“For every thousand hacking at the branches of evil there is one striking at the root.” -Henry David Thoreau
Alabama is one of only 12 states that have no contribution limit on individual donations to political candidates. There are 22 states that prohibit corporations from donating to political campaigns but, don’t worry, Alabama isn’t on that list. Our great state is only one of six that allow corporations to contribute an unlimited amount of money to state political races. To top off the insanity, we do not have term limits in the legislature.
This combination of easy money, no term limits and the huge imbalance that exists between the “haves” (wealthy individual and corporate donors) and the rest of us in political contributions is a major reason why Montgomery hasn’t changed. Frankly, it can’t change without an intervention. Asking incumbent legislators to act against their own self-interest is like hiring a drug addict to be your Oxycontin delivery driver. There is a big difference between a politician and a statesman. A “statesman” is extremely rare in our country today and, in Alabama, it’s akin to a unicorn.
The money is too easy, the perception of power is intoxicating and the backroom deals aren’t so “backroom” in Alabama. In this state, the big boy lobbyists just show up in the committee hearings if they don’t like a bill and they kill it by staring, silent bullying, quoting scripture, or offer alternatives that include raiding the Education Trust Fund.
We pride ourselves as being a conservative, staunchly independent, Christian, right-to-work business-friendly state yet this is largely a fiction in Montgomery. The people of Alabama, and I’m talking about the normal plain folk, may be all of those things I describe above but it isn’t reality due to how our state government is structured. Our state government was overhauled in 1901 to purposely centralize power in the legislature and, as a result, has chronically disenfranchised minorities, middle income and poor whites. It has stifled growth and prohibits responsible self-determination in our counties and cities. It created an environment where one third of our counties are a financial drain on the remainder.
I’ll spare you the history lesson on failed reconstruction triggered by “laissez faire” federalism at the turn of the 19th century and start of the 20th century yet it is at the root of our Alabama government Kudzu. Though none of us were alive when those seeds of government were planted in 1901, those vines have been allowed to grow and consume and choke out how an independent people’s government is supposed to function. Every time we “vote in” a strong oak to represent our interests in Montgomery, it doesn’t take long for the lobby, money and no limits kudzu to weave a powerful grip around our oak and control it. The oak looks alive because it’s still covered in leaves but it’s just kudzu. A kudzu infected oak will try and mimic for the people yet it is corrupted and unsalvageable. But, because of no money limits and no term limits, kudzu politicians tend to stay in Montgomery for decades to ensure that some of the new oaks are infected to carry on the legacy. Hubbard was a kudzu, among other things, and Bentley is a kudzu. We need to do a better job at analyzing our Representatives and Senators and we need to get aggressive with “separating the wheat from the weeds” (or kudzu). There is no reason why we don’t have monetary limits on individual contributions and severe restrictions on corporate donations. The Governor of Alabama has a term limit and so should our legislators (at least restricting the number of consecutive terms).
We do have some good men and women in the Alabama legislature trying to stay free of that noxious corruption but we need more of them. There have been populist movements in Alabama throughout our history and the “kudzu” have won every battle to date but winning the war is the goal and that involves not giving up and standing to fight again. History has shown that opportunities appear and destiny begins to shape outcomes. It is our job to see those windows of opportunity and then rise to seize our destiny. We are at a pivotal crossroads where Providence is watching and guiding us. Let us pray for the strength to join together and rise together in order to take back our Alabama the beautiful.
Our state motto reads, “We dare defend our rights” and those rights have been under attack for years and the balance of government heavily lopsided. We can lead this nation and set the example of responsible self-governance through adherence to our U.S. Constitution and reasserting our belief in our inalienable rights and civil liberties. Before we can do that, we must fix our own house and our corruption problem in Alabama. We must see the beam and mote blinding us from assuming our rightful place among the states; first. It’s not impossible it’s just that it’s never been done. What do we have to lose? We are already close to the bottom in most national rankings and continuing to vote for the same people that are doing the same things for the same small group of favorites hasn’t improved our condition. But if we fight together then…..
We rise together, as one.