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Sunday, October 9, 2005
PoliColumn: Moore I
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:57 am

From today’s Birmingham News:

Roy Moore should try solutions, not emotions
Sunday, October 09, 2005

As a political scientist, part-time columnist and blogger, I suppose that I should be thrilled that former Chief Justice Roy Moore has declared his candidacy for the governorship of Alabama. Certainly, a Moore candidacy provides much to talk about. However, his announcement last Monday leads to a great deal of apprehension.

First, Moore seems to be looking backward. The whole idea that we need to “Return Alabama to the People” (as he calls his plan) suggests that at some point in the past the people were empowered, but the state government was stolen from us. This is hardly the case. Where precisely is this mythical past to be found? What era is it in our state’s past do we wish to return to? Not to open old wounds, but ours is not a past filled with freedom and control of the government by the people.

There is no past era to which we could return where the people of Alabama had more power than they do now. Indeed, if empowerment of the people of this state is the goal, then Moore should be advocating for a new state constitution.

Second, and most significant, Moore is a populist. By populist, I mean a politician who appeals to the idea that “the people” are somehow being oppressed by the elite and the politician in question can solve that problem. Populists typically appeal to emotions more than reason and target popular ideas, usually in a vague way, to generate political support. George Wallace was the commensurate populist.

Usually, populists base their appeals on economic matters by connecting with the poor and building off resentment of the rich. Moore’s populism is based on his religious views, which are clearly consonant with the vast majority of Alabamians.

However, it is rather difficult to take seriously the proposition that people of faith are being oppressed in Alabama. There are churches aplenty, and there is no doubt we all have the right to acknowledge God as we see fit in our daily lives. Still, Moore’s appeal to the religious does have a great deal of potential power in our state.

To some degree, all politicians engage in populist rhetoric from time to time. However, Moore’s entire appeal is almost wholly based on this method of politicking.

Still, what’s wrong with all of this? For one thing, politics based on emotion is vacuous. Emotion is ephemeral - once the good feeling from a given speech wears off, what’s left? For another, populists make promises that are especially hard to keep and, hence, ultimately contribute to general cynicism about government. Over the long term, that makes real solutions more difficult to construct and implement.

For example, who could not want “special interests” out of government? But, think a second: What are “special interests,” and how, precisely, are we going to get rid of them?

Politicians who promise what cannot be delivered simply contribute to the lack of confidence in the system.

We already have a damaged system of governance in Alabama with a political class that isn’t trusted (with good cause). However, instead of simply tossing slogans around and making promises that can’t be fulfilled, it would be more useful if politicians would work for rational, concrete solutions, rather than appealing to our emotions.

Steven L. Taylor, Ph.D., is an associate professor of political science at Troy University. He writes daily on politics at E-mail: sltaylor @

Filed under: US Politics, My Columns, Alabama Politics, 2006 Elections | |Send TrackBack


  1. Maybe he means special interests like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Christian Coalition???

    Honestly I don’t think he wants to get rid of special interests, just replace them with different ones, ie. religious for business interests. This is typical of the hypocrisy we have some to expect from Moore.

    Comment by Brett — Sunday, October 9, 2005 @ 2:05 pm

  2. That’s a whooole ‘nother column, but yes.

    There is no such thing as special interest-free politics.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, October 9, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

  3. “This is typical of the hypocrisy we have some to expect from Moore.”

    Heh. Don’t limit it to Moore! I cannot think of a time period in my lifetime where politicians did not decry the influence of “special interests” and did not actually mean “the other guy’s special interests.”

    It’s one of those “lipstick on a pig” arguments that allows politicians to advocate for something utterly obnoxious while pretending to be taking the moral high road.

    Comment by Terry — Sunday, October 9, 2005 @ 8:53 pm

  4. Yup. It is especially popular in Alabama, but it is nothing new.

    Heck, Arnold used it quite a bit when he ran to replace Gray Davis in CA.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, October 9, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

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