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The Alabama Politics of 2022.

We get to vote on a new-ish constitution.

The Alabama Constitution of 1901 is long and decrepit, and it’s racist. But it’s about to get replaced by a brand new state constitution, the Alabama Constitution of 2022. (This will be its seventh state constitution.) The work of a committee to reorganize it, and to remove racist language, has been completed. It’s a rustbucket, but we got the racist bumper stickers scraped off. Time to vote to ratify it.

And then what? When will Alabama see real constitutional reform? It may be a long time.

Alabama’s Democratic party was springstepped only a few years back, upon the election of Doug Jones as the first Democratic senator of the state in a few decades—but really as the first modern Democratic senator ever. The old Democrats in the South were still of the ilk that floated their boats on the river of racism.

While the national parties mostly flipped in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, state-level politics took more time to reshuffle. The retiring senator, Richard Shelby, switched parties in 1994. But Republican control of the Alabama Legislature wasn’t completed until 2010.

Following Jones’ election, the Alabama Democrats had a shake-up of their party organization, resulting in a new chair and new blood. But Jones got beat in 2020 by a failed football coach. And as of 2022, two things happened. First, the party failed to recruit a full slate of candidates, and even among the nominees there are some rather weak spots. Second, the party has been reshuffled and now it looks about like it did in the pre-Jones era.

Its website, its social media, and its emails all stopped after 13 August 2022, the date of its change in leadership. During an election year. While the newest leader may have ideas and plans, it would be nice to at least attempt to raise your party’s voice during an election season. Ask the Libertarians.

The Alabama Libertarians, who weren’t on the ballot, made a major effort to change that, gathering thousands of signatures (far more than the required 3% (≈50 000) of the total who voted in the previous gubernatorial election). This year they have more candidates than the Alabama Democrats do. Not that they’ll fair as well, and not that all those candidates have any real visibility. But some do. Will any win? Perhaps. But the prize the Libertarians seek is 20% on a statewide race, which would guarantee their access for the next cycle, no signatures required.

Thing is, the Alabama Republicans don’t have great visibility either. They have the equivalent of Twitter’s notorious blue check—the stamp of approval that largely guarantees success. They have the elephant-shaped xenomorph face-sucking them, Aliens-style.

Looking back, wondering what made the difference for Jones in 2017, I think it was the media. Sure, Roy Moore was a terrible candidate, and the uncovered allegations of his past were the fatal blow to his campaign, but the fact is that Alabama does not have a very strong Fourth Estate. It doesn’t have enough eyeballs to make its bugs shallow. Jones ran in a race that attracted national attention, mostly because the rest of the nation wasn’t holding an election at the time. That allowed bandwidth for national media to get interested in what normally would have been a completely ignored race.

The national politics and the national media don’t help. Alabama voters can point to all sorts of crackpot ideas to defend their provably dumb decision to continue electing Alabama Republicans, because that’s what the right-wing media in this country produces.

The state Democrats don’t have much of an organization because they don’t get the word out—but that’s only part of the story. The rest of the story is that the media is responsible for who gets elected. Campaigns run ads on media, but the background of politics, the lay of the field, that’s all determined by news media.

And so, my main advice to Democrats running for statewide office (or for Congress) in Alabama: find a way to become national news. You may not win, but that’s your best shot.

To close things up here, some lengthy thoughts how I’ll be voting on Tuesday. You should decide how you want to vote. That’s the system, but this is how I came out when looking over things.

In the governor’s race, I’ll be writing in someone, probably Doug Jones. It’s a three-way race between incumbent-slash-Republican Kay Ivey, Libertarian Jimmy Blake, and Democrat Yolanda Flowers. For various reasons none are my choice. Ivey knows how to govern, but chooses to do it poorly to meet the low expectations of state Republicans. Blake is too much of a stereotypical Libertarian for my tastes. Flowers is a weak candidate who only won the nomination because the field was weaker and some intra-party politics I can’t claim to understand that saw her runoff opponent (whom I voted for) disfavored. There is an official write-in guy, who I might write-in instead of Jones, but either way I’m effectively sitting that race out.

For Lieutenant Governor, I’ll be voting for the Libertarian, Ruth Page-Nelson. There’s no Democrat in that race, and so that gives Libertarians a good shot to get 20% of the vote, to stay on the ballot for at least 2024. Page-Nelson seems to be one of the rare Libertarians who believes in doing something about climate change, so it’s not much of a stretch for me to vote for her.

For Senator, I’ll pick Will Boyd, the Democrat. While he doesn’t have great chances—the business community wants a money spigot to replace the current money spigot, Richard Shelby, and they’ve found it in his acolyte, Katie Britt—Boyd would do a good job if he were to win.

