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Friday, October 21, 2016

GOP ‘Civil War’ Pits Right Wing Against Right Wing In Alabama Special Election

GOP ‘Civil War’ Pits Right Wing Against Right Wing In Alabama Special Election

UPDATE: Byrne defeated Young, 52 to 48 percent.

In the contentious special election for the U.S. House seat in Alabama’s 1st congressional district, an almost ubiquitous narrative has taken hold within the political media: that the campaign pits an “establishment Republican” — former State Senator Bradley Byrne — against a “Tea Party insurgent,” right-wing activist Dean Young. That framework, which has provided a convenient template for countless reports on the Republican Party “civil war,” overlooks one important factor: Byrne is just as far outside of the mainstream as his more-outspoken opponent.

Byrne’s campaign platform is full of conservative boilerplate, promising to “balance the budget without raising taxes,” “hold the line on spending,” “fight for a simpler and fairer tax code that would virtually eliminate the need for the corrupt IRS,” and determine what really happened in Benghazi, among other positions that would fit snugly within the House Republican caucus. He even opposed the last-second deal to avoid a catastrophic debt default, arguing that it contained inefficient spending cuts.

Byrne also is no more moderate on social issues. He claims to stand strongly for “traditional Alabama values” (which don’t appear to include equal rights for the LGBT community or reproductive rights for women). As a member of the Alabama State Board of Education, Byrne voted for a science curriculum that taught, “Explanations of the origin of life and major groups of plants and animals, including humans, shall be treated as theory and not as fact,” and as a congressional candidate he has declared that “I believe the Bible is the word of God, and it is 100 percent true.”

The “establishment” Republican also has several endorsements that a Tea Partier would covet, including those of the National Rifle Association, and the Ending Spending PAC (a “dark money” group funded by billionaire Joe Ricketts, which is best known for considering an ad that would have labeled President Obama as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln”).

How could this right-wing Republican be considered the mainstream choice? First, he has the backing of some of the Republican Party’s less-apocalyptic power brokers (including the Chamber of Commerce). Second, his opponent is as far out on the fringe as they come.

A quick glance at Dean Young’s campaign website finds that his positions are almost identical to Byrne’s. The bombastic Young stands out, however, for appearing to be completely out of his mind. As Mother Jones reports, over the past two decades Young has:

—Suggested that gay people should leave Alabama, and “go back to California or Vermont or wherever they came from.”
—Told LGBT activists that “either you get your lives straight or you get back in the closet where you came from.”
—Warned that “we are witnessing the end of a Western Christian empire,” and “We will see the end of this nation if we don’t do something, and do it fast.”
Failed to correctly identify the current Treasury Secretary (he guessed Hank Paulson, a Republican who has been out of office for over four years), or House Republican Whip.

For Young, becoming the Tea Party alternative was as easy as promising that “if you guys send me to Congress, it will be like sending Ted Cruz to Washington.” That his platform contains no substantive differences from Byrne’s is seemingly irrelevant.

Young’s rise is an instructive lesson in how the Republican Party has moved further and further to the right. No matter how conservative a candidate is, there is always someone more extreme (even if the difference is more rhetorical than substantive). And that’s why — even though polls consistently find that Americans reject the far right’s governing philosophy — a right-wing Republican like Bradley Byrne can appear to be completely reasonable by comparison.

Polls suggest that the race is up for grabs going into Election Day, but it ultimately won’t matter much who wins; in any case, the people of Alabama’s 1st district will get a right-wing representative in Congress.

Photo: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • robmoore

    This is what a lot of people don’t seem to comprehend about Southern Republicans. There is no such thing as a mainstream Republican from the South. It’s sort of like pigs in mud. Which one is a muddy pig and which one is a dirty pig? There is no difference. All of them are neofascist and mean-spirited. They are full of envy and resentments heated by the fuel of rank ignorance and hyper-religiosity. I grew up on a farm on the border between Georgia and Alabama.

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      Their “southern” problem is that they still don’t realize they lost the civil war.

      • Allan Richardson

        In the long run, they expect to win it this time. “Save your Dixie cups, the South shall rise again!”

        • Michael Kollmorgen

          Actually, the “south” is rising.

          Since most of the northern manufacturers moved down south for cheap labor, their economic strength is improving. Along with the economic strength and due to it, their political clout will increase as well.

          Now, whether economic strength leads to greater enlightenment and greater education opportunities, that is the big question.

          So far I don’t see this happening. People down there are still as dumb as they were 200 years ago. It might take another few generations or more to weed it all out. In the mean time though, the rest of us have to tolerate their all-consuming stupidity.

          The smart ones down there have one hell of an uphill fight.

