As an avid student of Alabama history and culture, I believe that we have just lived through an historic moment in our state, one that will be summarized and described by historians, one that will be dissected and analyzed by media pundits and political science professors. In less than a year, we in Alabama have lost all three duly elected leaders of all three branches of state government, each man from his own scandal.
In June 2016, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was convicted on 12 counts of ethics violations, removed from both his Speaker position and from his seat in the state’s House of Representatives. The counts stemmed from allegations that he used his office for personal gain. He is appealing his convictions.
In September 2016, Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore was essentially removed from office, having been suspended for the remainder of this term for violating a federal court order to allow same-sex marriages to proceed. Moore’s appeals were defeated.
Then earlier this week, in April 2017, Governor Robert Bentley resigned from his job shortly after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors related to campaign finance violations. Bentley was undergoing an impeachment effort by the legislature, which centered on an alleged affair with a female advisor. The release of the impeachment committee’s report, which contained examples of text messages between the two, seemed to lead to his resignation.
Now-former Governor Bentley basically ended the same way he started: in hot water and apologizing. Back in January 2011, only minutes into his first term, Bentley remarked in his inauguration speech, “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother,” then had to make a hasty public apology after an immediate backlash. As Bentley made his final speech, his themes were again God, prayer, and forgiveness.
Three duly elected state leaders, three unrelated controversies , three political downfalls. If this has ever happened in this way in American history – in any state – I can’t find the person who can tell me about it. And despite all of the talk, I also can’t find anyone who can tell me what this means for Alabama . . . there are only about 4.7 million of us who would like to know.
(Notwithstanding our internal uncertainty, it is certain how we’re being regarded nationally. Just take a gander at what came out in Esquire yesterday: “Alabama Has Fully Lost Its Mind: Where Do We Begin?”)