and creating division over hot-button social issues. They shouted about the evil specter of ‘big gub’ mint’ and then they patted themselves on the back each time they cut funding to agencies like veterans’ assistance offices or supplemental nutrition programs or the state forensics lab.

Then, COVID-19 hit.

While proactive states began implementing “shelter-in-place” mandates and mobilizing supplies, AL Gov. Kay Ivey chose to squander precious time and put business interests ahead of public health. Instead of exhibiting leadership to protect Alabama citizens, she took pathetic, cheap political shots by saying, “Folks, we’re not California or New York or even Louisiana.” You know, wink-wink, those liberal hell holes…

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Ivey finally issued a “shelter-in-place’ order that has turned out to be more of a laughable, passing suggestion than a life-saving mandate. 

Although much more needs to be said about the absence of leadership and the gross incompetence that many Republicans have demonstrated throughout this crisis, so many of the real problems facing us were already created by them years ago and they’ve been festering ever since.

Alabama Republicans have spent almost all of their time trying to characterize government as intractably inefficient and wasteful. Remember, they all like to run for office as ‘outsiders’ who, with no experience in government, claim that they alone can ‘clean house’. Yet, they seem to be the ones getting removed from office for malfeasance or face legal, often criminal, consequences for their actions. Remember, Bentley, Hubbard, and Moore?

They continue to believe in ‘voodoo economics’ and bear responsibility for the stark and growing wealth disparities in our state and nation. They’ve spewed untrue and vile rhetoric about the supposed horrors of Obamacare, but have done absolutely nothing to lower the costs of healthcare, much less proffer any realistic solution to the growing numbers of uninsured. Instead, they prioritize legislation preventing transgender people from using public restrooms or competing in school athletic events. They’ve been working overtime to make sure communities are forced to keep Confederate monuments instead of using that energy to fix Alabama’s public schools. 

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And now, they’re requesting ‘vapors’ along with their mint juleps (in their best Antebellum accents) because they are so ‘shocked’- so very ‘shocked’ that no one could have ever foreseen an emergency like this. They’re even more shocked that the many government agencies that are tasked to respond in a crisis are understaffed, underfunded, poorly trained, and are wholly overwhelmed.

Of course, they’re blaming everything and everyone from China to Obama, but the truth is that Republican ideology and policy is why this crisis is so much worse than it should be. Alabama Republicans can pretend to be shocked all they want, but they alone own this failure of leadership and bear responsibility for the lack of resources that Alabama desperately needs immediately.

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

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