          • kanawah

            From personal experience, the problem is the people are too illiterate and stupid to do the job. Worked a project in SC that was supposed to be “a source of local jobs”. The employer had to import workers because the locals could not pass the employment test. (filling out the employment application properly). They had to get workers from Georgia, NC, and other places. Most of the jobs were not that “intense”. It is the same all over the south. Most of the jobs are going to the “carpet baggers”.

          • Michael Kollmorgen

            I think you are right.

            I know in West Virginia they are very skimpy on internet and phone installations.

            My companion here in Canton Ohio is contracted constantly to go down to West Virginia and put in Internet Networks and Phone Networks for restaurants and such when they can’t find anyone locally to do the job.

            And, this is only in Wheeling WV. I’d hate to see what the rest of the state is like………………

            Hint: We don’t think PA is much different either, at least not western PA.

          • robmoore

            I remember a project in Kentucky on which I worked as a consultant quite intensively for a fortune 100 company. The company was starting a new logistics subsidiary for other companies. The first warehouse we set up brought in hourly workers through a local staffing company to fulfill orders by taking lists of specific products to pull from the warehouse racks. We were handling a high end product in a three or four sizes so each unit came in large boxes with large letters.

            The literacy was so poor we ended up having to put someone who could read in the office with multiple colors of highlighters to match lines on the picking lists to colored labels we had to apply to the cases as they were received into the warehouse. It was nerve wracking. I think in the course of nearly four months, I averaged 12 to 15 hours of sleep per week. The literacy problem permeated everything. Things began to improve when the staffing company tapped into the Hispanic immigration population. They might not have been terribly fluent in English but they could match words on a list to the same words on a case.

            On another project in Mississippi, I was doing contract programming work with local programmers who spent more time discussing how wrong it was to teach evolution in the schools than working on the project. Being a contractor, I just kept my mouth shut.

          • robmoore

            I still live in Georgia. The South is not easy to explain. It has a lot of extremes. Racism is nearly as strong, today, as it was when I was a boy and my school was desegregated in the late 1960s. Religion has become more fundamentalist and has driven both a rise in willful ignorance and decline in education. The politics have become increasingly more fascistic with whites tending to think that their problems both personal and social are because others are taking stuff even though with government assistance it is mostly white Southerners who are receiving SNAP and Medicaid simply because they are most of the population. For the record, I am about as white as one can be.

            Historically, the South has always tended towards the very wealthy and the very poor. Until the late twentieth century, it had the fewest numbers of immigrants so, white or black, there was quite a lot of social homogeneity or as I like to think of it, social ossification.

          • yeehaw

            @Robmoore…Your assessment of the South is spot on, it’s not often that someone can accurately diagnose such a terrible condition so precisely. Hats off to you, everything I as a Southerner wanted to say but just couldn’t come up with the right words!!!

  • docb

    Sadly, anything would be better than the bagger. I have friends of many decades in Birmingham that are republican and they are gobsmacked at what has become of the GOP today. Not all the people are as horrid as one experiences in the vile conduct of the rabid right but too many have become the face of that party to everyone’s disservice!

  • Dominick Vila

    The issue for me is not who is the most conservative, but the probable outcome of the 2014 election, and the impact it will have on President Obama’s second term agenda and the likely nomination of Supreme Court Justices. Rejoicing about Democratic victories in Blue states may give solace to some, but the determination and efforts being made by the GOP-TP to get control of the Senate, and the certainty of GOP-TP victories in Red states augur serious problems for Democrats. One of our top priorities must be to make sure the few Democrats elected in Red states and districts are re-elected, which considering the animus that exists in the South and the Bible Belt is worrisome to say the least.

  • jointerjohn

    That state has been dominated by hopeless ignorant bigots for two-hundred years. Many good people there have endured a leadership made up of ideological neanderthals doomed for eventual extinction, but still dangerous until the last one croaks. You enlightened Alabamans, consider moving to a purple state where you can tip the scales, because you won’t get that done anytime soon in Alabama.

    • yeehaw

      @jointerjohn…What’s sad is that they are so proud of their Ignorance.

      • jointerjohn

        Yes! Isn’t that the most curious thing? I’m reminded of those bumper stickers that read “my kid can beat up your honor student”. What a great way to say one is proud to be a multi-generational dumb ass.

        • yeehaw

          @jointerjohn:disqus…What’s even more scary is that these people Vote!!!!

  • howa4x

    It’s Alabama with an intelligence level just above Mississippi, which is the lowest in the country. There is very little difference between traditional republicans and tea party candidates in this state, or throughout the south. Republicans have been advocating a tea party like agenda since they joined the party in the 60’s. They have defunded public education in favor of religious charter schools, long before the tea party arrived on the scene. They have always been against abortion, Gays, gun control and are hostile to environmental regulations. The Southern Baptists in the deep south used to publish a pamphlet telling women to be subservient to their man, and might still do. They did this before the tea party.
    The difference between these 2 factions is like the pot calling the kettle black.