The sadly predictable state rankings that were released last week by USNews shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who’s been following Alabama politics. Of course, Alabama was ranked the 49th worst state. Perhaps, the only surprise was that Mississippi leap-frogged Alabama on the list. The blame for this pathetic showing rests squarely on the shoulders of conservatives because they refuse to support any legislation that promotes economic, or social, upward mobility. They remain wedded to divisive cultural rhetoric and the politics of cruelty. Conservatives continue to vilify progressive taxation and beneficial social welfare programs. Instead, they continue to cater to the wealthiest individuals, corporate special interests, and those who would infuse their religious beliefs into law.
In Alabama, they dominate and control almost all levers of government. Conservatives can only blame themselves and they should use this moment for some serious existential introspection.
The inherent cruelty of the abortion ban speaks for itself. The same is true with their recent effort to drastically shorten unemployment benefits, which are already far less than adequate. It’s also evident in their steadfast refusal to expand Medicaid. In fact, examples of conservative cruelty are endless and staggering. It’s almost as if they’re mad at Louisiana for seizing the infamy of being last on the list.
The Alabama Republican Party’s platform makes it abundantly clear that conservatives are determined to infuse their religious values into law. They’re more worried about compelling children to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance than ensuring they don’t go hungry or grow up in abject poverty. In fact, they appear to care more about the unborn than those already born. The platform is carefully worded to reject same-sex marriage and to perpetuate the myth that Alabama has a widespread problem with non-citizens voting in its elections. Republicans make it crystal clear that they think businesses are overregulated. Republicans ignore the fact that corporations continually use our state as a garbage dump or a source for the cheapest labor and obscene tax breaks. There are also a few references to the Republican’s latest mythical villain- “Activist Judges”. Each rotten plank in their platform explains why we’re 49th on the list.
Notably, what’s not mentioned is any type of aspirational plan or unifying vision to make Alabama a better place to live. They list no ideas that would change Alabama’s ranking.
Alabama is 50th in education because conservatives think charter and for-profit schools are a magical panacea, while they reject Common Core and adequate funding measures for public schools. Alabama is 46th in healthcare because they allow insurance monopolies and refuse to expand Medicaid. Alabama is 45th in crime and corrections because Republicans refuse any efforts for sensible sentencing reform and dangerously underfund jails and prisons.
Conservative Republicans have had ample time to show Alabama how their policies and proposals could result in improving the quality of life for everyone in the state. They have failed. In fact, they continue to pass legislation that all but ensures Alabama is vying permanently for Louisiana’s spot at the bottom.
Hopefully, the Alabama Democratic Party will get its act together and elect new party leadership. Democrats have a plan to improve Alabama’s ranking. They understand that government isn’t the answer to everything, but that it also shouldn’t be a big part of the problem.
Alabama Republicans should take a long, hard look at this ranking because it’s their report card. They can’t blame Democrats for their incompetence or inability to solve problems. Alabama is 49th on their watch. Simply put, passing legislation to force people to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t going to put us in the top ten.
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.