Chicanery nothing new in political races
The recent revelations of misconduct by Alabama's Christian Coalition have brought indignation against and a lack of respect and credibility to the group. The audacious hypocrisy exhibited by saying you are a Christian group and making your hallmark issue opposition to gambling while at the same time taking illicit gambling money seems atrocious. However, in politics it is not unparalleled.
The most infamous Southern demagogue of all time was the legendary Huey Long. The Kingfish is the most colorful Southern politician of all time although Alabama has had some good ones. Big Jim Folsom and George Wallace are in the upper echelon of Southern lore, but nobody compares to Louisiana's "Kingfish" Huey Long.
Furthermore, if you think that Alabama politics is backward or corrupt, we do not hold a candle to Louisiana. They actually take pride in being the most politically corrupt state in the nation.
Old Huey used as his boogeymen the powerful oil companies. The Louisiana bayou and the Gulf of Mexico waters surrounding New Orleans are rich and bountiful with oil. The oil companies owned Louisiana in the early 1900s the same way U.S. Steel owned Birmingham during this time.
This era was before race baiting, so Huey's boogeymen were the big out-of-state oil companies. Huey was a populist demagogue who preached "every man is a king" and "a chicken in every pot." He was out to soak the rich and give to the poor. He cussed the big out-of-state oil companies for taking all the wealth and leaving nothing for the downtrodden Louisiana farmer. He cussed them all day every day but at night Huey took most, if not all, of his campaign contributions from the oil companies and let them get royalties for next to nothing as was revealed in the great biography on Huey by Harry Williams.
Another example of charlatanism exhibited this year by the Christian Coalition revealed an underbelly of deceit hard to match. Gloria Dolbare, the widow of recently deceased state Rep. Jeff Dolbare, offered herself as a candidate for the remaining two years of her husband's term. Her husband Jeff was a Democrat so she ran as a Democrat and another candidate Latham also ran as a Democrat.
It is a Democratic seat. The Democratic Party removed Latham from the ballot over a minor technicality and as is expected it made people mad. A Republican right wing Christian Coalition candidate, Williams, entered the race. Latham and Dolbare both overlooked the Coalition questionnaire. The subversive right wing group seized upon the fact that Mrs. Dolbare did not fill out their form and put out a smear sheet that indicated she was for gay marriage. Mrs. Dolbare lost the race and Williams, the Republican, won.
In actuality, it hurt Mrs. Dolbare more that the ousted Democrat Latham ran as an Independent. All three candidates, Williams, Dolbare and Latham, received about the same number of votes – about 2,500 each. Williams won by only a few hundred votes. The false flier probably made the difference. The bottom line is the Republican Williams won the seat, if only for a one-year term.
A Democrat will win it back next year in a one-on-one match against a Republican. Therefore, the Christian coalition ploy will be a short-lived victory but it shows that they will do anything to win. It appears they are for nine of the Ten Commandments. They believe you can bear false witness when it comes to politics.
This atrocity orchestrated by the Christian Coalition has been written about widely throughout the state. However this practice is not new to politics. The Democrats have not been completely innocent when it comes to dirty tricks. They brazenly stole elections when they had the whip handle.
In 1986 they openly stole the Democratic gubernatorial nomination from Charlie Graddick, who received the most votes in the Democratic primary, and gave the nomination to Bill Baxley.
Baxley who had cultivated George Wallace's friendship, called Wallace late one night to ask his advice about accepting the tainted nomination. Legend has it that Wallace, who had not been above using any dirty trick to get elected, supposedly said to Baxley, "Bill you know what they call a governor who got elected by chicanery?"
Bill said, "No, governor, what?" Wallace replied, "They call him 'governor.' "
Unfortunately anything goes in politics.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers writes a weekly syndicated column on Alabama politics. He served 16 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.