The morning after last Tuesday’s elections, I realized that Hell would not soon be installing ski lifts, as Alabama’s Democrats had come out on the short side of almost every electoral tally in the state. I scanned a couple of websites, assessing the dimensions of the beatdown, and the first thing I thought was, Gee, I hope Joe Hubbard’s straight-shooting wife hid the keys to the family gun safe.
It may have seemed like there were a lot of Hubbards running this time around, but there were only two mattered. One was Mike Hubbard, a state legislator from Lee County and Speaker of the Alabama House, and the other was Joe Hubbard, a state legislator from Montgomery County campaigning to be attorney general. It was pretty easy to tell which Hubbard was which; Joe was the one who is the grandson of the late U.S. Senator Lister Hill and Mike was the one who got fingerprinted and mug-shot because he’s been accused of 23 counts of criminal malfeasance.
You’d think that that latter sort of information circulating might be unhelpful when running for office. Mike wasn’t even able to blame it on a Democratic witch hunt, because fellow Republicans did all the indicting. As soon as the felony ethics charges were announced, Mike became the punch line for a raft of negative TV ads darkly implying that the Speaker and his associates might not be the most trustworthy individuals to be handling the people’s business in Montgomery.
However, the voters in Mike Hubbard’s home district apparently decided that the ethically challenged devil you know is better than the unindicted Democrat you don’t, because he was swept back into office by a 59-41 percent margin.
Perhaps Joe Hubbard should have arranged to get arrested to improve his chances.
Joe’s campaign represented a lot of the problems facing the Alabama Democratic Party as it attempted to resemble the Alabama Republican Party. The first time I suspected trouble was when Joe changed his eyeglasses. When he started out, Joe was a metal-frame guy. His glasses gave him a look of earnestness compatible with his crusading demeanor as a freshman legislator.
However, when his ambition for higher office kicked in, Joe started supporting bills like the Republicans’ vile Women’s Health and Safety Act, which placed restrictions on legal rights to abortions, claiming that he was really just in favor of making things safer for mothers. He also seems to have visited Schaeffer Eye Center for some kicky new black plastic frames that made him look like a candidate for auditor instead of attorney general.
Then there was Joe’s TV ad. The one with the guns.
Republicans have behaved clownishly with firearms on camera for some time now, as a less-than-subtle way of letting the unwary viewer know that the Second Amendment is safe with them. A consultant, perhaps the same one advising Joe on eyewear, must have recommended that Joe be seen on TV not just toting a gun, but firing it. Then the ante was raised by having Joe’s wife, in full target-shooting regalia, handle the pitch, concluding by saying that Joe could be trusted because he’s a real straight shooter. “And so am I,” said Ashley, coolly putting a round in the 10 ring of her target.
That’s not how you convince Alabama voters of your love of guns. What’s with all this safety equipment she and Joe were wearing in the ad? Everyone knows guns are so safe you can carry them anywhere in public, so why bother with the poofy gear at the range? And when we saw Joe for a moment in the ad, he was firing what looked like a small-caliber revolver. C’mon! The only guns worth loving are big guns, so if you’re going to pander to the public by firing one on camera, at least make it a Magnum. Better still, an assault rifle, but that’s only if you can’t get a howitzer.
Also, in his cameo appearance firing his pistol, Joe was wearing a pink shirt. I don’t even want to think about how that played with likely voters in Alabama.
Here’s a tip for Democrats in future elections: try running as a Democrat on traditional Democratic principles. There were several candidates around the state who did just that, such as James Fields and Miranda Joseph, and even if they didn’t win this time, they let the voters know that there is an alternative to the plutocrat-friendly screed of the GOP.
The national Democratic Party is so hell-bent on pretending to be Republican that it’s no wonder voters tune them out. On the other hand, Democrats who espouse workers’ rights, women’s rights and environmental responsibility were able to win local elections last Tuesday, in places as far flung as Connecticut, Oregon, Minnesota and the panhandle of Florida.
Ordinary Alabama voters actually support a number of progressive policies, such as raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and gun safety. It’s just going to take an extraordinary effort before 2016 to convince them that Democrats best represent their interests and will work to effect that sort of change here at home. Part of the effort should be to assemble a slate of Democrats less interested in centrism than populism. Then the party must retool its strategies to circumvent the corporate stranglehold on our political system, with an emphasis on that most effective old-school tactic, getting out the vote. Take a tip from the Crimson Tide: you can suck for 59 minutes as long as you do everything right for one minute.
By the way, not that he just wants another job with a government paycheck, but we hear Joe Hubbard is looking at running for mayor of Montgomery next year. A possible opponent is another guy who wasn’t keen on running as a traditional Democrat, one Artur Davis. Could be a clash of the titans…