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Just over 200 years ago, in December of 1819, Alabama was awarded statehood within these United States of America. Those who immigrated into the newly opened state; mostly from the nearby states of Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia; were already accustomed to the practice of slavery, as it had existed since its establishment back in 1655, where in a most ironic twist of circumstances, a Court in Virginia found that Anthony Johnson, a “free Negro” who owned the indenture contracts of four white and one black servants, “owned” his black servant, John Casor, for life.
Even though only approximately 10% of the population of the south were actual slave owners, with many thousands of “free-negros” themselves the owners of enslaved people, from that point forward until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, the wealthy planter and political classes throughout the southern United States would consider slavery as essential to their economy, and those who would come to populate the State of Alabama in its first 40-plus years had no choice but to follow along with the reasoning accepted by those born into that society, or be crushed by it.
With the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828, the modern Democratic Party was founded, and the Democrats would hold sway over Alabama politics until Alabama would flip “red” after Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution of 1994. It was the Democratic Party who defended slavery, and as one of the largest slave-holding states, Alabama was one the first states to secede from the Union.
Slavery was something that Alabama considered a “States Right,” protected by the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The intertwined DNA of southern racial ideologies, and the Democratic Party, are in essence one and the same.
With the end of the uncivil war, and the emancipation of all former slaves in 1865, the Democrats of Alabama adjusted to their circumstances and enacted “Jim Crow” policies into segregation laws. Those who once believed that slavery was beneficial for blacks who were unable to take care of themselves evolved into those who considered the races separate, but never equal. Their children, and grandchildren, would go on to develop the modern Democratic Party, one that still treats the black minority as if they are unable to stand on their own and require their dependence upon government handouts.
Born into a staunchly Democratic-controlled Birmingham, Alabama, society during the 1930s, Richard Shelby would one day be elected as a Democrat into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978, before switching to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from Alabama in 1986. When the Democrats lost their control of Congress to the Republicans in 1994, Sen. Shelby announced that he had decided to become a Republican.
In the years to follow, many lifelong Democrats would follow suit, most solely in order to maintain their position of prestige and power that comes with holding high office. On the day that Shelby announced his becoming a Republican, he stated that, “I’m going to continue to work for the people of Alabama and the people of America to make government smaller but make business create jobs. And I believe that’s what the American people want, is an opportunity, not dependency. And I’m hoping, in the future, that you’re going to see more Southern Democrats cross that line and come back to the philosophy where they want to go and where they belong.”
Fast forward 28 years later, and one has to wonder whether the fanfare was warranted for the Republican Revolution of ’94, or Shelby’s flip-flop of political allegiance.
We should all ask ourselves: did Shelby’s tenure as one of the most powerful members of the establishment GOP make the federal government any smaller or less intrusive? Is the state of Alabama now more or less dependent upon the federal government? Did the Republicans as a whole ever decrease the size and scope of our federal government (especially during the massive growth of the federal government under George W. Bush)? More locally, did the switch of the old Democrats to the Alabama GOP downsize our state government, decrease our dependency, reduce corruption, or even improve basic outcomes for the people of Alabama?
Unfortunately, the modern conservative movement, both nationally and especially here in Alabama, has either been powerless to stop the march of progressive government growth and dependency, or it has been entirely complicit.
Some will answer that “it could have been a lot worse,” followed up by a litany of reasons why the Democrats, Socialists and the Left are so awful and dangerous. None, however, address that the conservative movement should be more than an occasional brake on progressivism.
Should we as citizens be content with our representatives occasionally applying the brakes or playing the role of an annoying backseat driver, or should we insist that they take control of the vehicle from their drunken cohorts and actually attempt to drive the thing?
For 28 years now, modern conservatism has failed to live up to its vision and promise of smaller limited government, especially in Alabama.
Once we admit that the modern Republican Party, no different than the Democrats of old, sees us all as unable to stand on our own and requiring dependence upon our government, we can peel back the curtain and see that both the Democrats and the Republicans are nothing more than marionettes, with their strings being pulled by the extremely wealthy who would pit us against each other as they increase their wealth and power, reducing the rest of us into servitude, burdened with an unsustainable national debt from which our children and grandchildren will never be able to earn their freedom.