None of us were alive in 1901 when our current state constitution was created by the hands of a small group of elites in Alabama that joined forces to ensure long-term control over every aspect of our lives. This small group was called the ‘Big Mule Coalition’ and was the alliance between big farming families from the soil-rich “black belt” and the wealthy industrialists in and around Birmingham.
The ‘Big Mules’ are all dead but still control us from the grave due to our inability to stop looking behind us and focus on our collective future. We are a resource-rich state with an ideal geographic location, average temperature and great people. Our state is an envy on one hand and a laughing stock on the other. We must seize this opportunity to create a state constitution that works for all of us and not the few that still benefit from what the ‘Big Mules’ carved out for themselves and their posterity.
As we rise together over the next decade, it starts with adopting a new constitution and redefining how our state taxes are collected, where they come from and who pays them. The ‘Big Mules’ made sure that you and I pay the maximum while they do not. It’s not even about collecting more but in how the taxes are distributed. We pride ourselves in state rights and individualism yet we are one of the largest consumers of federal money and have one of the most restrictive policies on ‘home rule’ (local government).
The ‘Big Mules’ made decisions that do not reflect the true nature of Alabama and who we are as a people. We are an independent and proud people yet our state government, created by the ‘Big Mules’ in 1901 reflects the opposite. Our current ‘Big Mules’ have maintained a stranglehold over our state government regardless of political party and have been riding in the cart while making us pull. Alabama works for a lot of us but not all of us and the disparity that exists in our rural counties and in our urban cities can no longer be ignored. They are as much a part of Alabama as our suburban communities. Many of the problems that have chronically plagued our rural counties had a beginning with the ‘Big Mule’ carve outs in that 1901 Constitution and the power vacuum that the ‘Big Mules’ filled following failed Reconstruction after the Civil War and a laissez-faire federal government that turned a blind eye to the rise of Jim Crow.
We are now at a point in our history where Alabama can takes its rightful spot among the states that mirrors the excellence of our college football programs instead of continuing to fight with Mississippi for the last seat in this dysfunctional battle of musical chairs. We are better than how we have agreed to be governed.
We must be vigilant in recognizing who the ‘Big Mules’ are today and how they will gather, once again, to try and deceive and defeat us in 2018 when we have our biggest opportunity to reclaim our independence and re-establish a state government of the people and for all Alabamians. The ‘Big Mules’ have been our negative for over a hundred years and they must not forget that we drive the mules, we hold the reigns and they don’t drive us, the people.
We rise together. As one.