Whether they had a “D” or an “R” behind their name, most office-seekers in the state self-apply the label “proud Alabama conservative.”
In the vast majority of cases, however, this is blatant false advertising.
For far too much of its history, Alabama has not been governed by conservatism, meaning the cautious, prudent and fiscally sound exercise of power. No, we’ve been led by radicals, politicians skilled at raising passions, creating scapegoats and the inability to smartly budget.
We’ve never raised or spent what’s needed for a first-rate public education system. We’ve left too many holes in the social safety net. And we’ve historically preferred to blame our sad condition on some external force opposed to our “way of life.”
Because of the long-run implications, true conservatives would have never short-changed our schools, sold our abundant natural resources so cheaply or wasted so much time and money fighting to preserve a morally bankrupt system of segregation.
That’s our history. We can’t change it, but we can learn from it.
Sadly, the Republicans running the show in Montgomery don’t seem to have learned to avoid the mistakes Democrats made while in the majority from the mid-1870s until 2010.
Since taking power three years ago, Alabama Republicans litigated against health-care reform that will undoubtedly cover more Alabamians who currently lack health insurance.
Their immigration law has been vastly undercut by federal courts, something that could be easily forecast when it was signed by the governor in 2011.
Now, their school reform law, which was hastily constructed and quickly passed with nothing in the way of public hearings, is a confused muddle. No one knows how much the Alabama Accountability Act will cost. No one can be certain if it will work to help children enrolled in “failing schools.” After confidently signing it into law in March, Gov. Robert Bentley this week announced he has misgivings, and would prefer a two-year pause before it takes effect.
The Legislature will take up that suggestion on Monday. Members will put their claims of conservatism to the test. If they heed the governor and put off the act for at least years, we’ll know if they are acting as true conservatives. If instead they rush forward with a law that was passed based more on aspirations and passion than solid empirical evidence, then the word “conservative” won’t be applicable.