My state, Alabama, is not always noted for being at the forefront of needed social and economic reforms. But today we're being noticed for our singular conspicuous progress. On June 9th Governor Robert Bentley signed into law (HB56, the Beason-Hammon Act) aimed at curtailing illegal immigration in the state. Bentley called it "the strongest immigration bill in the country". Both supporters and critics agree.
So hooray for Alabama!
The preface for this coup came in the election of last November. For the first time since the Yankees formed our legislature with their bayonets, we elected a Republican majority. It was a clean sweep: Both the House and the Senate were given Republican majorities, and Bentley, a physician with a reputation for ethical strictness, was ushered into the Governor's Mansion.
Alabama's House now has 66 Republicans vs. 39 Democrats. Alabama's Senate has 22 Republicans vs. 12 Democrats (and one independent). The House has 78 whites and 27 blacks. The Senate has 26 whites and 8 blacks. Figure 1 (click here) shows the political and racial composition of our revolutionary new legislature.
What is perhaps the most startling thing: The Republican legislators are all white. The Democrat legislators are mostly black. In the House, the black Democrats outnumber the white Democrats 27-to-12. In the Senate they outnumber them 8-to-4. (See Figure 1)
Any incorrigible skeptic who believes that elections never change anything should cast his eye down here to Alabama. To have considered a bill such as HB56 before the November election would have been to challenge Don Quijote for the futility prize. But, like a miracle ordained in Heaven, the law is now on the books.
And that's not all. Until now Paul Hubbert, chief of the AEA, the Alabama Education Association, the powerful teachers' union, has been King Kong in Montgomery, standing athwart every stream of progress needed to strengthen the State. In the past all have generally conceded that the ARA was the most powerful lobby in the State, and Hubbert the most powerful unelected politician, his power rivaling that of the governor. He notoriously used to sit in the visitors' gallery and issued hand signals to his bought legislators on the floor of the House or the Senate, telling them how to vote.
But no more. Republican government has passed a statute (now under judicial review,) outlawing the longstanding practice of withholding the teachers' union's dues from teacher's paychecks. And a knowledgeable legislator tells me that anything with a whiff of Hubbert's odor about it is routinely routed immediately to the refuse bin.
The new illegal alien law is indeed both stringent and healthy, as a partial listing of some of its main points will show. It
Requires the establishment of an E-verify program,
Requires employers to use E-verify to verify the employment eligibility of each person hired,
Criminalizes transporting or concealing illegal aliens,
Prohibits a landlord from knowingly renting to an illegal alien, and
Creates the crime of dealing in false identification documents.
The final vote on this bill casts a glaring light on the political and racial split in the state. Senate Republicans were near-unanimous, with all voting for the bill save one. Only two black Senators voted for the bill. (See Figure 2).
Every Republican House member voted for the bill. The House blacks were solidly on the other side, with only one defector. (See Figure 3)
Overall, including both House and Senate, the ratio of white-to-black yes votes was 88-to-5, and the ratio of Republican-to-Democrat yes votes was 83-to-8. (See Figure 4)
Abruptly, a memory of mine intrudes.
When I was a teenager I knew George Wallace. The former B-29 tail gunner was a well-known personality in Union Springs, Alabama, the small Black Belt town where I grew up. Wallace lived 30 miles away in Clayton, and was frequently in town to conduct court, since he was the circuit judge in the region. He seemed always to recess court just as school was getting out and my friends and I were gathering at the drug store across the street from the Court House. Wallace would join us and would be the center of attention as he enjoyed his Coke and smoked his cigar. This was long before he was the infamous governor who "stood in the schoolhouse door".
This autobiographical snippet would be entirely disconnected from this writing but for the fact that the memory I have just described irresistibly brings forth the deathless description Wallace used to equate the characteristics of the two parties: "Not a dime's worth of difference between them".
What we are seeing here in Wallace's old state is a decisive counter argument to this comparison. There is today considerably more than a dime's worth of difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties.
With a two-to-one black majority among the Democratic members of the Alabama Senate, and an even larger majority in the House, it is fair to say that the Democratic Party in this state is the Black Party, and the Republican Party is the White Party. How much difference is that?
If money is the metaphor, the difference is a fortune—as shown by the vote I have described.
Is Alabama a bellwether? Stranger things have happened!
Hugh McInnish [email him] is a former candidate for Congress and conservative activist. After a 30-year career in the defense industry he now works as an aerospace consultant in the hi-tech rich area of Huntsville, Alabama.