Thoughts on the Day of Alabama

PRE-NOTE: My comments on Alabama are “below the fold”, following the “headlines”, as well as several comments from others which were added before the polls closed Tuesday evening….

This post is about Politics. For those who do not like talk about politics, any time you see the Eagle, below, you’ll know what follows.

Picture an eagle flying with only a single wing, or with simply a head…. photo by Dick Bernard, October, 2008, at dedication of gift by Mary Lou Nelson at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Those who follow this blog know I comment on politics frequently, and I will continue to do so.

If you don’t like the topic, when you see the Eagle, simply move on. But I hope you remember my essential definition of a functioning eagle: two wings and a healthy body and head….

For today, I decided to look up in my home dictionary the assorted definitions of the family of words, “Politics”.

(click to enlarge)

(For a printable pdf of this definition: Politics defined001.)

My personal opinion: people are politics, nothing more, nothing less. We get exactly what we want especially in a democracy where, presumably, we have a right to choose, collectively, who will represent us.

We cannot pass the buck.

Politics is all of us. In our democracy, politics has consequences, far beyond the vote.



Today is an important election in Alabama. Sometime later today we will learn how Alabamams define “politics”.

Only once have I actually been to Alabama. It was on the July 4 weekend in 1966. I was a summer school student at UofIllinois (Normal), and took a solitary trip south, through East St. Louis, through Memphis, through Oxford, Mississippi, east into northwest Alabama, and back to Normal through Tennessee and Kentucky and southern Illinois.

1966 was not a kind and gentle time in the deep south – sometime not too long before a civil rights leader had been assassinated along the same freeway I was driving south from Memphis into Mississippi – but even with a new Volkswagen and Minnesota plates, I recall no nervousness. The red clay stands out in memory; Tupelo, birthplace of Elvis Presley, does too.

Today, I know only a single Alabaman. I think he grew up in Michigan and married a North Dakotan, a relative of mine. He’s a gracious gentleman senior to me, and Saturday I got his annual Christmas card.


So, today I leave the Alabama election to those in Alabama. Though for only a year, the election for interim U.S. Senator in Alabama is a very big deal election, with state and national implications.

Alabama represents us.

What I will watch for today is how many eligible voters actually cast ballots, and for whom the ballots are cast. There will be endless ‘slicing and dicing’ of these returns into segments – race, gender and so forth – but in the end it will be how many will actually vote. I would like to know how many of those votes are truly well-informed….

Alabama will be something of a marker for me about whether or not we have learned anything in the past tumultuous year.


Christmas is almost here.

Our friend, Bud, lies in a hospital bed facing emergency quadruple bypass surgery most likely tomorrow. We visited him a few hours ago, happening by chance to be with him in the room when the doctor delivered the very bad news.

Bud’s notion of “future” changed in an instant a few days ago.

As a nation, we are facing our own crisis, on many fronts. How will we respond?

I met with a good friend yesterday and talked more about my eagle with two wings and a reasonable head analogy. He’s a retired guy, a number of years Democrat, born, raised and most of his life Republican from a conservative state. He and I agree there has to be a better way of dealing with each other in this (formerly, in my opinion) great nation.

That’s where I’m at in this election day in Alabama.

from a friend of more than 60 years: I marvel at how our GOP has changed over my lifetime. I remember the heated debates my Dad and his brother had over politics. His brother was a Democrat because he loved FDR for all that he did for our two families, getting us out of the drought and depression. Dad hated the Democrats because of a group within the party called the Southern Democrats. These were racists who hated Lincoln for freeing their slaves. So the Democratic party was really a Big Tent party containing the extremes ranging from these southern racists on the right and the liberals on the left and a smattering in between. The party experienced continual chaos. The GOP, on the other hand, was a center right progressive party.

I have been a life-long registered Republican and have watched its transformation over the years. With the Civil Rights Act of 1965, some of these southern racists became disgruntled with the Democratic party and moved over into the GOP in 1968. Then came the big shift [by those] referred to as the Reagan Democrats, where the remainder of the southern racists moved into the GOP. These racists now call themselves Evangelicals, and now they make up the majority of the GOP. The last statistics that I have seen put these southern racists at about 17% of the registered voters, with another 9% of the GOP made up of more moderate voters. These southern racists are people with which I have nothing in common, yet I have remained a registered Republican with the hopes that some intelligence will creep back into the party.

It was interesting to note that in 2008 with the election of Obama, the Southern Poverty Law [Center] reported an increase in hate groups from around 400 to around 1400. Most of the growth in hate groups consisted of Klu Klux Klan chapters, and most of those chapters in the bible belt. The KKK originated during the reconstruction period after the Civil War, and many chapters formed alliances with local law enforcement. Their hatred not only was focused on African Americans, but also at non-white Protestants as well as Jews, Native Americans and even newly arriving Southern European immigrants such as Italians.

One of the things that I have grappled with as the party transformed is the changing economic posturing. So I chose to split conservatism into economic conservatism and social conservatism. The social parts I leave to the individual to address as long as they don’t try impress their antiquated beliefs upon others. From an economic standpoint, if you look at the administrations leading up to and creating the Great Depression as well as the recent Great Recession, they are all GOP administrations practicing conservative economics. Add to that those famous words coming out of the mouth of George H W Bush; “read my lips, no new taxes”, followed by tax hikes, all because of the mess created by the Reagan Administration tax cuts and the philosophy of trickle-down economics. History has shown that conservatives do not know how to govern when it comes to economics. I don’t know whether they really believe that tax cuts to the wealthy will really trickle down, or whether they know that the greedy wealthy people will just keep the resulting riches, and that the voters are too ignorant to understand it all. The unfortunate part of the tax cuts and tax increases is that the tax cuts are made for the wealthy and the tax increases are levied on the working class. The result of such activities is that in 1980, the middle class made up 70% of the population, while the impacts of the tax cuts and the following tax increases have reduced the middle class to around 25%. And now we are potentially facing another crisis as the result of the tax cuts that are currently being pushed by the GOP.

