Leaders from one of the nation’s oldest continuously-active political parties were in Cullman to select a nominee for the presidency this weekend as the highlight of their national convention.
About 25 delegates representing the national Prohibition Party converged on the Holiday Inn Express hotel, meeting to review the party’s platform strategy, share fellowship and name a presidential candidate.
Local speakers included a welcome by Mayor Max Townson, former Senate candidate Patricia McGriff and Cullman Tea Party leader Nan Austen.
That candidate is Jack Fellure, a West Virginian whom the party selected Wednesday morning to vie for the presidency in 2012. Toby Davis of Mississippi was tapped as Fellure’s running mate.
Although precedent indicates the party faces an uphill struggle to place a candidate in the White House — since its founding in 1869, no party candidate has ever been elected to the nation’s highest office — members said the party’s relative obscurity in the 21st century hasn’t deterred their efforts to bring attention to the platform.
As the name implies, the Prohibition Party incorporates a staunch opposition to the distribution and sale of alcohol in its platform. The party also promotes a socially conservative and constitutionally strict platform.
Florida Prohibition Party chairman Bill Bledsoe said Tuesday that, while the party laments the social ills for which alcohol abuse is blamed, many casual observers — including the mainstream news media — often obfuscate its stance on liquor.
“There's nothing in the Volstead Act [the repealed 18th Constitutional prohibition amendment] that says a person cannot drink,” he said. “But most people say, ‘Oh, you're trying to take my booze away from me.’ Well, that’s just a lie from the pit of hell. What the national prohibition law did say is that no one can manufacture, sell, trade or do commercial business with alcohol; you can make all you want at home, as long as you stay home and drink it.
“But alcohol — it doesn't pay; it kills,” he continued. “I run a cemetery, and I bury them. About a month ago, we had to bury a 17 year-old boy who was walking along the highway and a drunk hit him — and that happens quite often.”
Aside from its position on alcohol sales, Bledsoe maintained, the Prohibition Party is not defined solely by a single issue — despite its history or its name.
“Oh, we're called all kinds of names,” he said. “But we don't focus on one issue — we are not a one-issue party. That’s where people don't get the message. We are concerned about Constitutional government.”
Bledsoe said Cullman, selected last year as the site for the 2011 Prohibition Party convention because of its then-dry status, remained the party’s choice even after the city voted in liquor sales last November.
“We selected Cullman because it was dry, and of course in November you went wet,” he said. “But we do not abandon ship; we're not rats.
“And,” he added, “I'm glad we came here.”
* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 270.