By SKIP TUCKER, Alabama Daily News Featured Columnist
The title of my accurate, insightful and, ahem, embedded eyewitness account of the 1986 Alabama Democratic Party meltdown caused by its power peddlers was taken from the mind of George Orwell.
His earthshaking novel, 1984, was published decades ago to growing acclaim. He forecast the way political parties and media could change their minds and headlines overnight.
He wrote many great things, including the eternal “Animal Farm, where in he imbued farm animals (indeed) with human characteristics such as speech, intelligence and greed. Pigs rose to the top of the, well, food chain by employing socialist propaganda. They routed their farmer owners by claiming exploitation. To take control, they first exclaimed that “All animals are equal.” They evolved the saying to “All animals are equals, but pigs are more equal” and they ran amok. Finally, of course, they took on the appearance and shoddy manners of human politicians.
Orwell was too accurate in saying his sooth.
“Political language,” he said, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidarity to pure wind.”
Today’s politics are no better.
This session of the Alabama Legislature produced some solidly good law, the best being the gas tax. Raising standards for early childhood reading, more money in the classroom and expanding access to high speed internet for rural areas are also applaudable legislative efforts. Due to interference by the federal government, the Legislature and the Governor set the table so that the state could address one of the worst inmate suicide and murder rates in the nation. Sure, I know they are criminals, many of whom are without redemption on this plane of existence, but must we kill them so casually?
Those who observe the Legislature know full well that some do little more than grandstand for their constituency. With knowledge a forethought, these people sponsor spurious, ludicrous bills touting things which are illegal on their collective faces. A worse politico can scarce be found.
Statesmen exist, but increasingly are becoming an endangered species. One senator inadvertently blurted truth by saying his bill was important to his major contributors. He’d meant to say his constituency.
It needs saying, though, that anyone who tells the sheer, unadulterated truth while seeking office will never see the inside of that office. There are shades of truth and the successful candidate gives hi or her best version of it.
Here’s an example: I did a campaign in East Alabama for a lawyer funning for circuit judge against the incumbent. The incumbent solemnly intoned in a radio spot that he had ordered criminals to make reparations to their vicitms to the tune of about a gazillion dollars.
Our campaign answered, truthfully, in a radio spot (one always replies in the media in which a charge has been laid) that while that much might have been ordered, scarcely a nickel had been recovered.
Both spots were true. But the real truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth was and is that the judge orders reparations but it is up to the district attorney to enforce and collect.
Politics is a nasty thing, inside and out. Most every session, a legislator will rise to plead for passage of a bill so important to his constituency that failure to pass it would constitute a crime against humanity. He or she will plead until purple. The they will scurry back to the committee handling the bill and threaten ten kinds of perdition if the committee doesn’t kill the damn thing. I’ve seen it happen.
Especially at risk are the lobbyists, the people we hire to protect us from the people we elect. The are lied to by legislators more times than a bar girl at closing time.
Intra-party politics can be the worst. The infighting is intense and bloody as the office holder battles his political brethren for positions of power within the party structure. But this can also be a good thing. It is survival of the fittest in one of its purest forms. In presidential politics, the one who emerges has has proved fairly fit for the most powerful political position in the history of the world. Only the strong survive.
At least politicians are predictable. They spend a year making promises then, if elected, spend three years blaming someone else because they cannot keep them. They spend the fourth year making promises again, and often the same ones.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “If you wallow with hogs, sooner of later someone will call you a swine.”
George Wallace did some bad things but he, too, was insightful. He looked at Democrat and Republican party leaders and proclaimed that there wasn’t dime’s worth of difference between them. They are equal.
But these days, it seems sometimes that many liberal Democrats are more equal than others, and much more than just some.
(Next week: A Day of Infamy)