Alabama is solidly red

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Commentary by Steve Flowers

The one clear fact derived from last Tuesday’s election is that Alabama is deeply embedded as a Republican state when it comes to Presidential politics. In fact, the South is now the cornerstone of the national Republican Party in Presidential races. The “Solid South” is what the GOP builds around to start any national race. A Republican can bank on the South as they venture out to the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

If the South is the heart and soul of the GOP, then the Heart of Dixie, Alabama, is the center of the strength. Alabama has voted Republican for President eight straight times beginning with Reagan in 1980. However, the margin of victory has never been greater than Tuesday when Bush beat Kerry by 26 points, 63-37. This is even larger than our sister states of Georgia and Mississippi which gave Bush 60 percent. We even out performed Bush’s home state of Texas. He got only 61 percent there. In 1980 Reagan carried Alabama by only two points against Carter. In 1984 Reagan beat Walter Mondale by 13 points in Alabama. In 1988 George Bush Sr. beat Mike Dukakis by 19 points in Alabama. In 1992 even though the elder Bush lost the White House to Bill Clinton, he beat Clinton in Alabama by seven points. In 1996 Bob Dole carried Alabama against Clinton by the same seven points. So this year’s 26 point margin is the record. The coattails were also long. Bush swept every statewide Republican Judge into office. Not one Republican statewide lost in the Bush tidal wave. The lesson to be gleaned from an aspiring Democrat for state office is to run in non Presidential years. It is an even battle in the Governor’s race years, and with most of the legislators, Probate Judges, and Sheriff’s being Democrats one doesn’t have the mass of straight ticket voting.

One may ask why is the state so Republican in Presidential politics. It was race that turned the tide in 1964 when it first occurred. However, it is deeper than that now. There is now a stark contrast between the national Republican Party and the national Democratic Party on moral or cultural issues. This difference was very pronounced between Bush and Kerry in this regard. Alabama is very pro God, pro life, pro gun, and anti gay. Bush is the strongest and clearest advocate of these culturally conservative positions than any Presidential candidate in thirty years and Kerry is the most liberal. The choice was clear and that is the primary reason why Bush broke the mandate record in Alabama.

His bold conservative social stand is probably what elected him nationwide. Exit polls revealed national voters focused on moral values as their first concern. He energized evangelical Christians and got them out to vote in record numbers. The early guess on the large turnout Tuesday was that first time young voters, 19-30, were voting in record numbers. This did not materialize. They still failed to vote. The Republicans and George Bush succeeded because they got their base, born again, evangelical Christians to the polls in record numbers. Among his supporters, 6-in-10 believe abortion should be illegal in all cases. Half attend religious services at least once a week. Sixty percent oppose any legal recognition of same-sex couples, including civil unions. Half have a gun in their household. More than one-third of all Republicans are white, evangelical Christians. More than one-third said “moral values” were the most important issue to them. Catholic voters failed to support Kerry, a fellow Catholic, for many of the same reasons.

The national race boiled down to one state, Ohio. Bush won the state by out performing what he did four years ago in the rural, Bible belt regions of Ohio. They swallowed up the big city, Cleveland and Columbus, vote for Kerry.

The turnout, nationwide, was tremendous. It was also gigantic in Alabama, above 60 percent, but not a record. The record turnout for Alabama was 76 percent in the Presidential race in 1992.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers writes a weekly syndicated column on Alabama politics. He served 16 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.