Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

How To Get Elected In Alabama: Convince the “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command” to vote for you.

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, May 14, 2015

It’s a classic variation upon the theme of a “straw man argument.”

But if you’re like most folks in Alabama, you’re probably so “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command” to know what that is.

So, I’ll tell you.

You cite an example of thing you oppose (and which many others would oppose) – even though it’s false (example: “The air in our city has killed thousands of babies!”) – and hammer on it, until you beat it up. Never mind that the example you use is pure bullshit and a total lie. That way, you get your opponent distracted from the REAL issues by responding to your bullshit lies. Studies have shown that when you repeat a lie – even if you are repeating it to refute it – the repetition can reinforce the lie in the minds of some people.

Read on.

Insight: How To Get Elected In Alabama

By Hardy Jackson

In my more than half-a-century of following politics — state, local and national — I cannot recall such a general disgust with the quality of the folks who govern us.

How, I hear it asked repeatedly, did these people get elected?

The answer, of course, is that they got the most votes.

But that is not the answer most people want.How to Get Elected in AL politics

What they want to know is how these politicians were able to convince a majority of Alabama voters to cast a ballot for them.

Well, I’m gonna tell you.

Today, politicians in Alabama get elected because they have mastered a strategy that has gotten Alabama politicians elected as long as there have been politicians and elections in this state.

Here is how it works.

First, a candidate must convince voters that someone or something exists out there that threatens something they hold dear.

Once that is accomplished, the candidate must convince the fearful that he (the candidate) is the person who can turn back the threat and save the threatened from the fate that would otherwise befall them.

Israel Pickens AL Governor

Alabama’s third governor was a native of North Carolina and represented the “North Carolina Faction” in early Alabama politics. Israel Pickens was born on January 30, 1780. After reading law he served in the North Carolina Senate from 1808-1810 and represented North Carolina in the US House of Representatives from 1811-1817.
After leaving Congress he was appointed land registrar for the St. Stephens Office, Alabama Territory. In 1819 he represented Washington County at the State Constitutional Convention and served as president of the Tombeckbe Bank and the Bank of Mobile.

Classic in its simplicity.

Historic in its success.

In Alabama, it started with Israel Pickens, more or less.

Pickens arrived in Alabama in 1818, just before the state entered the Union. By 1821, he was governor.

He rose rapidly while Alabama was in the middle of a depression. Farmers were losing their farms. Shopkeepers were losing their shops. These folks wanted to know who did this to them. Pickens gave them the answer.

The only people who seemed to be making money, he told them, were the people who already had money — planters, merchants and bankers, especially bankers.

Elect me, and I will save you from such.

So they elected him.

Then, to “solve” the problem, he pushed through a state bank to drive the others out of business.

Of course, the state bank was a disaster, and before it had run its course it created more problems than it solved. But by then there was another politician fanning other flames and getting the votes.

John Gayle (1792-1859) was Alabama's governor from 1831-35. Gayel was elected as a Whig to the U.S. Congress from 1847-49 and was also an Alabama state representative and a state and federal judge. Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

John Gayle (1792-1859) was Alabama’s governor from 1831-35. Gayel was elected as a Whig to the U.S. Congress from 1847-49 and was also an Alabama state representative and a state and federal judge.
Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

In 1831, John Gayle was elected governor on the promise that he would keep the federal government from honoring its treaty with the Indians, a treaty that let them keep land that white Alabamians wanted.

With that, “Washington” was added to the list of enemies from which politicians could promise to protect the people.

The next master of this was Dixon Hall Lewis, all 350 pounds of him. Lewis preached that a plot had been hatched in Washington to make the states dependent on federal money and use that to strip Alabama of its sovereignty. Elect me to Congress, Lewis said, and I will fight for lower taxes and less spending.

Dixon Hall Lewis (1802-1848) was a Montgomery attorney and states' rights advocate who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1828 and served there until 1844. He then served in the U.S. Senate until his death in 1848. Courtesy of University of Alabama W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library

Dixon Hall Lewis (1802-1848) was a Montgomery attorney and states’ rights advocate who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1828 and served there until 1844. He then served in the U.S. Senate until his death in 1848.
Courtesy of University of Alabama W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library

So they elected him.

That was 1829.

What Lewis failed to mention was that lower taxes and less spending meant Alabama roads would be rutted, her rivers clogged with fallen trees and her harbors unusable. Not that most voters would have understood or cared. You see, a necessary component of the strategy of scaring folks was keeping them from developing the reasoning skills they might pick up in school. So it follows that funding education was never a priority among those who practiced this approach.

However, it is hard to keep the public upset for long. Fear subsides with time. A new issue had to be found to scare the bejesus out of folks.

Alabama politicians soon found it.

Slavery.

Well, to be honest, “slavery” had been the issue from the start.

Not chattel slavery — turning black folks into property — but the idea that there were sinister forces working to take away the freedoms enjoyed by common folks and turn those folks into dependents, into slaves.

When politicians warned people that rich folks, banks, the federal government — all the usual suspects — were threatening them, it was the fear of a loss of freedom that politicians played upon.

