Alabama Politics — It Seems to Be Infecting South Carolina

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Check out Gail Collins' New York Times column on the insane politics of Alabama. These rubes may be even more shameful than Bauer, Barrett and McMaster — and that takes a helluva an effort.

McMaster has no chance of successfully challenging “Obamacare.” And no legislation that Bauer and Barrett push through the General Assembly will affect either federal welfare laws or federal immigration laws. But in states such as Alabama and South Carolina, where even educators will not stand up for science for fear of either losing their jobs or losing elections, it is no wonder we continue to fund abstinence-only education and reap the harvest of teenage pregnancy, cervical cancer, AIDS, and STD's. Why do white southerners keep falling for this kind of politics?

Here's an excerpt from Collins' column. Read the whole thing a www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/opinion/29collins.html?src=me&ref=general. And when you finish, see Dale Peterson's campaign ad in my earlier blog from last week.

The trend goes back to Demon Sheep, the legendary ad for Carly Fiorina’s campaign for the Senate nomination in California. It had regular sheep and then cartoon sheep and then a guy crawling around the ground disguised as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He had on a cardboard mask with red light bulbs for eyes. I believe the message was supposed to be fiscal responsibility, but really, all you got was Demon Sheep. Red eyes. Carly Fiorina.

The man who made it, Fred Davis III, then took up the cause of Tim James, a deeply unremarkable Alabama businessman who wants to be governor. To separate James from the crowd, Davis came up with “Language,” a 30-second ad in which the candidate stared at the camera and demanded to know why “our politicians make us give driver’s license exams in 12 languages.” (The actual answer is: a federal court ruling.)

“This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it,” James said irritably. “We’ll only give the test in English if I’m governor. Maybe it’s the businessman in me, but we’ll save money.”

James’s staff insisted it was fiscal conservatism, not xenophobia, that put their candidate on the driver’s license warpath. But Alabama’s tests are automatically graded by computer, using federally financed software — even the approximately 2 percent that are taken in a language other than English. Given the fact that the state would probably have to defend the policy in court, James’s idea would actually be a new expense.

But I cannot emphasize how totally beside the point all that is. “Language” went viral. “This is the first election in a long time where the fate of the campaign really did change on a single ad,” said David Lanoue, chairman of the University of Alabama political science department.

James is now one of the front-runners, despite a last-minute crisis involving a rumor that he believed the state was spending too much money on the University of Alabama football coach, who makes $4.1 million a year. Which James vigorously denied wanting to cut. It’s the businessman in him.

He now has a sequel to the driver’s license ad, in which he says that as a businessman, he feels sex offenders should be required to “re-register with the state, face to face, every 90 days.”

“Some politicians think that might inconvenience the sex offenders,” James said somberly. He did not explain who those politicians were, but I suspect the same guys who keep stealing Dale Peterson’s signs.

This has been a peculiar political year, even for Alabama. James’s biggest opponent, Bradley Byrne, was attacked by a group called True Republican PAC, which ran an ad charging that Byrne supported the teaching of evolution.

Byrne, who has multiple degrees and was chancellor of the state community college system, indignantly denied the charges.

But wait, there’s more. It turns out that True Republican PAC was bankrolled by the state teachers’ union, which is angry at Byrne for trying to ban teachers from holding second jobs as state legislators. The Alabama Education Association apparently felt a good payback would be to spend $500,000 on a group that encourages people to vote against any candidate who believes there is a scientific explanation for the origin of life.

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