October 1, 2022

To cater to or exploit the supposed weaknesses of others … to provide gratification for the known desires of others is to pander. Pandering is what political communication in our state has become, even more than ever, inclusive of.
Candidates for statewide public office in Alabama have historically run on emotional irrelevancies like the God-given race or gender of disfavored minority groups by the then-majority, which decades later embarrasses everyone to remember. That was true in the 1920s; it is truer of the 2020s. It was particularly so in the late-1950s, the 1960s, and 1970s. It is peculiarly so again today.
We go through such manifested cycles in Alabama and American history, because there has always been an undercurrent of irrational prejudice in American life. It started with discrimination against Native Americans in the early 17th century and evolved into military campaigns that rung nearly every tear out of them on the trails of travail we forced upon them. 
In 1619, we even imported kidnapped African slaves to increase the size and nature of the objects of our discrimination,  eventually becoming dependent upon them in the South. The latter was so much the case that it almost caused our country as now constituted to be still-born in the late 18th century, because our Southern ancestors would not entertain the idea of abolishing slavery or even gradually freeing all of the then-slaves with payments to their white masters, as some Northerners proposed. 
That, despite the commitment to equality in our founding documents, the most fundamental of which had to be amended three times in the middle of the 19th century to make it consistent with our prior claims that “all … are created equal.”
Throughout our history, our country has had a hate-love relationship with immigrants, first favoring Caucasians from Northern, then Southern, Europe; then grudgingly accepting the darker-skinned persons from Asia. Many still want to build walls to keep out persons from the Americas South of us, whence came all of the Western states which didn’t come from lands bought  or bargained from Great Britain and France. Of course, that begged the question of who had first rights to that vast area west of the Mississippi, not to mention the rest of America, which was also “taken” from Native Americans, with little or no fair compensation.
Throughout the history of our state and nation, we have discriminated against Americans who are not white, male, and heterosexual. Then, after “freeing” women in the 20th century from almost all of the legal restraints that had bound them, including those governing their reproductive decisions, which never limited men without whom there would be no basis for doing so; and, after “freeing” homosexuals in the 21st century, the New Right is trying every political trick inquiring minds can engender to take back those legislatively and judicially affirmed rights for the first time in American history — all in the name of religion in many cases.
So, you see, this latest outburst of radical efforts to turn back the clock and institute in so many red states variations on the old forms of racial and gender discrimination is not only at odds with our political and social history of freeing one minority group after another and not thereafter taking back rights once granted; they are also inconsistent with the moral and religious commitments held by millions of Americans and they won’t stand the test of time. The federal government and most states used to prohibit by custom or law the employment of African Americans, homosexuals, immigrants, and other disfavoreds; and once required “loyalty oaths” during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s. Those restrictions may now be found today in the ashbins of history where they belong. the same will be the fate of the new, old forms of discrimination against women and people of presently disfavored genders.
But, their filing in the cabinets of the other “dark matters” of our history does not happen automatically. The mode through which such “inevitabilities” occur is the dedicated support of men and women of good will who still believe that ALL of us were “created equal,” with rights that cannot properly be given or taken away.
For the past 50 years, we’d made progress throughout America. Racial and gender discrimination had been pushed from the public square. We even elected an African American President and Vice President. We now have four women and two African Americans on the U.S. Supreme Court. But, the old prejudices remained in the hearts of at least 30 to 40 percent of our country. The election of 2016 revealed it to be there still. It manifested itself in Charlottesville, Virginia, and other places. Its implicit existence was confirmed in every enacted red state law restricting the rights of women, African Americans, and homosexualss — to whom the conflicted transgendered among us are now the new whipping boy and girl. How long will this latest “Red Scare” last?
As long as we keep electing to office men and women willing to pander … to cater to our well-known, including those latest prejudices that lead us to want to deny others the advantages of our Democratic Rep;ublic that we’ve enjoyed. So, we resist equal opportunity for others who are equally created … we resist efforts to improve the lives of those less fortunate than we, blaming their misfortune on them, if it in any way might cost us feelings of superiority, money, status, or anything else.
Dr. Jim Vickrey writes from his native Montgomery. He is a retired college professor, university president, and lawyer. He invites replies at jimvickrey@gmail.com., rebutting any of the above.

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