I heard the story once of a famous tightrope walker who strung a line across Niagara Falls. The crowd watched expectantly and fearfully as he walked from one side to the other over the massive raging waters as if it was just a stroll in the park. Upon reaching the far side, he lifted a bale of hay and propped it on his shoulders and walked back to the utter amazement of the crowd. He then added the audacious move of carrying a live pig under each arm to the far side, and the crowd went wild with cheering and laughing, all the while extolling his skill and bravery. Surely he was the greatest tightrope walker of all time!
The daredevil then returned to the crowd and shouted out, “who believes that I am unparalleled to this feat of tightrope walking?” and the crowd roared their agreement. “Who believes that I could carry a man on my back across this great and dangerous divide?” followed by more deafening roars of the crowd. “Who then will volunteer to be that man that I carry across?”… silence.
It is like that sometimes in life and especially in politics. It can be so easy to get a populist message going: “We’re going to cut taxes”…yay! “We’re going to fight back against government regulations”… yeah! “We’re going to push back against Biden’s vaccine mandates”... yeah! “Who’s with me?”… silence.
I’m not saying we are at that point yet, but there is a deafening silence coming from Montgomery lawmakers right now. All of the Republicans claim to be against President Biden’s vaccine mandates. They each would love to be the hero of the moment. But no one is really pushing that hard just now to get it done.
Now granted, there is a bill in the hopper. House Bill 31 is being floated by Representative Ritchie Whorton. I don’t know that it is the only means of achieving the aim, but it’s the only one out there now. I’ve talked offline with sources on both sides of HB31. Twenty House members signed on as co-sponsors, some of whom are now experiencing buyer’s remorse because they didn’t bother to read the bill first. We’ve also got the usual concerns being sounded by the business community, which are not completely out of line. Businesses don’t want to return to the days of “tort hell” in Alabama and find themselves being sued for every grievance imaginable.
There are concerns that the bill does in fact open the door for massive litigation against businesses. That bill needs some work but the issue remains real nonetheless.
There is a legitimate need here and now and it is not imagined nor fictional. It is a real, solid, in-the-weeds, down-and-dirty need regarding what should be the simple question of whether a person should be required by the government to submit to a vaccine or lose their private sector job. In contrast, should the private sector employer be told by the government, whether state or federal, that they cannot set the health parameters of their workplace?
This is the fine line - the tightrope if you will - that the Legislature cannot ignore. This is Alabama, a state whose motto is “We Dare Defend Our Rights” and to quote the British SAS “Who Dares Wins!” The Legislature must dare to walk that tightrope, and soon. And in doing so they need to err on the side of freedom and liberty. Attorney General Steve Marshall stated it very clearly when he recently called upon the State Legislature to enter into debate for the purposes of passing legislation that requires employers to give accommodation for religious and medical exemptions and due consideration for natural antibodies. This is doable and should be done immediately as citizens around this state face losing their jobs just at the holiday season.
If employers won’t do those things, then they should be prepared for litigation or fines. It’s really that simple and it sits squarely in the ability of the employer to set their own destiny and to be a hero to their employees.
For the most part, it is just doing the right thing. It is also in alignment with the law. It is also in keeping with our state’s verbal posture against mandates.
This means that the Legislature, whose members were elected to do hard things and to set the tone for our state, should come into Montgomery with their jaw set and their gaze fixed with no quibbling over whether it’s scary. Just do the deed!
Honestly, this shouldn’t have to be so hard.
If the Governor and Legislature think that saying nothing, or doing nothing, will be quickly forgotten, they should think again. This one is on the verge of becoming one of those viral moments when the grassroots anger is actually heard.
This is doable. A bit of tightrope to be sure, but if lawmakers are going to shout and clamor then they must be willing to walk that tightrope when the time comes.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.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 email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com