Reconstruction Period Research Forum
The Vote in Alabama 2004
Parkerís election, apparent defeat of Amendment Two trouble some
By Jay Reeves
MONTGOMERY | Old times arenít forgotten in the Heart of Dixie.
Alabama voters elected a Supreme Court candidate linked to Old South ideals and apparently killed a move to strike segregation-era language from the state Constitution, a victory of sorts for the stateís neo-Confederate crowd and a troubling sign to others.
The head of the secessionist League of the South isnít taking credit for Tom Parkerís Supreme Court win or the heavy vote against Amendment Two, which drew criticism as a veiled attempt to raise taxes. But, said League President Michael Hill, the results made it obvious many Alabama voters still identify with Southern causes.
ďI donít think anyone put in any more sweat equity for Tom Parker than we did," said Hill.
A black law professor said Parkerís victory, combined with the heavy vote against Amendment Two, were bothersome.
ďThe message is that people donít care, they donít understand, and that some people are bigots," said Bryan Fair, who teaches at the University of Alabama.
Parker denied any race-based agenda, and Amendment Two opponents said their objections were based solely on the possibility of new taxes for public schools, not racism. But in an election year dominated by presidential politics, moral values and the war in Iraq, issues and symbols dating back generations became an undercurrent flowing through some races in Alabama.
Parker, a former aide to Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore, didnít back down when stories emerged shortly before the vote about him handing out tiny Confederate flags and associating with leaders of ultraconservative, pro-Confederacy groups including the League.
Parker and Moore also were leading opponents of Amendment Two, which would have stricken from the Constitution language mandating segregated schools and imposing poll taxes -- provisions, now unenforceable, that were approved in 1901 to repress freed slaves, other blacks and poor whites. Critics claimed another part of the proposal could have led to federal court orders for big tax increases to fund schools.
Unofficial returns showed voters defeating the amendment by a razor-thin margin, but the final outcome may not be known until provisional ballots are counted next week.
In case the amendment ultimately fails, legislators plan to use a special session beginning next week to introduce new versions of Amendment Two, minus language that opponents claim could lead to a tax increase. Hill said he supports the idea of removing the segregationist language because of the right of freedom of association.
Parker said he didnít know how much of his winning margin was linked to his embrace of Southern themes, but he said he didnít think it hurt him among black or white voters.
ďI think Alabamians appreciate our history, and that includes the Civil War and civil rights," said Parker, who spent less than $200,000 on the general election and attributed his win more to his support of Mooreís Ten Commandments fight than any links to pro-Confederate groups.
ďAlabamians know that I am someone who has taken a stand and paid a cost," said Parker, who lost his state job when Moore was removed from office for refusing to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.
Hill said his group worked hard for Parker, putting up yard signs and handing out information at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. While critics claim the League of the South is a hate organization, which advocates secession of Southern states, Hill said the election showed it can help candidates in Alabama.
ďI think this shows the League can be much more effective on the local and state level in influencing elections than on the national level," said Hill. League-backed presidential candidate Michael Peroutka had only 2,007 votes in Alabama compared to 1.2 million for President Bush.
Parkerís win and opposition to Amendment Two are more likely linked to support for Moore -- who supported Parker and opposed the amendment -- than racism or Confederate leanings, said Jess Brown, who teaches political science at Athens State University.
ďI think the Moore wing of the Republican Party has a lot of grassroots energy and support in rural Alabama," Brown said.
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