No life-support system exists for the Alabama Democratic Party. If it dies, it dies. Alabama Republicans, dominant and omnipresent, wouldn’t dare try CPR, nor should they. Politics aren’t that kind.
Today, this state’s Democratic Party is a comatose patient struggling for relevance, its pain a combination of self-induced wounds and Alabama Republicans’ decade of dominance. It’s only short-term hope is an overhaul at the top of the party’s food chain, a fact as obvious as the spring pollen on our car windshields.
We’re not sure who is best suited to pilot Alabama’s Democrats, though Tabitha Isner, who lost her U.S. House bid last fall, is a promising candidate. But we’re convinced it’s not Nancy Worley, the state party’s chairwoman, or Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference. What have Alabama Democrats -- and, specifically, Alabama Democratic candidates -- received under Worley and Reed’s leadership?
Certainly not results. In last November’s elections, Democrats lost every statewide race in Alabama, every congressional race and lost five flipped House seats to their rival party. A week later, The Montgomery Advertiser reported that the Alabama Democratic Party sat on hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been used to fight well-funded Republicans’ advertising campaigns.
What’s more, Reed’s ADC requested exorbitant amounts of money from Democratic candidates for that organization’s get-out-the-vote efforts, The Advertiser reported. Isner, a Montgomery nonprofit executive who lost to U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said the ADC requested $25,000 from her campaign. The two sides negotiated the fee down to $5,000.
Don’t think that’s not prominent among Isner’s reasons for running for the state party’s chair.
“We’re working on an old model that is just not very realistic in present-day situations,” Isner told The Advertiser. “Candidates who only raise $25,000 total, being told they should contribute $25,000 is obviously unworkable … My concern is there is not a sense of joint problem-solving.” In a statement this week, Isner said her party “need(s) leadership who will trust, empower and support the full spectrum of Alabama Democrats to implement a diverse array of strategies -- not just the old familiar methods. Trying new things is the only way to get a new result.” That Reed aggressively fought -- and temporarily succeeded -- last year to block a challenge to Worley’s post shows how hard the old guard of the state’s Democratic Party will fight to retain the status quo.
Unlike the Alabama Republican Party, the state’s Democrats are in effect a coalition of dissimilar groups: black voters, old-guard Democrats and modern progressives who crave candidates such as Georgia’s Stacey Abrams. These groups share their party’s umbrella but disagree elsewhere. And in absence of leadership that can meld those factions into a functioning, competitive party, Alabama Democrats are left with the ineffective (Worley) and the divisive (Reed). If our state is ever going to return to the health of two-party politics, this much change.
This editorial has been corrected to remove an erroneous reference to Tabitha Isner's campaign finances.