Thursday, November 11, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1222

  It was a massive electoral wave, bringing massive victory to some and massive defeat to others. I was among those experiencing the pain of massive defeat. No, I was not swept out of the Alabama Senate, but I experienced massive defeat anyway.

  The wave swept across America bringing defeat and victory in equal proportion. For every defeat, there was a victory and for every victory, there was a defeat. I will not attempt to deal with the national implications of this massive wave in this Sketches although I reserve the right to explore them in the future. I will focus on Alabama in general and the Alabama Senate in particular.

  Let’s begin with the Alabama Legislature. In the senate, there were 20 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Now there are 22 Republicans and 12 Democrats and one Independent. There are five white Democrats and seven black Democrats. I saw a wave coming but I knew not its dimensions. It never occurred to me that we might have as few as 12 Democrats or that there might be as many as 22 Republicans. No one I communicated with perceived the depth and breath of this massive wave.

  I did understand the possibility we may lose the senate majority by one or two votes.  However, I had no inkling of anything like what we experienced. It was a massive wave sweeping across the political landscape.

  Let me go a little further in exploring the changed dimensions in Alabama. Only one white Senator of those elected four years ago survived. The wave was no respecter of person. It swept the long serving: one had served 33 years; two had served 28 years; and still another had served 26 years, and so on. It swept out the deeply rooted and the shallowly planted. It swept out the powerful who held powerful positions such as chair of the powerful Rules Committee, Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Senate President Pro Tem, and so on. It swept out those who had served well and those who had served less well. The wave just swept on, bringing defeat to many and victory to just as many.

  The wave was no respecter of service for many had served their district well. The wave was no respecter of character, for many were persons of good character. The wave only respected party. If one was a Democrat, the wave washed over them. If one was a Republican, the wave carried them. Every Democrat who was in striking distance was struck. It was a massive sweeping political wave.

  The Alabama Legislature had been Democratic for 119 years. The massive wave didn’t care about more than a century of accomplishment, history and tradition. It just swept on.

  Let me further explore the implications. The Alabama Senate is so constructed that a few senators can slow down or stop legislation. As the senate is now constituted, it requires 21 votes to cut off an extended debate. However, Republicans now have 22. They can cut off debate at will. The BIR (Budget Isolation Resolution) requires a 3/5 vote to proceed with non-budget legislation prior to passage of the education and general fund budgets. They now have more than 3/5. The traditional senate rules do not provide any safety net. The massive wave swept all that away.

  One of the great invisible services rendered in the Alabama Legislature was stopping bad bills from passing. This was particularly true in the state senate. That service can no longer be rendered. It was swept away by the massive wave.

  The new majority party in the Alabama Senate does not have a single female or a single African American or other minority. It is white male only. That has not existed since the mid 1970s. The massive wave has swept us back to the old days.

  There is a lot more about the impact of the massive wave on the Alabama Senate that I could share but I must at least mention the Alabama House of Representatives. It went from 63 Democrats and 42 Republicans to 62 Republicans and 43 Democrats. There are five Republican women and 58 males. There are 17 white Democrats and 26 black Democrats. White Democrats have almost become an endangered species. Diversity in the majority is more than endangered, it is virtually extinct.

  On a statewide basis, Democrats lost every single race. Out of 30 state wide elected officials, two Democrats remain because they were not up for reelection. There were no black statewide elected officials and that remains the state of things. The massive wave swept away so much and swept in so much.

  The political landscape is dismal but I am not without hope. I am hopeful because we can still be resourceful. I am hopeful because we can still be creative. I am hopeful because we can still serve, taking what we have and making what we need. It is this hope with which I go forth to serve during this exacting moment in history.

EPILOGUE – Every victory contains the seeds of defeat. Every defeat contains the seeds of victory. We just have to find the seeds of victory, create the conditions so they will germinate, sprout and grow. Then we must cultivate them until they bear future fruits of victory.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents the 23rd Senate District in Alabama.

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