Election was good for Republicans in area

Posted 11/8/18

Well, in Alabama there is no doubt who is the dominant party. You could see 2-1 Republican margins throughout the area, no matter what the race. It was a landslide effect. I saw only two area …

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Election was good for Republicans in area

Posted

Well, in Alabama there is no doubt who is the dominant party. You could see 2-1 Republican margins throughout the area, no matter what the race. It was a landslide effect. 

I saw only two area exceptions at a glance. In the Jefferson County sheriff's race, Sheriff Mike Hale, a Republican, lost 51 percent to 49 percent, to one of his detectives, Democrat Mark Pettway, who becomes the first African-American sheriff there. (The county also got another Democrat to be its first African-American district attorney.) 

Also, District 6 state Senate race where Republican incumbent Larry Stutts won 51 percent to 49 percent over Democrat Johnny Mack Morrow. That Senate win was notable here too because Morrow was making a major issue of saving the Hamilton Campus of Bevill State Community College, practically waging war against the college. Now Morrow won't even be in the House, much less the Senate. Stutts noted that the vote in Marion County helped him, winning 4,267 to 1,986, according to the TimesDaily; he actually had more votes than four years ago. (Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed said the GOP won 27 of 35 state Senate seats, by the way.) 

Of course, in Walker County and the area, it was expected to be a Republican deluge. Independents didn't do well. And the real surprise here was the turnout and the explosion of straight-ticket balloting, approaching nearly 10,000 of the 23,286 ballots cast. Commissioner Keith Davis stressed how that was a record; he had never seen any numbers like it. 

And then there was Nick Smith, who has finally, at long last, secured the Sheriff’s Office after a bruising, long battle after like a year and a half. He notes he is the youngest sheriff in the county’s history, just barely being under John Mark Tirey’s age when he took office. (I find it is tricky when you hear someone elected is the first this or the youngest that, as someone else will trip you up with someone from 1895 or 1932. But we will go with it.) 

Frankly, Smith ran a great modern race, starting early, getting his name out on Facebook, raising loads of cash and setting out a platform of actions. He appeared young and energetic, and had an active record as a police chief in two local communities. He indicated he would be out there patrolling as well. The incumbent had his share of problems over the past year, and people were genuinely concerned about the drug situation and county finances. 

Of course, now Jim Underwood can use George Washington’s line when John Adams took over as president: “He is fairly in and I am fairly out. Let’s see which one of us will be happiest.” Smith now inherits a 600-pound gorilla which is underfunded, understaffed and which has had a political atmosphere at times. But Smith apparently is not going in willy nilly; he has talked of looking at other sheriff operations and making sure county officials are up-to-date on what the situations are. I think he is going to think long and hard on his thoughts on how to handle the community corrections situation, which has now been punted by the commission to when Smith takes office. 

I do think the things that the public will be most eager to see are (a.) how will he get along with the sheriff staff and county commissioners, (b.) how will he he deal with the drug problem, specifically in terms of if there is a drug task force, (c.) can he handle a larger law enforcement department, (d.) can he improve conditions in the county jail, and (e.) how will he handle the finances. That will be enough to do, but then there are other issues. For instance, the courthouse crowd will look to see if he and the commission finally figure out a way to beef up courthouse security before a major incident takes place. 

I know there are many who are still bitter about the campaign. I get that. But we have to move on and make law enforcement as one solidified purpose, working together for the good of the county. Hopefully, Smith can make the most of this honeymoon period with the commission, the officers and the public. But we all need to support Smith now and get behind him in these early stages and give him a chance. 

Now, let's look at the national outcome, which was more mixed. The blue wave turned into a trickle, and the Democrats barely won the House, while Republicans strengthened themselves in the Senate. The GOP didn't do bad in the governor races, either. I think voters did not equate the national debate with the governors in particular, anyway.

I don't think anyone should be able to crow about these results in Congress, and should take what quiet satisfactions they can; it is a decidedly mixed bag. The White House should be the most unsettled, as investigations are certain for him. Deadlocks are coming, unless the art of compromise is reintroduced in Congress, which would not be a bad thing.

(Opening up procedures for more debate and input should be a priority, too, as some reports indicate the process we were taught in school to pass a bill has practically been ripped up so a few people control it all, even to the exclusion of congressional committees, which meet less frequently. Look up an excellent Washington Post analysis published Monday called "Laws and Disorder" to see more about this problem.) 

As for the big picture, the results remind me of when the county Republicans came close in Walker County in 2008. Local Democrats were elated, but it was the last hurrah, and a sign that they were vulnerable. By the next cycle, things were changing. 

The nation is changing, as was seen by the new influx and rise of women and minorities. The number of minorities are growing so that whites will be in the minority in this nation by 2045, according to analysis of U.S. Census figures by the Brookings Institution. Woman are more active and vocal, and are now more accepted in politics. Right now, none of those groups have been courted well by the GOP and Trump. 

If one looks at the national results, it was not like in Alabama. The margin of victories for Republicans were smaller in some of the hotly contested races, such as in Georgia and Texas. Moreover, the political map was more favorable to Republicans in the Senate to start with this year. 

I am not saying the the GOP is losing all its power - the economy certainly helped, and many I think rejected the extreme left-wing arguments; some Democrats also shot themselves in the foot as well - but the political landscape is changing and Trump has been completely helpful in reaching core groups who are ascending to power. By a couple more election cycles, we could see these groups become more the norm.

Meanwhile, circumstances change on a dime in Trump's world, and that could go against everyone, as he really will be on the ballot next time. I think the truth is while many people voted for candidates due to Trump, probably many more nationally voted against candidates because of Trump, although this depends also on the candidates themselves. But the unpredictability, the air of hostility, and the finger-pointing and exclusion for these segments of the population will eventually backfire on Republicans unless action is taken in the next two years. Fear and loathing only get you so far; even George Wallace changed his tune in the 1970s. 

Certainly, in Alabama this is Trump's strongest base, and the results I think proved that. But if I were Republicans, I would be worried because the times, they are a-changin' - and the president won't. Locked in with Trump at the moment, if the GOP can't find ways to adapt - finding ways to reach out on issues that affect women and minorities to deal with more inclusiveness in the process and the results - and Democrats find a candidate they can rally around in 2020, the signs of the times in 2008 may be flipped to show Trump and his supporters may have an expiration date.