Craig Ford – Our state leaders need to get back to the mainstream


When even the Republican leader in the state senate says you’re out of touch, you know things have gone too far. But that is where we are in Alabama politics these days. It’s about the mainstream versus the extreme, and right now the extreme is winning.

In a recently released recording of a meeting between the governor and the Alabama Republican Party’s governing committee, Republican Party chair Terry Lathan said that the Republican Party brand had been damaged by Sen. Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) support for a lottery.

The highest-ranking Republican in the state senate, Marsh responded in the press by saying, “While I think a majority of Alabamians support the gaming option, I’m not really surprised that the leadership of the party might not. I think unfortunately the party leadership is probably to the right of most citizens on this issue, and many of them, I think, are just out of touch on the issue.”

I agree that most Alabamians – whether they are Republican, Democrat or Independent -support a state lottery. They certainly prefer a lottery over more taxes! But the lottery is not the only issue where so many Republican legislators and party leaders are, as Sen. Marsh said, “out of touch” with the people of Alabama.

Take, for example, what one Republican state representative from North Alabama said on the radio last week.

The host of the show brought up an article where they interviewed people living in counties where the DMV offices had been closed. One of the people interviewed was a former U.S. Marine named Kimberly Spruell.

The host of the radio show began bashing Kimberly, suggesting that she “put her kid on her back and carry them…” because the walk “should be nothing” for a U.S. Marine.

Instead of defending this Marine against a baseless, uneducated attack from a radio talk show host who probably never spent one day in a uniform (let alone in a time of war), this Republican state representative joined in on bashing this American hero.

Most of us would have stood up for Kimberly Spruell, but this state representative kept up the attack by saying, “You’ve got some people that just wallow in being a victim…It’s almost as if some people enjoy being a victim. I mean, they want pity and they want somebody else to do everything for them. Well that’s a miserable way to live…It’s really sad.”

Kimberly Spruell served our country in the United States Marine Corps during a time of war, and this state representative thanked her by telling her to quit “wallowing in being a victim.”

I wish I could tell you that this is just one instance of extremism overcoming common sense, but unfortunately it is far from uncommon. Unfortunately, people like this representative and Chairwoman Lathan aren’t rare in state leadership these days. They just happen to be the ones who got recorded saying the kinds of things most of us would never even consider thinking.

And what’s scary is that the people who think this way currently have absolute power over our state government!

These legislators not only decide how your tax dollars are spent; they decide what kind of education your child will get and whether your elderly parent or grandparent gets dialysis or has to pay higher taxes on the medicine they need to survive.

These legislators have an incredible responsibility, and this is what they think about you the people paying their salaries. That one of them would not only think something like this about a veteran U.S. Marine who served during a time of war but go on the radio and say it to thousands of listeners shows that they don’t even see anything wrong with what they’re doing and saying. 

What these instances show is that our state leadership has been overtaken by a brand of extremism that is so far out of touch with the people of Alabama that even some prominent Republicans like Sen. Marsh are now being forced to call it what it is.

It’s not about Democrats and Republicans or Liberals and Conservatives anymore. It’s about the difference between the mainstream and the extreme. It’s about making our government work for the people of Alabama instead of against them. It’s about leaders in government who follow the will of the people instead of some extreme ideology. It’s about state representatives who respect the people they represent instead of calling them whiners who “enjoy being a victim.”

It’s time our state leaders abandon their “out of touch” extremism and start putting the people of Alabama first!

Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.  

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