It’s still about race, religion herePublished 11:40am Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The Roy Moore victory continues to reverberate throughout the state. Whenever the subject of politics comes up it is the first subject of conversation.
Undoubtedly, it is the political story of the year. Moore’s amazing resurrection triumph was astonishing. He was written off as an “also ran” candidate after dismally losing two races for governor in the past four years. Moore rode his horse to vote in Etowah County in both his primary and general election victories, and then watched the results flow in, especially from North Alabama. On both occasions it was evident that he was riding a wave of fundamentalist, evangelical voting that carried him back to his old job as chief justice. He had been written off as dead, then lo and behold, to quote an old Baptist hymn, “Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.”
In the GOP primary Moore vanquished two formidable and well-financed opponents. Probably one of the most amazing facets of Moore’s victory was that his two opponents raised and spent a combined $1.5 million. Moore spent just over $200,000 but garnered 51 percent of the vote. In this day and time it is almost unbelievable to defeat two opponents who outspent you over 6 to 1 in what is considered to be essentially a name identification contest. Again, in the General Election campaign, Moore’s Democratic opponent, Bob Vance, outspent Moore over 2 to 1, yet Moore prevailed.
Speaking of money spent in judicial races, Alabama has led the nation in money spent on judicial races in the past few years. Our closest rivals have been Ohio and Texas and both of these states are over twice as large as Alabama. However, we probably will not be at the top of the heap this year for several reasons. The demise of the Democratic Party in Alabama has made us a one-party state in statewide elections, especially in judicial contests.
Secondly, Moore has consistently refused to solicit or accept special interest money. He will take office as the least beholding judge on the Supreme Court in quite a while. This race saw approximately $3 million spent, but Moore received less than one-fourth of those contributions. In Moore’s case, money does not always talk.
Finally, the death of the Democratic Party statewide has resulted in the demise of the tort issue. The plaintiff trial lawyers have given up hope of electing pro-plaintiff justices at the statewide level. They historically backed Democratic, plaintiff leaning judges, but their day in the sun is over in Alabama.
Laid to rest in the political graveyard are the Democratic Party, the plaintiff trial lawyers’ punitive damages, and quite possibly very expensive judicial races in Alabama. The business community now has the playing field to themselves. However, Moore proved to the business community that they are vulnerable to an evangelical, fundamentalist, right wing, grassroots, populist candidate from within the Republican Party. These social conservatives generally make up one third of GOP primary voters in Alabama. Although in special high profile presidential years like this one it can reach 50 percent. These folks are able to get the word out among their brethren as to who their man is without spending much money.
In Alabama politics the more things change sometimes the more they stay the same. In the course of Alabama political history the northern tier of the state, north of Birmingham, has always been the most religious. If Alabama is the Heart of the Bible Belt, then North Alabama is the buckle.
A cursory look at the map of the state reveals that the height of Roy Moore’s support came from North Alabama. Most folks in this region are either Church of Christ or Baptist. To say that they are religious and conservative on social issues is an understatement. They are now the heart and soul of the Republican Party in Alabama, whereas 50 years ago they were the backbone of the Democratic Party. The bulk of the population in the state is in North Alabama. That is why it will be very difficult for the Democratic Party to make a comeback. In most of the United States the economy is the paramount issue. In the Deep South it is still about race and religion.