In the race for Attorney General, the Democrat, Wendell Major, is my choice. As with the senatorial race, he might not win, but he’d do a decent job—better than the incumbent Steve Marshall who is running for reelection—if he did.

Secretary of State, a race that actually had a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Alabama (YouTube: League of Women Voters of Alabama: 11 October 2022: “Alabama Secretary of State General Election Candidate Forum”), but the Republican candidate, Wes Allen, had a lame non-excuse and didn’t participate. The Libertarian candidate, Matt Shelby, appears to lean toward the saner side of things, but I’ll be voting for Pamela Laffitte, the Democratic candidate. Given the history of voter suppression in Alabama (originally under Democrats, but Republicans adopted the same once they took over), and the support for better voting access that Laffitte espouses, I think she’s the best choice. Either of them would be better than Allen, who, as mentioned, doesn’t respect voters enough to participate in the rare candidate forum.

The forum was helpful in one other way. Democratic candidate Pamela Laffitte mentioned she believed you could vote straight-ticket and then deviate to your choosing (e.g., if your preferred party lacked a candidate in some race, you could vote in that race despite marking straight-ticket), but wanted to verify. While the League didn’t affirm that at the forum, the League of Women Voters of Alabama has a PDF on their website ( League of Women Voters of East Alabama: PDF: “How will you vote?”) that confirms you can do so. While I don’t have any plans to ever vote straight-ticket, it’s useful to know how that works. (For those who are curious, the Libertarian candidate, Matt Shelby, said he’s in favor of scrapping straight-ticket, while Ms. Laffitte said she’s in favor of keeping it as it may make voting easier for some people.)

As for the amendments, none would make things markedly better. I’ll vote against Amendment 3, which would require the governor to give notice to the attorney general and victim relatives for commuting a death sentence, as I don’t think it’s necessary. I’ll vote against Amendment 4, which would restrict the legislature’s ability to modify election law within six months of an election, as I don’t think it’s necessary.

Amendment 1, also known as Aniah’s Law, for a woman who was murdered by a person out on bail, would not allow bail for those charged with particularly harsh crimes. I’ll vote against it. Anyone familiar with the history of the US Constitution knows how the Bill of Rights places a particular emphasis on protecting our rights against overzealous law enforcement. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments all serve that purpose. That’s half of the ten.

While public safety is paramount, that does not mean giving in to a base impulse to seek it in harsh and unruly ways that in fact undermine safety, and the fact that there’s been too little media coverage, no presentation of statistics to justify the change, means I must err in favor of protecting the rights of accused persons to due process by voting against it.

From what I’ve found in researching the change, the existing bail system already allows for judges to set heavy release conditions, including their ability to exceed the bail schedule (see Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules 7.2–3). To move from the constitutional protections to outright denials without a more exhaustive finding of necessity is not warranted at this time.

Please do vote on Tuesday if you haven’t already.

The Itch for Attention in News Media

Don’t feed the delusional bears.

Take the art for this post. What is the truth? Is it two or three in the afternoon? The left clock says two. The right clock says three. Is it afternoon? Could this picture be from extreme latitudes during summer? Both could be wrong. Timekeeping is arbitrary. There could be a temporal anomaly and both could be right.

We often see media posturing to get things right. To get the correct answer. To ace the test. But the media isn’t graded by actual correctness. It’s graded based on viewer consensus—or really viewer consent. It’s graded by getting eyeballs to look at it. If the eyeballs show up, it’s got it right, hasn’t it?

And it mainly learns how to do that. Is it any wonder that the right-wing media often makes things up? It is less concerned with being the wrong clock in the picture, exactly because it is more comfortable with its true role of being a magnet for eyeballs. It is so unconcerned that parts of it often read and look more like a factitious disorder imposed by media.

What does that mean? You can see Wikipedia: “Factitious disorder imposed on another” for an overview, but basically it means the RWM often invents problems—CRT, Jade Helm, social media censorship—in order to draw attention. It shops some new fake symptoms around, some claim of calamity, some cry of wolf, until it finds another crack in the broader media to draw eyeballs in.

A crudely drawn wolf arm holding up a mirror with a cruder reflection of a wolf in it. Thought bubble reads, "Wolf! I've spied a WOLF!"
The RWM looks in a mirror.

This isn’t something exclusive to the RWM. The Times had a recent story about the Russian Federation engaging in the same kind of stuff via social media in 2017: (Paywall) The New York Times: 18 September 2022: Ellen Barry: “How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step” (emphasis added):

At desks in bland offices in St. Petersburg, using models derived from advertising and public relations, copywriters were testing out social media messages critical of the Women’s March movement, adopting the personas of fictional Americans.

