From the StatehousePublished 7:59am Saturday, July 23, 2011
Next year is a big year in national politics. It is a presidential election year. The candidates are beginning to lineup. They will be testing the waters in early primary and battleground states.
President Obama will be the Democratic nominee. He can be defeated if the Republicans select a moderate as their nominee. Obama won because of the economy in 2008. The economy is still in the doldrums. Therefore, he could lose. If you live by the economy you will die by the economy.
Alabama and our sister Deep South states have never gotten too excited about presidential politics. It is probably because we have never been a factor. For 84 years, from 1880 to 1964, we voted automatically Democratic. Since 1964 we have voted reliably Republican. Therefore, it is a foregone conclusion that we will vote for the Republican nominee for president.
Our forefathers must have known we would not be presidential participants when they drafted our Constitution in 1901 because they placed all of our statewide and local races on the ballot in gubernatorial years. For example, in 2014, all 140 seats in the legislature, all sheriffs, and all constitutional offices, including governor, will be up for election.
However, next year we only have a few judgeships on the ballot. Our big year is the gubernatorial year. We are more interested in our local sheriff and legislative races than president. In addition, we have a lot more say in these races.
Next year we will simply vote for the most conservative candidate in the GOP field in our Republican primary and then cast a perfunctory vote for the Republican nominee for President in November. However, that is not the case throughout the rest of the nation. They will be enthralled and embroiled in the race for president.
The 2010 mid term elections swept a large number of very conservative Tea Party leaning GOP congressmen into office. Indeed, the Republicans are in the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives while the Democrats cling to a slim majority in the U.S. Senate. Thus, we have a divided Congress.
They are also very divided philosophically. These new right wing GOP members are not satisfied to sit on a back bench and be quiet. They have thrown the old saying, in order to get along you have to go along, into the Potomac the same way the original tea partiers threw tea into Boston Harbor.
These Tea Partiers are popular here in Alabama. In fact, they are not too conservative for us. However, we are not exactly in the national mainstream. We are the most conservative region in the country, both fiscally and socially. That is why we are the base of the Republican Party. The person we will vote for in the GOP primary will be too far to the right to be elected nationally.
These new GOP Tea Partiers came to Washington with an agenda and they are not backing down. Speaker John Boehner cannot control them. Their actions are not dictated by the Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Bank lobbies like Boehner and the old guard Republicans. Instead, they are on a mission to save the country from a financial Armageddon.
This new GOP House majority is out to make a difference. There are no sacred cows in their mission to balance the federal budget. In a bold move with huge political risks these Tea Party advocates are seeking dramatic changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
These two Great Society programs have been considered sacred up until now. Medicare covers 47 million seniors and people with disabilities. The GOP House wants to turn it over to private insurers. Medicaid, the federal-state program covering more than 50 million low income Americans would be turned over to the states. They want to eventually cut $750 billion from these programs over 10 years. In addition, they are advocating attacking and cutting the ultimate sacred cow, Social Security.
“Our goal here is to leave our children and our grandchildren with a debt free nation,” says Rep. Paul Ryan, the 41-year-old House Budget Committee Chairman from Wisconsin. He also states, “At stake is America.”
It is a bold gamble by the GOP. It remains to be seen whether they are overplaying their hand. I do not believe they think of it as political Russian roulette. They appear to be on a mission. The 2012 elections will tell whether they will be allowed to continue on their crusade to save America.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 75 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.