Only in Alabama could we turn blessings into curses.

We all know the rule: if you don’t have anything nice to say in the Heart of Dixie, just bless their heart.

That’s Alabama, folks - a land of niceties and euphemisms where a whole series of gosh-darn-it’s, got-dang-it’s, dag-nab-it’s and dog-gone-it’s spare us the abuse of the Lord’s good name while God’s blessings are used in vain to damn men all the same.

No wonder then that certain truths in Alabama politics only ever seem to reach the level of hushed whispers for years on end. We merely imply truths to politely deny certain unpleasant facts staring us in the face. Certain things just aren’t supposed to be said aloud in polite company — well, not until these certain truths rise to the level of politically useful scandals. That’s when the alluring triad of sex, money, and power rears its ugly head.

Such vice is incredibly useful in the political arena, especially Alabama’s. Though I would personally much prefer scandalous love over illicit money-making or other sordid political ambitions (the latter two tend to land a man in prison while the former tends to end in ignominy or even a new office manager) such temptations have been known to upend Alabama’s high-profile political players stretching back through the decades.

That said, today we face another unpleasant fact in Alabama that does not quite fit neatly into this triad of temptations. This unseemly truth is not a scandal. It is not about sex or money, corrupt back-room bribes or conspiratorial cover-ups, whiskey or women.

No, the harsh truth staring Alabamians in the face today is the timeless tragedy of old age and inheritance.

At 77 years young, Governor Kay Ivey is the oldest Governor in the United States. At age 72, scandal helped promote Ivey to the Governor’s Mansion. After Governor Robert Bentley had what was reported to be some sort of sex with a woman who wasn’t his wife — and made a comically flaccid yearlong attempt to deny it and covered it up — Ivey ascended from the position of Lieutenant Governor to Governor after Bentley’s resignation. Ivey then used the power of the incumbency (as well as a safe conservative record) to easily win re-election in 2018. She is now seeking re-election again as incumbent Governor in 2022 with many challengers in a crowded GOP primary. Despite the primary challengers, she is still the favorite to win. Ivey will be 78 on Election Day and, if she wins, an octogenarian midway through her term.

These are the basic facts.

Now, here’s the rude, unspeakable question: if re-elected, will Governor Ivey be physically and mentally capable of responsibly fulfilling the duties of her office for another full term?

The honest answer is: I don’t know.

I would like to say “yes.” There would be even some comfort in a confirmed “no.” Instead, I am left to the suspicions my own ears and eyes provide while hearing scurrilous rumors through the grapevine.

I suspect I am not the only one in Alabama who has thought of this - especially Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

Ainsworth is himself running for re-election unopposed and is now supporting Ivey’s own bid despite heated public disagreements over COVID policy. There is a good - at least non-zero - probability Will Ainsworth will inherit the Governor’s Mansion and gubernatorial incumbency just as Kay Ivey did in 2017 — though let us hope sans sex scandal.

I do not bring this up to bury Kay Ivey. I wish her health and all the blessings of heaven. Truly, may God bless her mind, body, and soul — and her little dog Missy too!

I can’t help but like that dog.

But this question of Ivey’s health deserves serious reflection by voters of all ages beyond the well-worn jokes about “Governor MeeMaw,” her liquor cabinet, and tripping over Missy. The question of how community elders are to be respected as well as how they are to respect the public as political leaders is a delicate issue that blurs the lines of trust, transparency, and who actually runs the government.

How much does the public have a right to know about a leader’s health? What incentives does a leader have to disguise their health problems and withhold inconvenient information about themselves? Who takes over the reins if a leader is quietly incapacitated behind closed doors?

Governor Ivey’s team will of course deny there is anything wrong with Governor Ivey. Fair enough. When then 2018 Democratic candidate for Governor, Walt Maddox, accused Ivey of a conspiracy to cover up her ill-health — funny enough, Maddox was aided and abetted in his accusation by the same man who helped uncover the Bentley sex coverup, Spencer Collier — Ivey’s office responded forcefully with denials and doctor’s notes while branding Maddox a “lying liberal.”

I, however, am not running for office, nor am I claiming to know some inside information about the Governor’s health or any cover-up. Again, I don’t know for certain, but I am not the only person who has these concerns. We do have eyes and ears here in Alabama despite evidence to the contrary.

Many people have shared their worries about Ivey’s fortitude with me. Possibly they are partisans against her. Many also show the same concerns for President Biden as well as many US Senators. Possibly partisans again. But, just let me say, that tough old goat Richard Shelby made the right choice to retire. A patriot’s choice. More US Senators making old bones should do the same, at least to reduce taxpayer expense for Congressional pharmaceuticals.

What I do know about Governor Kay Ivey is that her people are relying on the politeness of Alabamians — here in this land of niceties, euphemisms, and blessed hearts — to keep this issue of her health tamped down to a whisper. And they’re probably right. Kay Ivey could put the health rumors to rest with a stellar debate performance, but she probably doesn’t need to address the issue at all. She seems to be sailing to re-election just fine. And, so does Lt Gov Will Ainsworth who looks as healthy as a horse, physically and politically.

So, does a vote for Kay Ivey mean a vote for Will Ainsworth to inherit the Governor’s Mansion and incumbency before the term is up?

It’s not impossible.

And, maybe, that’s what the people of Alabama want. Given years of corruption, bribes, sex scandals, and all-around dysfunctional government, I can’t fully blame them.

Maybe, indeed, Alabama is pleased with a mediocre yet charming matriarch who, yes, may sometimes wobble but keeps the ship of state steady relative to the turbulence of decades past.

Poor Alabama, bless your heart.

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-12noon. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback please email newsandviews931@gmail.comThe 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