“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
— Yogi Berra
Though I possess no special gift of foresight, allow me to venture a few small predictions about the future of Alabama politics.
Some of the following predictions may be serious, some frivolous. Some may be obvious even to idiots, while others will seem idiotic in their fanciful speculation. Some will be questions of policy or musings on the peculiar dynamics of Alabama’s political culture, while others will be observations on the ambitions and eccentricities of Alabama’s political players. No offense is intended though some may, no doubt, be found.
I will get many things wrong, of course, but that’s the fun of it.
Prediction: The GOP-led legislature will revisit the abortion issue in 2023.
The overturn of Roe v. Wade was not only a shock to the left. So, too, were many pro-life conservatives caught flat-footed in their signaling of a pro-life zeal they never fully had.
I suspect the original sponsor of the 2019 “Human Life Protection Act,” Rep Terri Collins, will seek exceptions for rape and incest along with other tweaks to the law. The legislature will pass these amendments, and our grandmotherly governor will sign them, much to the dismay and betrayal of many pro-life conservatives with an actual zeal on the issue of abortion.
Prediction: The general election in November 2022 will largely be a snooze fest. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Most, if not all, incumbents and Republicans will win.
Gov. Kay Ivey will remain the nation’s oldest governor, for now. Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth will also remain president of the Alabama State Senate, for now. Steve Marshall will continue as Alabama’s Attorney General, Young Boozer as State Treasurer, and Rick Pate as Agriculture and Industries Commissioner. A few new faces will rise to statewide office, including Wes Allen as Secretary of State and Andrew Sorrell (a.k.a. the father of liberty) as State Auditor.
Obvious at this point, yet historic still, Katie Britt will become the first woman elected by the people of Alabama to the United States Senate (Dixie Bibb Graves in 1937 and Maryon Pittman Allen in 1978 were appointed and served less than six months each.)
Given we are in the midst of a revolutionary moment in Washington, D.C. and American political life, Britt has the opportunity of the forthcoming crisis to be even greater than past Senators Hill, Sparkman or Shelby — but the task will require more than merely following in their footsteps and bringing home the bacon.
Will Katie Britt rise to the occasion in the decades to come?
That is a prediction for another far-off day.
Prediction: The Alabama Legislature will pass one-time tax relief but nothing much bigger will come.
Whereas Alabama legislators seem impotent in their attempts to pull off the big one, they can occasionally consummate the small stuff.
With a huge budget surplus mixed with the early headwinds of a global recession, expect a one-time tax rebate (and possibly a bipartisan repeal of the grocery tax) as opposed to my preferred option of massive tax relief and restructuring.
Prediction: Outgoing Secretary of State John Merrill’s political career is far from over.
John Merrill has long been pegged as a rising star in Alabama politics. Merrill is too gifted as a retail politician, storyteller and administrator to remain out of the Alabama political arena for long. Merrill’s recent personal scandals may even prove to be humanizing if the people of Alabama are convinced of his repentance in the matter. If he does seek the governor’s mansion, Merrill will face stiff competition from the likes of Steve Marshall and Will Ainsworth.
That said, will an even greater, more alluring slot — say, another U.S. Senate seat — open up again sooner than expected?
Prediction: Coach Tommy Tuberville will not seek re-election.
After serving one six-year term in the United States Senate, Coach Tommy Tuberville will have long grown tired of Washington’s beltway culture and will voluntarily retire — much more financially secure to be sure — after sponsoring landmark pieces of legislation around the business of collegiate athletics as well as new rules as to how members of Congress may buy or sell securities.
Nick Saban will then become the next U.S. Senator from Alabama in 2026. No campaign will be necessary. When Saban announces, Alabama will just cancel the election and give him the seat.
Prediction: The AEA will continue as a force in Alabama politics.
The “new and improved” Alabama Education Association will continue to court and fund more Alabama Republicans in upcoming elections and legislative sessions, even going so far as to support a watered-down (or poison-pill) version of school choice. The AEA, along with the education bureaucracy, will also remain strangely proud of Alabama’s mediocre, if not failing, government education system.
I suppose it’s easy to be proud when you’re the king of the hill — no matter how lowly your hill may be.
How proud should the generations of children made captive to failing government schools be? Well, if they succeed, they will know it was in spite of the prevailing system forced upon them.
Prediction: Alabama’s gambling interests will continue to act like crabs in a bucket.
The legal status quo of gambling in the Yellowhammer State serves Alabama’s rent-seeking special interests all too well. It’s a damn near-perfect equilibrium.
Sure, the PCI and certain established "bingo" and "racing" interests would love to have a crony cartel enshrined in the Alabama Constitution. But, given the status quo, that’s all they’re interested in doing. There’s not enough incentive to compromise otherwise for anything less. Don’t let talk of a "clean" lottery bill get your hopes up either.
Clearly, Alabama’s gambling interests — both those for and against any potential new legal regime whether for financial, political or moral reasons — are more than willing to watch the political dice hang in mid-air, addicted to their hope for the perfect roll that will allow them to remain the house permanently.
Prediction: Gov. Kay Ivey will not serve the full term she is set to win this November.
Two years into her term — and on her own terms — Gov. Ivey will high-step her way to greener pastures far, far away from Goat Hill to spend more time with friends (and her little dog Missy too!) at the lake house. She will be remembered fondly but will always regret her failure to get gambling legislation across the finish line.
Lt. Gov Will Ainsworth, of course, will ascend to the governor’s chair and inherit incumbency on the way up. As the newly appointed governor, Ainsworth will play it safe in the initial couple years leading up to his first real election effort. He might even pick a fight with Washington, D.C. just for kicks. That said, the more time he spends in the spotlight the more Alabamians will slowly but surely begin to notice something.
What will they notice? That when Will Ainsworth gets worked up giving a speech, he tends to honk like a goose.
The people of Alabama no doubt will love him for it and will elect Governor Goose to a full term — assuming he remains scandal-free.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and currently, the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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