William Lowndes Yancey (1814-1863), originally a Unionist, later became an outspoken secessionist. He edited newspapers in Cahaba and Wetumpka in the late 1830s and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1844. He represented Alabama in the Confederate Senate from 1861 until his death in 1863. Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History. Painted by Edward Billings in 1857.

William Lowndes Yancey (1814-1863), originally a Unionist, later became an outspoken secessionist. He edited newspapers in Cahaba and Wetumpka in the late 1830s and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1844. He represented Alabama in the Confederate Senate from 1861 until his death in 1863.
Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History. Painted by Edward Billings in 1857.

So when William Lowndes Yancey promised to go to Washington and stop Yankees from violating the rights of Alabamians by limiting what they could do with their slaves, he was telling Alabamians who did not own slaves that he would also protect them from Yankee interference in their lives, which they believed that Yankees planned to do, sooner or later.

Thus, by the time 1861 rolled around and President Lincoln was elected, Alabamians were primed to believe that the Yankee enemy was winning and the best way to remain free was to get out of the Union altogether.

And you know how that turned out.

Badly.

Except for Alabama politicians, because defeat gave them a new set of enemies to feed into the political maw.

Carpetbaggers, scalawags and “incorrigible” blacks — they ones who rejected the controls whites tried to impose on them — were the new threat. Pounded by Democrats as enemies of white supremacy, they were beaten back and Alabama was “redeemed.”

To make sure that they remained in power, these “redeemers” — powerful planters and merchants, timber barons, industrialists and bankers — intimidated voters, stole elections and wrote a new state constitution that muted the voice of the people.

Frank M. Dixon (1892-1965) was Alabama's governor from 1939-43, during the early years of World War II. A conservative Democrat, he was allied with big business interests and opposed civil rights along with other "Dixiecrats" during the 1948 Democratic National Convention. Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

Frank M. Dixon (1892-1965) was Alabama’s governor from 1939-43, during the early years of World War II. A conservative Democrat, he was allied with big business interests and opposed civil rights along with other “Dixiecrats” during the 1948 Democratic National Convention.
Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

Then, with democracy undone, politicians could turn once again to the tried-and-true formula and get elected by running against Washington, Yankees and anyone who threatened the status quo.

Oh, there were bumps in the road. The New Deal and the jobs it brought made it difficult to lambast Washington, but Alabama politicians like Gov. Frank M. Dixon, of whom it was said “the Legislature could never pass enough anti-labor bills to please him,” did his best to convince the convincible that FDR and unions were a threat to white control of the state.

There were also moments when politicians like Bibb Graves and Jim Folsom were able to get the people to think of economic inequality as an enemy, but when political opponents played the “race card” other issues were quickly forgotten.

Of all those politicians, George Wallace was the most versatile and successful. His enemies list — federal judges, race-mixing communists, outside agitators, JFK, RFK and MLK, to name a few — kept white folks stirred up and voting.

His legacy lingers on.

Alabama's 45th Governor of Alabama, having served two nonconsecutive terms and two consecutive terms as a Democrat may be best known for saying, "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Alabama’s 45th Governor served two nonconsecutive terms and two consecutive terms may be best known for saying, “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Even though he had a religious change of heart, repented and asked forgiveness from Negroes (which they overwhelming granted), he is still known for his infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama.

But even more enduring is the strategy that Wallace inherited and employed, the strategy that has been mother’s milk to our politicians — identify an enemy and vow to protect the people from it.

Today, the enemy comes in many guises — liberals, conservatives, the Religious Right, the Godless Left, immigrants, poor folks who live off the state, rich folks who live off the state, businesses that would sell Alabama’s natural beauty for a mess of porridge, environmentalists who would kill jobs to save a snail, the teacher lobby, the privatization lobby, feminists, anti-feminists, politicians who would raise taxes and politicians who won’t. Whatever and whoever we can be convinced to fear, there is a politician out there ready to make the most of it.

Then, once they are elected, we act surprised that they accomplish little and that the state is no better off for having them in office.

What the state needs are politicians who have a strategy for governing instead of a strategy for getting elected.

It’s unfortunate that candidates in Alabama who have a governing strategy are called the enemy by other candidates. And when that happens, you know which candidates win.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and op-ed/feature writer for The Star. His book, Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State, explores the theme of this essay in more detail. Email: hjackson@jsu.edu.

Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015 3:30 AM
Updated: 3:32 AM, Sun May 10, 2015.

ref: http://www.annistonstar.com/opinion/insight-how-to-get-elected-in-alabama/article_ca238102-f5d5-11e4-87d3-c7df539759a0.html



NOTE: Exemption and exception from United States Copyright law is asserted and claimed under the Fair Use Doctrine. Citation and reference of the information contained herein is exclusively of an historical and factual nature, and therefore exempted from copyright. The work herein presented is also substantially and transformatively different from the original work, contains parody, opinion, criticism, and commentary, encourages and demonstrates scholarship, utilizes new technologies and does all of the above in a not-for-profit manner.

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