Thankfully, one of Alabama’s enduring political nightmares is finally over as new, enthusiastic leadership takes the reins to rebuild the Alabama Democratic Party. It should be a refreshing change from the Worley era which was characterized by state party leadership sitting on their butts, writing about their butts, and in the end, dialing with their butts in a last desperate failed attempt to cling to power. With AL Rep. Christopher England and former AL Rep. Patricia Todd, there is tangible hope and the realistic promise of unity.
On ALcom, England wrote, “In recent years… Alabama Democrats have witnessed a steep, unfortunate decline in the party’s impact on public policy and political direction. The party’s regression and outright retreat from active engagement into a lethargic and languished space have been difficult for many to watch and impossible to accept.”
As they say, ‘No ifs, ands, or, um… butts.’
So, we happily close this sad and sordid chapter in Alabama Democratic Party politics to discuss what needs to happen next. England and Todd have a herculean task in front of them. Since the Worley tenure began, the biggest problem for the ADP has been a profound lack of clear and consistent messaging. For years, the ALGOP has been able to loudly mischaracterize Alabama Democrats as rabid, gun-grabbing, open-border loving, baby-killing, godless immoral socialists. Of course, it’s not true, but repetitive, constant messaging, no matter how absurd or deceitful, can have an enormous and long-lasting impact.
The ADP’s newly adopted by-laws are structurally transformational in that they ensure an inclusive and truly diverse party. Now, it’s time to develop messaging that transcends identity politics. Yes, it’s possible to do this while still respecting the unique interests and perspectives of different groups and minorities. This paradigmatic shift would appeal to certain demographics that reluctantly, and sometimes apathetically, vote Republican more for social, cultural, and rhetorical reasons than on significant policy matters. It’s these groups that Democrats often bemoan as perennially voting against their own best interests. For example, non-college educated working class young men or middle-aged college educated women. Too often the conversation has been about the differences between specific demographics, rather than focusing on practical, workable solutions for the common problems they face.
A great example of this is Alabama’s recent failing grade in K-12 math scores when compared to the national average. Those entrenched in identity politics are quick to point out income levels and race as descriptive factors of the problem, rather than crafting aspirational messaging around a solution-oriented policy that frames the problem more universally.
Once new messaging is developed, the next step will be to launch enthusiastic grassroots efforts in all 67 Alabama counties. It’s time for phone calls, door-knocking, participating in town halls, and real activism. Too many folks think that a Facebook repost or a Twitter “heart” constitutes political activism. It does not. The days of simply attending monthly meetings without any work in between are over. It’s time to get personally and viscerally engaged in the political process if there’s any hope to build a better Alabama.
During the Dark Age of Worley, many Democrats simply walked away out of frustration and despair. The election of England and Todd brings energy and a sense of urgency that’s been sorely needed. Alabama has seen the rampant corruption and incompetence of the Republicans, but Worley and company were derelict in their duties by remaining silent and inactive. Moving forward, the ALGOP won’t be able to make absurd claims and comments unchecked and unchallenged.
In the aforementioned AL.com piece, England said it best, “So today, with new leadership, we begin the hard work of restoring our purpose, policies, and commitment to the people we serve. I am asking Alabama Democrats to trade their spaces on the sidelines and plant their stakes on the frontline, where we have gathered in a commitment to move our party and our state forward.”
Finally, there’s hope for a new and beautifully blue Alabama.
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.