Twenty-five years ago, in the midst of his second stint as governor of Alabama, Fob James swung through Dothan to hold a news conference. The issue at hand is lost to history, and had nothing to do with what was on the minds of the people waiting for him in the lobby of the then-Sheraton Inn across from Dobbs Barbecue on the south side of the Ross Clark Circle.
It was fall, and the public schools were in the throes of yet another tumult over religious activity on campus. One parent told the governor that school bands were preparing for the winter holiday concert, and he feared that school officials would prohibit them from referring to the event as a Christmas concert, or even playing traditional holiday songs.
Rather than explain that such a draconian prohibition was unlikely, James told the people what they wanted to hear. The governor puffed up and replied emphatically, “If they do, I’ll send the National Guard down here!”
It was all theater. In Alabama, politics is mostly spectacle.
This week, a mayoral candidate in Sylacauga, Michael Ray James, employed that tradition, suggesting that drug dealers be publicly hanged after multiple encounters with the law.
It’s a ridiculous notion, and even the candidate himself admits it. “I’m very aware public hanging is extreme and totally not possible without federal approvals and not from city or state officials,” the candidate stated on social media. “Extreme yes, but definitely brings attention to this scourge on Sylacauga, Alabama, and the United States of America.”
It certainly does bring attention, but not the sort that many Alabamians would welcome.
Eventually, political campaigns will heat back up in our state, with runoffs a few weeks away and the general election in November. We’re fortunate that political hopefuls from our area have traditionally eschewed theatrics and hyperbole. Campaigns like Sylacauga’s should make us appreciate that even more.