On January 30th, Representative Craig Ford of the Alabama Legislature attended the JSU College Democrats’ monthly meeting to offer encouragement to the group of young leaders.
Twenty-seven members of “the best party on campus” gathered in room 100 of Brewer Hall at 5 p.m. to hear Rep. Ford speak.
He stressed the importance of getting more people—especially young people—involved in the political process.
Ford’s wife teaches English at Gadsden State Community College. He talked about asking one of her classes of students how many had voted in the Presidential election.
“Out of her class of 18 students, guess how many voted?” he asked. The answer was disappointing—only two exercised their 26th Amendment rights in November.
“I blame myself for that,” said Ford. “I blame that on elected officials in Alabama. We’re not doing enough to get people registered to vote.”
Rep. Ford also talked about the challenges facing his party, of which he was elected Minority Leader in 2010.
“The Democratic Party needs to rethink its philosophy in this state,” he said.
Their motto—“We stand up for working families”—sounds good, he says, but who isn’t part of a working family these days? According to Ford, his party needs to get to the “meat and potatoes” of what it means to be a Democrat in Alabama.
With the GOP holding a supermajority of the seats in the state legislature, however, the Democratic Party is hamstrung when it comes to actual political action.
“Alabama is ruled by a dictator,” lamented Ford. He thinks that may soon change, though.
People “who used to be Democrats but voted Republican in 2010—like teachers, firefighters and state employees” are no longer supportive of the GOP due to its efforts at balancing the state’s budget.
According to Rep. Ford, people also resent the fact that the Republican Party has shut down all dialogue in the state legislature.
Because they hold a majority of the seats, the GOP can call for a motion of previous question—also known as cloture—which ends any discussion of the current topic.
“We can’t even debate—if they get tired of hearing us, they can vote for cloture, which just shuts us up,” said Ford.
Ford estimated that since Republicans gained control of the legislature, “they have voted for cloture over 130 times.”
Add to that the Republican Party’s voting methodology—vote with the caucus instead of with the constituency—and you’ve got a recipe for possible political upheaval.
Rep. Ford believes that the Democratic Party’s key to retaking Alabama is a double-edged sword: young people and the party’s inherent diversity.
Not only is Ford’s party recruiting for the next election cycle, it’s also “trying to identify targets in our state caucus of good potential candidates for down the road.”
In his mind, the best candidates are students because “they’re young, healthy, and they don’t mind getting out and knocking on doors.
Acknowledging that new techniques in education paired with advancing technology creates smarter students, Ford urged those in attendance to “think about becoming the next leader in your community.”
He did more than just talk, too—Rep. Ford and his caucus also donated $250 toward the trip to Washington, D.C. that the College Democrats are planning.
He even offered to get the students in touch with newly-appointed Secretary of State John Kerry’s office.
Ford began representing District 28 in the Alabama House of Representatives after winning a special election in September of 2000 that was called because his father, the late Rep. Joe Ford, passed away.