That part is key. The advertising industry (and factions of media generally) is known to impose on its consumers’ insecurities in order to make a sale. They’ll invent all sorts of problems for you if it means you’ll buy a product. It’s the same for political disinformation, of media meant to fabricate illness in society so that you’ll donate to their cause or you’ll vote for their lackey.

The RWM is locked into this kind of concocted illness drama. Them, with the Repub politicians, are in a kind of activated state of disinformation. Like an abuser, they have learned they are rewarded for disinformation, for faking the illnesses of America and causing a big hubbub.

They create false grievances for the business class to worry over. They basically put up a second clock with the wrong time and then want to fight about which one is right.

In order to combat this abuse, the rest of the media has to both point out the reality, point out the clock that is correct, but also minimize coverage of the argument. Two clocks disagreeing makes a funny picture, but it doesn’t make a useful argument. And once you know a clock is wrong, it doesn’t make sense to keep checking it. It’s wrong. It’s a Joseph McCarthy. It doesn’t serve the public interest to keep pretending it might be right when we know it won’t.

If you are eligible, you should consider visiting to find out about registering to vote.

Expectations and the 2022 Midterms

Breaking news: there’s an election in November of even years.

Expectations are a big part of politics. Midterms tend to cost the president’s party seats, and so the president’s party goes into the midterm year on a defensive footing. The party fields fewer candidates ((non-TLS link) The Green Papers: “2022 Political Parties” counts 843 candidates for Democrats to 957 for Republicans, but that number includes state races; I couldn’t find a good pair of numbers for Congress only. For comparison, their 2018 counts were 706 to 687.), directs funds to shore up incumbents, sees more retirements, and has less energy. The media treats the president’s party as weakened. And then the result comes, either better or worse than predicted, and the media still has a narrative to ride into the new year, while the parties scramble to get ready for the new Congress.

Call it the armored marathon runner scenario. Thinking the race to be defensive, the runner wears full plate armor, which makes them slower. If it turns out they can actually go on offense, it’s harder because they’re still wearing heavy polished metal all over their body. Incumbency helps individual candidates win elections, but incumbents have their job to do while they run. Challengers are more able to campaign, and thus provide a lot of extra energy to their ticket, even if they don’t win.

Now, Democrats have gotten good news. The economy remains strong-ish (? If hot? If not? The question-mark economy.), they passed a transformative climate-plus bill (eureka!), and they passed a bipartisan technology bill, along with the earlier bills on infrastructure and modest gun safety. But predicting how their achievements and the state of things will fare in November—always difficult—is all the harder for the strangeness of these times.

They also got the terrible news—the Dobbs decision—that stripped a fundamental right from millions of women, empowering the worst state legislators, in states with poor records for protecting women’s health, to legislate pain and suffering. But that bad news also means a new skepticism of Republicans: being anti-woman isn’t popular with America. (Statistically, most Americans either are women, or know at least one woman.)

The Democratic party didn’t plan to be in this position. That is, the balloted candidates are mostly baked in. A few states still have primaries, but even there, who decides to run in a president’s-team midterm year is different than who runs alongside the president. It’s a different crop.

Those differences amount to structural problems, alongside others like gerrymandering, which make it a tough race for Democrats. Republicans have their own problems. They have no real agenda beyond opposing President Biden and Democrats, and whatever their post-Dobbs policy may be, they don’t have it yet. But unlike Democrats, Republicans started the year planning to contest more races, planning for a harvest.

This year’s election will not be the election to fully repudiate Dobbs. If we see one, it will likely be in 2024, when Democrats will have had more time to field candidates, to draft policy. By then, the media will have made clear the terrible crime the Repubs on the Supreme Court perpetrated against America. By then, state courts ((Paywall) The Washington Post: 9 August 2022: James Bikales and Praveena Somasundaram: “State supreme courts could soon decide on abortion, raising stakes of their midterm races”) and state legislatures will have worsened, and perhaps in some cases, bettered the state laws around abortion. It will be a more mature issue with abortion rights activists poised to begin cleaning up the mess.

But 2022’s election can still turn out differently than it looked from January 2022. Even wearing armor, the Democrats have a decent chance to win this marathon. Will it come down to turnout? Will it come down to how many people actually show up and cast ballots for each of the two major parties? It very well could.

I urge you to visit to learn how to register to vote. You could also check out Ballotpedia to learn more about what’s on your ballot.