Alabama faces immense challenges. The state is desperate for leaders who will confront those challenges and lead the people to solutions.
A few elected officials are engaged in the hard work of state government. Many, though, seem determined to drag the state into a sideshow act that leaves the nation laughing and serious Alabamians despondent.
The first sign that Alabama can expect more of the same came from the “We Dare Defend Our Rights” agenda announced last month by Republicans in the state House of Representatives. With a few responsible proposals mixed in, the thrust of the agenda is misdirection. The theory is that if House leaders can keep fury at President Barack Obama and the federal government sustained at a fevered pitch, no one will notice that state leaders are failing to solve the problems they were elected to solve.
So the GOP announced it would wage an attack on abortion. Many sensible Alabamians oppose abortion, but it has been a constitutional right since 1974. With rallying cries that “they” are trying to take our guns, the House promises to enact “the strongest gun protection provisions in the country.” Yet both the Alabama and U.S. constitutions already protect gun owners, and a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate shows no inclination to reauthorize a ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles. The House complains bitterly about federal meddling in education, yet Obama has been reducing federal involvement and encouraging states to innovate.
Not one of these measures can accomplish anything. Alabamians elect federal representatives who have the job of passing federal law, within the bounds of the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. No state law or state constitutional amendment is valid if it conflicts with federal law. As much as those in Montgomery may prefer talk about federal issues, we elected state representatives to solve state issues.
What state representatives will do if they “dare defend our rights” through more unconstitutional laws is drag a poor state into even more costly litigation. Instead of adequately funding schools and roads and courts, they can waste more money on unsuccessful legal battles.
The state politicians hollering about Obama and the federal government want voters to believe the issue is whether federal policies are good or bad.
That is not the issue. Alabama has federal senators and representatives whose job it is to deal with federal policies.
The politicians Alabamians elected to go to Montgomery have neither the power nor the responsibility to influence federal policy. Their jobs are to help one of the poorest states in the nation improve itself.
Every time state politicians start complaining about Obama or federal gun laws or federal abortion rights, one thing is certain: they are trying to keep voters from noticing a failure of state government.