Well, that’s the end of my rambling for one day, and anxious to see how the Alabama election goes. Take care my friend.

Response to my friend: Nothing wrong with emotion – I wish there was more passion, mixed with a willingness to dialogue openly with others of differing points of view. We tend to separate into our affinity groups – the people that share our point of view. It is easy to do in these days of Facebook, et al; is not healthy for our society, when people like your Dad (who I was privileged to meet) and his brother could argue politics, but still worked and lived together in the same community.

(There was the same kind of tension in my own family. My grandfather on my mother’s side apparently had some problems with Roosevelt, in part because of “loafers” who he saw on work crews planting trees on his land in the 1930s. Earlier in his life he’d been active in the Farmers Union movement, one of the first North Dakota members and activists; and before that an active supporter of the socialist Non-Partisan League which reacted to the excesses of big business on North Dakota farmers. There still remains a State Bank of North Dakota and some other entities from that experiment in the teens and 20s of the last century.

On the other side, my Dad’s brother was in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). In 1935 he managed to join the Navy, another government job, and six years later went down with the Arizona at Pearl Harbor and along with the other dead there became a hero. It is said that Grandpa had ill feelings towards the Japanese…. Such is how feelings and debates go.)

We could argue exact percentages in your writing. The only thing you missed – perhaps you didn’t know – Catholics were a big target of the Ku Klux Klan especially in the later 1920s, including in our own state.

It is an honor to be your friend.

from Norman: Nice commentary on the special election today in Alabama.

Given its long history as a red state…how long as it been since Sparkman was one of its senators?…it would be an upset in Moore were not to win today thereby assuring that the Republicans will retain that seat so as to help the tower man with small hands and all “make America great again!”

They need that seat to maintain their seat given the their small majority margins especially when they try to get legislation through that is divided along party lines.

The Democrats on the other hand foolishly pushed Franken to resign with granting him due process of any kind to take the moral high ground or whatever other motivation was behind their responding to several anonymous complaints.

Kind of ironic as so many Americans…I would like to think the majority of us…still believe in due process…the right to see and hear one’s accuser …before judgment and is made.

So, the Republicans played this much better in terms of pragmatic politics given that in all likelihood they will retain the Alabama seat while the Democrats put themselves in the position of possibly losing the Franken seat on 2018 while enjoying a filler in the seat without any seniority in the interim.

That was a rush to judgement to take the “higher ground” and from a pragmatic political viewpoint…you have a political party to win elections so that you can set the agenda…nothing more and nothing less…and to potentially give up a senate seat in a closely divided senate without giving the accused the benefit of due process is just plain politically stupid and something that will come back to haunt the Democrats for a long time.

Response to Norman, from Carol: I don’t totally agree with “Norm.” This is what the Republicans said when they elected Trump, and are saying more now- Trump may be a hot mess but it’s the PARTY, doggone it, and he’s OUR hot mess. Nothing else matters.

I saw a posting last night by someone in Alabama who didn’t like Moore at all, but he was voting for “the seat.” (I responded that we don’t vote for furniture.) No political representatives are going to be perfect – and whether or not Franken should have resigned is kind of a different argument. (I think he would have been very vulnerable in the next election. I also think Dayton is making a big mistake appointing his lt. governor who basically nobody’s ever heard of.) But I think the Republicans would have kept Charles Manson in office to save “the seat.” It’s not a football game. Integrity matters.

Response to Carol, from Norm: Thank you, Carol, for your response.

Yes, integrity matters and to me that means giving everyone accused of whatever the right of due process which was not granted by the many Democratic senators who rushed to judgement regarding the complaints many of them anonymous.

The bottom line here just as the Republicans so well know is “do we have the votes?”, nothing more and nothing less that that.

As such, if the good folks in Alabama decide to elect Moore which appears very likely, then that is who they want to represent them…and more importantly they need that seat in such a closely divided senate.

The Democrats may have taken what they thought was the so called “moral high ground” by pushing Franken to resign…or to state that he plans to resign in the future…without granting him due process…that was absolutely appalling no matter how “well intentioned!”

Bottom line here is does a party have the votes or not, nothing more and nothing than that as that is what a political party is for and only for that reason, i.e. to win elections and ideally to win the majority in a legislative body and to hold the state and national executive offices as well to be able to press its public policy agenda.

Everything else is irrelevant in my view.

We can sit in the corner having claimed the high moral ground whining poor us ain’t it awful while the other side that has the votes passes tax “reform” legislation that we don’t like, adopts immigration reforms that we do not agree with, and tries to overturn almost every major public policy change that President Obama accomplished during his eight years in office.

We may well feel that right is on our side during such moments trying to tell ourselves that it is the principle of the thing that counts while the other side dismantles and/or repeals much of the public policy programs that we worked hard to get adopted and strongly feel are important parts of the fabric of civilized nation.

On the other hand, since we don’t have the votes, so what?

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.