Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Are Alabama Voters Ignorant?

I cringe every time I see one of these polls of Alabama voters regarding the 2008 presidential race.

I like a lot of things about my adopted home state--I wouldn't have stayed here for almost 30 years if I didn't. In fact, I'm finishing up a post about some of the many things I like about Alabama in general and Birmingham in particular. But every time someone does a voter survey in Alabama, at least lately, we come off looking like a bunch of dolts.

The latest poll, by the Capital Survey Research Center, shows that Republican John McCain would beat either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama by 19 percentage points in Alabama if the election were held today.

The same poll shows that 49 percent of Alabamians say the war in Iraq was a mistake, and almost 45 percent of them want to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. McCain, of course, is the candidate among the remaining three who steadfastly supports keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.

And get this? By a 2-1 margin, Alabama voters said McCain would do the best job of protecting and restoring U.S. jobs lost as a result of passage in the mid 1990s of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Voters support McCain on this issue even though he voted for NAFTA and has been a strong supporter of free trade.

Birmingham News reporter Charles J. Dean says the survey produces "puzzling" results. The results aren't puzzling, they are stupid.

We can see only one conclusion to reach from this poll: Large numbers of Alabama voters are ignorant.

Actually, they aren't ignorant across the board. But on politics, large numbers of white middle-class Americans have become what I would call Dead Armadillo Republicans. They would vote Republican if the GOP candidate was a dead armadillo that had been scooped up off the road.

Why is this? Well, as we reported the last time one of these surveys came out, Republicans have been reaping an electoral windfall ever since Ronald Reagan so slyly played the race card in 1980. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has stated, the race card touches voters across the country. But its impact is particularly strong in the Deep South.

A recent Leonard Pitts column makes me think something else might be at work. I have a feeling that many white Americans go to church on Sunday morning and hear all manner of toxic garbage coming from pulpits--stuff that has nothing to do with the New Testament.

Pitts addresses this in his column, "Modern Christianity out of step with Jesus' teaching." Pitts notes a Naples, Florida preacher who addressed the issue of gay marriage. "This is a tremendous social crisis," Rev. Hayes Wicker said, "greater even than the issue of slavery."

Yes, a man of the cloth actually said that. And Pitts goes to the Rev. James Lawson for a response. Lawson has long been involved in human rights issue, and here is his response to Wicker's remarks:

"Obviously," said Lawson, "he does not know anything about the 250 years of slavery or the 143 years since slavery as the nation has largely failed to deal with the issue of slavery and its consequences. ... And he knows even less about the gospel of Jesus. ... Jesus broke all the social etiquette in terms of relating to people and bringing people into relationship with himself. He acknowledged no barriers or human divisions ... no category of sinners from who he would isolate himself."


Latka said...

I saw the same poll results. It doesn't suprise me at all. I absolutely agree with you...a large segment of Alabama voters are clueless. Their only source of news is probably fox news, or one of the big 3 papers in the state (all linked to al.com.) My only hope lies in the fact that I am seeing more and more cars with "blue dot" bumper stickers on them.

Anonymous said...

I so enjoy reading your blog and my first reaction to your post "Are Alabama Voters Ignorant?" was YES; afterall these same people serve on the juries in this state. In a case I am documenting the State's expert and witness told the police a $189.00 computer hard drive was missing and he backed it up with an estimate to replace it. In court he testifies that the hard drive was NOT missing and that a hard drive is the same as a less than $10.00 hard drive cable.
If data could be stored on a less than $10.00 cable instead of a hard drive, than the State of Alabama has the means to cure the financial problems of the judicial branch and the educational budget for the entire country.
So it is easy for me to deduce that Alabamians are, at the very least, technologically challenged. But what do we expect? Jurors aren't paid very much for their service and they have no accountability (here on earth) for their decisions. They can't be sued. In most cases they are assuming that if a witness says something false that either the prosecutor or the defense attorney would bring it to their attention and question the witnesses' credibility. But you and I both know that the State of Alabama rarely does anything to punish lawyers , prosecutors, or judges.
Now, I'm not wild about McCain, and I am appalled by the involvement of the Republican Party in the prosecution of Siegelman , but I think maybe Alabama voters aren't really that ignorant. As a victim of legal abuse and going on the assumption that most attorneys have a reserved ringside seat by the FIRE in their afterlife, I WILL NOT VOTE for an attorney. Let me point out that Hillary is an attorney, married to an attorney and Obama is an attorney married to an attorney. The lawyer spots never fade. Then there's McCain, a non-lawyer whose wife owns a beer distributorship. Maybe Alabamians are backing McCain because lawyers leave a bad taste in your mouth and beer helps wash it out.

nlacey said...

You forget the prevalence of the Faux News effect in Alabama as well. Fox viewers are the least knowledgeable about national and international news.

Anonymous said...

When I arrived in Alabama back in 1974, I read all the major papers in the state for a few weeks and I concluded that the underlying objective of the papers had to be to keep the people of Alabama ignorant. For The Record on APTV used to do a decent job but it has been cut back to a Friday only show and there is simply no way to wrap up a week's worth of news in one hour. The show is a shell of its previous version.

James Greek said...

after the last election I say yes! Republicans were too blind to see that big bad Luther had very little courtroom experience whereas James Anderson had s lot of experience.