Political Games Can Have Lasting Impact

By Sandra Nickel

I had hoped to breathe a huge sign of relief as the results of Tuesday’s Alabama primary election were announced. And that, sadly, was not to be. In the GOP primary for Governor, Bradley Byrne will face a runoff against either Robert Bentley or Tim James. Other races have runoffs as well.

Political incivility has a long American history. The legendary caning of Charles Sumner on the Senate floor is the most famous incident of its kind.

Why does this matter so much to me? It’s due in major part to a presentation made in late April by Neal Wade, Director of the Alabama Development Office. Wade addressed the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors meeting and began his talk by paraphrasing Charles Dickens’ famous first sentence in A Tale of Two Cities by noting, “We’re in the best of times and the worst of times.”

His reference to the worst of times, he went on to explain, had to do with Alabama’s high unemployment rate (11 percent at last count). And the best of times? Our state’s ongoing success in attracting the attention of businesses all over the world, many of whom are giving Alabama very serious consideration as a place for expansion. Montgomery, fortunately, is often finding itself on a company’s “short list” of five or ten potential new locations.

So what, you ask, does this have to do with the electoral runoff? Here’s the deal: I could hear more than a hint of frustration as Wade observed, “We must maintain a positive tone [during campaigns].” To do otherwise, he said, has a potential huge negative impact on the “internationals” that are looking us over.

Those of us who call Alabama home — either by birth or by adoption — have long since come to understand that politics is our state’s second most popular sport, trailing only college football. The difference is that football has officials who keep players from hurting one another too badly.

Politics here are played hard and to win. And, like in football, when it’s all over, the players (but not always the fans/alums) seem to put the game behind themselves without holding lifelong grudges.

But the “internationals” don’t understand that. They don’t get that after the final political bell has rung, Alabama politicians kiss and make up and generally let bygones be bygones. Folks from elsewhere take seriously the name-calling and accusations and other political stances that seem more appropriate for the 1950s than the second decade of the 21st century. These negative impressions, I would guess, can at least in part undo all the good work that ADO and our local economic developers have done.

So guys and gals who are involved in our future political contests, don’t handicap our economic development folks. With apologies to my friend Mark  Bullock at WSFA TV, “Make nice!!”

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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