Political season in Alabama can be predictable. The ads for statewide office – the ones that need to sway lots of white folks, er, excuse me “good hard-working Americans” (I forgot the contemporary code words) – are a litany of who is further to the right. The attack ads invariably display images of the demonic, Pelosi, Hillary, Reid and Obama, in an effort to tar candidates with their association.
The best are the ones that posit the question “Too liberal for Alabama?” about opponents. As a friend and former resident once said, “Isn’t that question like saying, ‘Too Jewish for Hitler?’”
And then there’s this dolt…
Is this an accurate depiction of Alabama? Yes and no.
No, because there are Alabamians who are good people. Sure a lot of them fall prey to ignorance, but inside, they wish no one harm.
However, the unavoidable fact remains that Tim James has picked up support as a result of this. In late March, he was trailing four other candidates, one of whom is a religious right poster boy with theocratic tendencies. Since this ad premiered, and especially since it has received scrutiny in national media, he has catapulted to within a handful of points behind the leader for the GOP nom.
In a theoretical run against a white Democratic opponent (Ron Sparks), James beats him by four points, five points less than GOP frontrunner Bradley Byrne would. Against black Dem Artur Davis, James wins by 14, only one point behind Byrne. The number of “not sure” voters drops in half in the second scenario, James v. Davis.
James had to do something bold since his illusion of the “self-made businessman” wasn’t working. James comes from famous Alabama bloodlines. His father, Fob James, was an All-American running back at Auburn University who went on to parlay that into a fortune then served as governor for a couple of terms. Fob was a thick-headed man who fulfilled the worst stereotypes of Alabama, going so far as to once decry Darwinism by jumping around behind a podium while mimicking an ape before the media.
Tim didn’t fall far from the tree because, well, he needed the shade. Tim went to private school, then Auburn University as a running back, basically making the team as a “legacy” for Dad. He had a reputation around campus as being cordial but dim.
Tim left school and became a “developer,” meaning he used his father’s connections and money to fulfill whatever scheme he dreamt. One of those included a toll bridge to Orange Beach on the Redneck Riviera, not exactly a shot in the dark or something available to the average developer. The resulting structure has become problematic for the beach town James coerced into partnering with him. The municipality's present fees on it are double what their income is. James however, made $70 million selling it to an Australian firm.
In the last few years, he’s been getting familiar with little Bayou La Batre, Alabama, a fishing village near land’s end in south Mobile County. Fittingly, the hamlet was made famous in the film “Forrest Gump.” I need not underscore the punch line here.
Bayou La Batre’s economy has been hit hard in the last decade with a flood of imported shrimp and frequent strong hurricanes decimating its way of life. James wants to turn the town into a resort community, which would likely make the current independent entrepreneurs into the support services and staff needed to lick the boots of the wealthier tourists. “You just can’t find good help like this back home.”
And now James wants to be like dear ol’ Dad again, leading the state into embarrassment. So he takes the easy road.
Hence this Tea Party appearance in April of 2009.
Notice how he ridicules "a Republican governor from the far western reaches of this great nation" going to "DC with his hand held out." He follows with "We're better than that in Alabama, aren't we? If we can't take care of ourself(sic) we need to get out of this business, I tell ya'."
Huh? Alabama? The state that siphons off $1.66 of federal funds for every $1 they send in taxes?
These politicos know how well trained the locals are, how reactionary and instinctive. They know its easy to use dog whistles and code words to enact the deep-seated paranoia and xenophobia that lingers in the culture. I'd love to say it doesn't work, but the evidence would make me a liar.
I guess "stupid" really is as "stupid" does.