Now that the dust has settled on the November 2nd General Election and we have had four weeks to let the results permeate, my perceptions and conclusions remain the same. The Republican tidal wave that engulfed Alabama was more like a tsunami. The devastation was so pervasive and devastating that it probably changed the political landscape in our state for the foreseeable future.
George Wallace, when asked about possible political options, would reply never say never. I am not saying that the Democratic Party is dead in Alabama; however, it is on life support. If any aspiring politician asked me what party banner they should run on to be elected it would not take me long to give them an answer. My guess is that if George C. Wallace, the greatest politician in state history, were still running as a Democrat last month and saw the results of November 2nd, he would have changed parties by now.
The white southern Democrat is an endangered species, which is evolving toward extinction. In fact, they are analogous to a dinosaur. This setback began in 1964. The South voted Republican for Barry Goldwater that year and has never looked back. Race was the issue. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act he prophetically made the statement, I just signed the South over to the Republican Party for the next century. His prophecy has rung true when it comes to national politics.
Over the last 46 years we have had 12 presidential elections. Alabama has voted for a Democrat for president only one out of twelve of those times. Georgia neighbor Jimmy Carter narrowly carried the state in 1976. Both our U.S. Senators are Republicans and after November we only have one Democrat in our seven member congressional delegation.
This election crystallized the party shift in Alabama. We were a two party state on the state level. However, the same way that 1964 marked the beginning of Alabama’s Red State allegiance in national elections and federal offices, the 2010 shift is seismic and far reaching. We are now a Republican state from top to bottom.
With Dr. Robert Bentley’s election as our 53rd governor we have now voted for a Republican for governor in six of the last seven contests. That means that at the end of Bentley’s term in 2014, a Republican will have been governor 24 out of 28 years and a Democrat only four.
When Kay Ivey is sworn in as lieutenant governor it will be the first time since 1901 that a Republican governor has served with a Republican lieutenant governor. All seven of our constitutional offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor and agriculture commissioner are held by Republicans. Eight of our nine State Supreme Court justices are Republican, as well as 12 out of 12 members of the Courts of Civil and Criminal Appeals. That makes our state judiciary 20 out of 21 Republican.
The most shocking and telling story of the 2010 tsunami is the sweeping away of Democratic control of the State Legislature. This was the last bastion of Democratic control and the Republicans took both chambers. Both the House and Senate had been overwhelmingly majority Democratic for 136 years. However, the Senate went from having 20 Democrats, 14 Republicans and one independent, to having 22 Republicans, 12 Democrats and one independent. The House went from having 60 Democrats and 43 Republicans with two vacancies to having 62 Republicans and 43 Democrats. Then four more Democrats switched parties last week making the numbers in the House 66 Republicans and 39 Democrats. This gives the Republicans a filibuster proof majority in both the House and the Senate.
More importantly the most profound power garnered is that Republicans will have the pencil to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts for the next decade. They will be able to stabilize and even enhance their majority. They will also have a Republican governor to sign off on and not veto their redistricting plan.
The novelty to the GOP tidal wave that changed Alabama is that it came from Washington just like the 1964 sea change. This seismic partisan shift was created by an anti-Barack Obama sentiment the same way that Alabamians reacted to Lyndon Johnson. In essence, LBJ drove a stake into the heart of the Alabama Democratic Party and Barack Obama drove the final nail in the coffin.
Only time will tell.
‰ Steve Flowers’ column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.