Although Nancy Worley, acting chair of the state Democratic Party, says she won’t worry until Labor Day, she must be concerned. The lack of viable candidates means that Democrats will not be able to match Republicans in fundraising, and without money the party can do little to support candidates on the local level. As a result, the Republican march to total domination in Alabama will continue.
How much of this is the result of Republican strategy, Democratic incompetence or luck, good or bad, has been and will continue to be debated by political scientists.
As far back as the 1930s, many of the conservative Democrats who ran the state became disenchanted with the national party and its pro-labor, pro-civil rights, pro-Washington approach to governing. The more the national Democrats relied on their northern urban base, the more Southern leaders felt marginalized.
So they began shopping for a new party.
They voiced their disillusionment in 1948 when they flocked to the newly formed Dixiecrats, and when that effort failed many moved toward the Republican Party, taking with them their anti-labor, anti-civil rights, anti-Washington attitudes.
Although national Republicans were never as hostile to the civil rights movement as Southern Democrats, when the national Democratic Party pushed civil rights legislation in the 1960s, the Southern Democrats bolted. Almost overnight, the GOP existed in Dixie.
What was left behind were Democrats friendly to organized labor, friendly to black politicians and friendly to education and public-employee unions.
These Democrats were vulnerable to being characterized as being more “liberal” on issues like abortion, immigration, gay marriage, gun rights and religion in the public sector (when in reality they were only a little “less” conservative than their GOP opponents.)
Yes, as acting chair Worley has told AL.com, Republicans were able to “get people stirred up on hot-button issues,” but so far the Democrats, according the Jess Brown, political scientist at Athens State University, have been “without an effective message or messenger.”
Until the Democrats get both, things do not look good for two-party politics in Alabama.