As mentioned last week, all polling points to a significant Republican pickup of congressional seats in the upcoming November General Election. It is a historical fact that the party that loses the White House in a presidential year, picks up congressional seats in the following midterm elections. Furthermore, Democrats are in disfavor because of runaway inflation. Voters blame Biden and the Democratic Congress for the inflated price of gas, groceries and everything else. Americans vote their pocketbook. It’s the economy that counts, is what they say.
We, however, in Alabama will vote party no matter what is going on in the economy. Over 60 percent of Alabamians will vote Republican. Although, the Libertarian party fielding a slate of state candidates may skew these numbers.
We have six Republican congressional seats, all white men and one Democratic congressional seat held by an African American woman. It would not matter if the inflation rate was 30 percent and a Republican was in the White House. We would still elect six Republican congressmen and one Democratic congressperson.
We do not fit into national politics. We are automatically placed in the Republican column for presidential elections, regardless of the Democratic or Republican nominees. We are colored red way before the election night numbers are counted. Both of our U.S. Senate seats are held by Republicans. When Katie Britt won the Republican Primary in June, the race was over. This race will be on the ballot next month. However, Britt will win. Winning the Republican Primary in the Heart of Dixie is tantamount to election.
The same was true for the Democratic Party in Alabama six decades ago. Folks, when we change, we change. We do not do things halfway. Sixty years ago, every statewide official was a Democrat. Every state judge was a Democrat. Our entire congressional delegation was Democratic. Today, not only is our congressional delegation 6-to-1 Republican, our legislature, both Senate and House, is 75 percent Republican. Every statewide elected official in Alabama is a Republican. The Republican control of Alabama politics today is so dominating that we could safely be called a one party state, again, when it comes to statewide politics.
A prevailing theme has continued in Alabama for over a century and it is still pronounced today. Our state is divided politically based on race. Over 84 percent of whites vote Republican and almost all, 96 percent of black voters, vote Democratic.
It is that simple. Most parts of the country vote based on pocketbook issues, but Alabama and the Deep South vote on race and religion. Therefore, the national congressional numbers in the U.S. House may change to Republican, but we are Republican regardless.
Our legislature will not change our congressional makeup of Alabama’s delegation from 6-to-1 Republican. However, that does not mean that the federal courts will not.
African American Democratic lawmakers filed suit in federal court in the northern district of Alabama late last year asking the court to change the lines to create a second black majority congressional district. They argued that the current six Republican seats to one Democratic seat majority, which has been in effect since 1992, blatantly violates their constitutional rights under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. If you put a percentage of the black citizens, who as we have said vote straight Democratic, into having one African American Democratic Congressman, that gives black voters 13 percent of the representation. The black population of Alabama is 27 percent. The argument that there should be two majority minority districts has some merit.
A three judge federal panel made up of two Republicans appointed jurists and one Democratic appointee agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled in their favor. They ordered the state legislature to go back to the drawing board and map out a second African American Democratic district.
The U.S. Supreme Court intervened on Jan. 24, and stayed the lower court’s decision. However, the stay was granted not on the merits of the case, but because it was too close to Alabama’s election, which had already begun. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the high courts have set precedents that federal courts should not disrupt state election procedures close to the time of an election.
We have not seen the last of this issue. We could see our congressional line-up change to five Republicans and two Democrats in the 2024 election.
We will see.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column is in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at steveflowers.us.
See complete story in the Journal Record.