Posted on November 5, 2004

Ala. Vote Shows Some Old South Sympathies

Jay Reeves, AP, Nov. 5

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Old times are not 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 segregationist language from the state Constitution, a victory of sorts for the state’s neo-Confederate crowd.

Michael Hill, president of the pro-secession League of the South, said Tom Parker’s election Tuesday and the Amendment Two results make it obvious many Alabama voters still identify with Southern causes.

A black law professor said the twin developments were worrisome.

“The message is that people don’t care, they don’t 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 that the measure would lead to new taxes for public schools, not racism. But issues and symbols dating back generations became an undercurrent flowing through some races in Alabama.

Parker — a former aide to Roy Moore, the Alabama chief justice who was ousted from the bench for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse — did not back down when stories emerged shortly before the vote about his handing out tiny Confederate flags and associating with leaders of ultraconservative, pro-Confederacy groups, including the League, which campaigned heavily for him.

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 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 the language that opponents claim could lead to a tax increase. Hill said he supports the idea of removing the segregationist language.

Parker spent less than $200,000 on the general election and attributed his victory more to his support of Moore’s Ten Commandments fight than any links to pro-Confederate groups.

But he also said: “I think Alabamians appreciate our history, and that includes the Civil War and civil rights.”

The League of the South also supported a candidate for president, Constitution Party nominee and League member Michael Peroutka, who got only 2,007 votes in Alabama to 1.2 million for President Bush.

Parker’s 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.

“I think the Moore wing of the Republican Party has a lot of grassroots energy and support in rural Alabama,” Brown said.