Steve Flowers is Alabama’s premier political journalist and commentator. He is also considered by many to be the preeminent authority on Alabama politics and Alabama political history.

October 16, 2014

Weekly Column This Week in Alabama Politics

This year’s state primary elections have brought very little drama or surprises. However, there have been the inevitable novel surprises nationwide.

One of the most glaring jaw droppers was the defeat of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia. He lost his House seat to a Tea Party challenger within the Republican Primary. Many national commentators found his defeat implausible and inexplicable. However, it was apparent to me from afar that it can very well be explained that he was more interested in being seen on national television than in his Virginia district. Cantor spent more time talking national issues on national talk shows than making sure he spent time with the folks who elected him and listening to what issues they were interested in talking about. There is a tried and true maxim in politics that “all politics is local.”

The most telling fact in the Cantor demise scenario is that he spent more on steak dinners than his opponent spent on his own campaign to defeat Cantor. Indeed, all of these steak dinners were bought and eaten outside of Cantor’s district. Perhaps if Cantor had spent as much time with his constituents as he did raising money from fat cat contributors he would still be in Congress.

Besides holding lavish fundraising dinners at fancy Washington, D.C. steakhouses, which cost more than his opponent spent, he also entertained potential campaign contributors in cities that included Boca Raton, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Atlanta, Denver, and Beverly Hills.  You would have to say Cantor probably got too big for his britches. He got a bad case of Potomac fever and it got the best of him.

On a quasi-national/local note the City of Birmingham has made a valiant but probably futile attempt to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Birmingham has about as much chance to land the Democratic confab as Mars. The primary criteria for a political party selecting a city for a convention sight is to enhance their chances of carrying that state in the presidential election. The chances of the Democratic presidential candidate winning Alabama in 2016 is about as good as a snowball’s chance in hell.

The more likely winner of the sweepstakes for the Democratic Convention will be Cleveland or Columbus, Ohio.  Ohio is the ultimate swing state. Philadelphia could be a possibility. Pennsylvania is a marginal swing state with a Democratic lean.  However, they may ultimately pick the Big Apple. Although New York is as reliably Democratic as Alabama is Republican, they may acquiesce to the urge to make the convention a complete coronation of Hillary Clinton. New York is the adopted home of Bill and Hillary. She also was the U.S. Senator from New York.

The 2012 Democratic Convention was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. This was a way to pay back the Tar Heel State for their support of Barack Obama in 2008. However, North Carolina fell back into the GOP fold in 2012.

Alabama did host a national party convention in 1948. Appropriately, the Heart of Dixie was host to the Dixiecrat Convention that year. White southerners had voted straight Democratic for over 75 years. However, Harry Truman, the 1948 Democratic nominee, was more than tacitly backing a civil rights plank. The Democratic platform called for eliminating the poll tax, integrating the Army and all abolishing all segregation laws

Alabama and southern delegates walked out of the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia and headed to hot Birmingham, Alabama. They gathered at Birmingham’s municipal auditorium. Bull Conner ranted racist rhetoric to 6,000 people gathered to nominate someone other than Truman. They nominated South Carolina Governor, Strom Thurmond. He accepted the nomination and stated, “There’s not enough troops in the Army to break down segregation and admit Negroes into our homes, our theaters and our swimming pools.”  The rest is history.

See you next week.