Hubbard contended that groups in the Democratic Party — specifically, the Alabama Education Association — were going to bring out candidates who will pretend to be Republicans so they can run for the Republican nomination, and with the money and backing from non-Republican sources, “hijack our primary.”
This fear is not ill-founded. With so many Democrats switching parties in recent years, it will be difficult to tell who is a “real” Republican. The GOP may have a way to determine who is on the approved list. The “most” Republican candidates will be the incumbents.
“We’re in the incumbent protection business,” Hubbard said. “No longer are we trying to take out Democrats. We are trying to protect our majority.”
The message is clear. Anyone who challenges an incumbent in the GOP primary will be opposed by the party, which has a pile of money raised to keep the loyal majority in power. More subtle is the suggestion that anyone who challenges an incumbent is not a real Republican. Incumbency is political purity. Opposition is immediately suspect.
It follows that if things work as Hubbard plans, the GOP will not only keep its majority, it will keep a majority that will follow its leaders in the future, just as it has in the past.
Alabama Republicans have every right to be concerned, but not just about Democrats slipping into the GOP primary and disrupting things. Alabama Republicans should be concerned that what the speaker is advocating will stifle dissent and discussion within the party, will keep new candidates with new ideas from emerging, and will lead to an entrenched majority running things their way.
That is why The Club was the appropriate site for Hubbard to warn the faithful and rally them to the cause of incumbents.
The Club attracts those who used to run things and, in many cases, still do. The Club and similar private establishments were and are the province of the Big Mules — banking, insurance, manufacturing, agriculture, etc. They were “pretend Democrats” back when you had to be a Democrat to get elected in Alabama.
How the tables have turned. “Pretend Democrats” have come out of the closet and openly declared themselves to be Republicans. Now they want to solidify their hold on the state by removing “pretend Republicans” from their ranks.
How different is a “real Republican” of today from the “pretend Democrats” of yesteryear?
Looking at the last legislative session, the answer seems to be not much.