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."