I have had the privilege of talking and living with the incredible people of Alabama since 1999. I came to the state sort of by accident, but once here I quickly learned what most natives have known all their lives.

Alabama is freaking terrific.

Alabama is conservative.

Alabama is more than the perception of the rest of the USA.

Alabama is good … and kind.

Alabama is conservative.

Alabama loves football (college).

Alabama is conservative.

Alabama is beautiful.

Did I mention that Alabama is conservative?

Well, it is. Sorta. Kinda. Hmmm.

I don’t mention this as an indictment, but more as an observation.

You see, when I began my radio career in Montgomery, Republicans (who loved to call themselves “lifelong conservatives”) were in the minority. Democrats were all over the place in Alabama politics and had been in the majority since the Civil War.

While I’m not here to give any history lessons, Democrats may well have been in control, but Alabama was still a conservative place. Y’all know that.

In fact, I’m not sure how conservative anybody is anymore.

Let’s back up to 2000. I’ve been saying since my first talk show on good old WACV that “todays’ Republicans are yesterdays’ Democrats and todays’ Democrats are yesterdays’ socialists.” A steady progressive political shift has been slowly flowing for 60 years. It’s never been more evident than today. The government growth will continue unless we (the people) demand it to stop. Alabama isn’t immune to this principle. Elected parties in power tend to spend money through taxation on the issues that matter to them and their constituents.

Flash forward to fall 2010. After those statewide elections, the GOP controlled every level of state politics – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, House and Senate. All of it. This new wave promised ethics reform and a right-sizing of government. A New Conservatism. A new open way to govern. Excitement was high.

I was loath to mention the noticeable shift in the early years of GOP control. Despite my libertarian leanings and the GOP propensity to focus on social issues rather than fiscal discipline, I forgave the small stuff to accomplish a larger job of shrinking government and right-sizing the role of elected bodies.

Lately, the GOP majority seems overly fixated on issues that I might, as a libertarian, consider a priority (gambling, medical marijuana, etc.). I doubt, however, the average conservative in rural Alabama thinks these should be an emphasis. I know some in state politics believe these should be top political priorities. I can only guess some others (many) look the other way for the benefit of the money it would bring into state coffers. Or, often, the money that finds its way into campaign funds.

All this leads me to our recent Alabama special session on state prison reform. Most who pay attention to these things recognize the importance of improving the prison system in our state. Our legislators and others in the executive branch have been promising it for decades. Federal ‘takeover’ has loomed large in the last 10 years. I join most in Alabama applauding our elected officials for getting something done. But am I the only one concerned a conservative state like ours had to rely on $400 million in COVID-19 federal fake money?

In case you missed it, the legislature utilized loose language in the American Rescue Plan to use $400 million in federal COVID relief to partially fund the Act which will build these prisons. This federal money is borrowed “monopoly money.” It exists only as it was created by selling bonds against the credit of the United States. In other words … it never existed.

Does this sound like conservative government?

Should our brick-and-mortar structures designed to keep criminals off the street be propped up with money ‘borrowed’ for a pandemic that will never be paid back?

I don’t pretend to have the answer to how it should have been done. But surely I’m not the only guy around that gets heartburn when our state has to rely on phony borrowed federal money to fulfill a basic function of our state government – to keep our citizens safe.

I don’t think so …

… but Alabama has certainly changed in the 22 years I’ve been here. Maybe the idea of small government and state autonomy vs. federal government dependence truly has shifted the way I predicted back then.

I hope I am wrong.

But I doubt it.

Matt Murphy is co-host of ‘Matt and Val’, heard in Alabama each weekday morning from 6-10 on Talk 99.5. Everywhere at Talk995.com His column appears every Tuesday and Friday in 1819 News. 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 email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com