Alabamians, like myself, like to believe we are a good people. And most of us are.
The politicians whom we select to represent us, on the other hand, are of a different breed.
Gov. Robert Bentley is not the first embarrassing elected official in Alabama, and he won’t be the last. Despite our conservative family values and high rates of pew occupation, we have a consistent track record of choosing unethical representatives.
But Bentley ran on Republican family values. He was a deacon at his church. He taught Sunday school.We have a governor who is accused of sending a helicopter to pick up his wallet after a fight with his former wife, ditching his security detail to catch a Celine Dion concert and using state aircraft to consummate an affair.
He also spent thousands on burner cellphones and ordered the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer not to cooperate with the investigation into former House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
We have a state government more accustomed to controversy than stability because we insist on electing our officials based on racially and religiously motivated stereotypes and party affiliation.
Former Gov. George Wallace — whom Alabamians selected to serve a record four terms as governor — spent his entire life literally standing in the doorway blocking progress, but he was a good ‘ole boy, devout Methodist and family man.
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He was also a white supremacist and segregationist.
Wallace’s successor after his fourth term, former Gov. Guy Hunt was not much better.
Hunt, a Primitive Baptist preacher, was elected governor after painting Democrats as dirty politicians in 1986. He portrayed his Democratic challenger as pro-gay during his re-election campaign in 1990.
Hunt could be seen as a predecessor to today’s “family values” candidates.
Pastor Hunt was forced to pay back thousands of dollars to the state after it was discovered that he used state aircraft to travel to religious conferences while in office.
He accepted love offerings for sermons he delivered during those trips — financed on the tax payers’ dime — and was later convicted of a felony during his second term in office for stealing $200,000 from his inaugural fund.
We sure know how to pick ‘em.
Hunt was forced to resign, as a convicted felon can’t hold office in Alabama, which is kind of shocking considering our standards don’t seem that high. Then-Lt. Gov. “Little” Jim Folsom Jr. — son of “Big” Jim Folsom Sr. the promiscuous legend and former governor — was sworn in to succeed Hunt after his resignation.
Folsom Jr. was a short reprieve from Alabama’s crappy politicians, despite several faults of his own.
He beat out 30 other states to recruit a Mercedes Benz plant to Alabama — a plant which still employs thousands in Tuscaloosa County. Folsom Jr. also appointed numerous African Americans and women to the executive branch during his term of less than two years.
And he took the confederate flag down from atop the state capitol dome in 1993, less than a week after assuming office.
But Alabamians rejected him when he ran for his first elected term as governor in 1994. It should have been no surprise that he would lose, considering he wasn’t a preacher or a segregationist. Folsom Jr. was defeated by then-former Gov. Fob James, who had served a first term several years before from 1979–83 — between two of Wallace's terms.
In a case of uncanny foreshadowing, Roy Moore — when he was serving as Etowah County circuit judge during James’ term — rose to prominence after he refused to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom after a federal judge ordered him to.
James supported him, even threatening to mobilize the national guard if the federal government tried to remove the plaque.
It’s not just governors we can’t seem to pick.
Moore’s plaque in Etowah County was wooden and much smaller than the granite one he had commissioned for the state judicial building after he was elected Alabama Supreme Court chief justice in 2000.
Moore’s 5,000-pound granite monument got him removed from office Nov. 13, 2003, after he defied federal court orders to remove the monument.
It was removed the next day.
Alabamians resoundingly re-elected him in 2012 to the same position from which he was removed in 2003.
Moore has only gone on to further embarrass the state, leading a Supreme Court that has been a mockery, even by his own established standards, and now he is once again suspended and facing a trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.
We just really, really can’t seem to pick them.
To complete the triangle of governmental embarrassment, Auburn’s own Hubbard was recently convicted on 12 felony ethics violations for public corruption.
Maybe we should start electing people based on accomplishment, intellect and vision, instead of deciding based on the color of their skin, which church they attend and to which political party they belong.
Chip can be reached at community@ThePlainsman.com
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