Former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard published a book in 2012 he called STORMING THE STATE HOUSE. He and his co-author David Azbell (who had an $8,000 a month contract with the Speaker’s office at the time) recounted in detail how the Republican minority planned and executed their takeover of the legislature in 2010.
I read it not long after it was published and was struck by my reaction.
I was in my 20’s when I became very interested in politics, but not so much as to what happened once people were elected, as to how they ran their campaigns. I was fascinated to read and learn about some of the very first “political consultants” to ply their trade. Though such folks are a dime a dozen these days, they were rare 40-45 years ago.
These were the folks who came up with a game plan based on numbers, picked targets to reach those numbers and executed the plan. And it was finite. When the results came in on election day you knew how well you had done. Game over. Let’s look at the final score.
That was what Hubbard’s book was all about Their game plan and how it was carried out. And measured against that standard it was well done and an interesting read.
But as we grow older, our perspectives often change and priorities shift. Mine sure have. Because when I read the last page, I discovered I was not in my 20’s but in my late 60’s and now I am more interested in governance than how one gets to be one who governs.
And as we’ve learned all too well since the election of 2010, pretty pictures and catchy campaign slogans do not necessarily translate to better government for all. Instead of Mike Hubbard being hailed as someone who lead Alabama into the promised land, his legacy will be that he is the first ever Speaker of the House to go to jail.
I picked up the book just the other day and flipped through it, recognizing names and relating to details about events. In a sense, it was a creepy feeling. Like you found the letter to Santa Claus you wrote when you were six years old and shook your head at youthful wishes and how far from reality they turned out to be.
For instance, Hubbard goes into detail about helping Huntsville businessman Phil Williams win a special election in 2009. Governor Bob Riley attended a fund-raiser for Williams. At the 2010 organizational meeting of the House, Williams made the motion to close nominations for Speaker after Hubbard’s name was introduced.
However, as the years have unfolded Williams has become one of the few to openly challenge Hubbard’s leadership. In the aftermath of Hubbard’s conviction, Williams is seeking to be Speaker himself.
He recently told AL.com, “I’m the guy standing for change. I think the members know a vote for me is a vote for a complete overhaul of the system, and the system is broken. We have a real mess on our hands.”
The most damning part of the entire book are these two paragraphs:
“In my comments to the membership afterward (being sworn in) I set as our goal maintaining the tradition of two words that are so important they appear in the seal of the Alabama House of Representative. Vox Populi–Voice of the People.
“The phrase does not say voice of the special interests, voice of the powerful, or voice of the campaign contributors,” I said. “It means voice of all the people. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, black of white, rich or poor, I will work to ensure that your voice is heard in the Alabama House Chamber.”
I have no doubt that Hubbard believed this when he said it. But over the years he allowed the system to gobble him up, he could not resist the temptations power afforded him, his moral compass lost its heading.
And we were all losers. Good government requires “good” people, whatever your definition of them may be. But the spectacle of what just took place at the trial in Lee County is a strong deterrent for “good” people to step forward to seek public office.
And we are all losers.