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Being governor don’t mean a thing anymore in this country. We’re nothing. Just high-paid ornaments is all. I’m thinking of running for president myself… George Wallace

Governor George Wallace

Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth… James 3:4 may have described the role of the governor from Biblical through colonial times and even in to the early days of the Republic. Presidents – at least until the time of Lincoln – were a sort of primus inter pares with the governors and since the Republic was a confederation of states they needed a consensus of the governors – as well as the congress – to act and would not have dreamed of interfering in a State’s internal policies without an invitation from the governor.

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Of course the civil war and the following military occupation of the South changed all of that and George Wallace was just about correct in his assessment that their modern function is largely ornamental. There are exceptions to every rule and Wallace was in many ways an exception to his own. By seizing the initiative and confronting the national government he was able to make an argument that provided an alternative to the lock step policy of a government willing to use any tool at its disposal to buy a majority and enrich its patrons.

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What most fail to realize is that he was able to do this – to secure his platform – not by suppressing the opposition nor appealing to an extremist voter base but rather by being an effective governor who brought economic progress to his state. Finally, providing better services at lower costs, is the essence of good government – not providing more services at someone elses’ cost. Of course anyone who tries to do this now is dismissed as an ultra right wing bigot and compared to Hitler who, ironically, was a socialist all of which goes to show how little you can trust political speech.  As George Orwell told us, political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.


 

Stand up for Alabama : Governor George Wallace  Jeff Frederick  Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, c 2007  Hardcover. xiv, 489 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [409]-474) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Where other studies have focused on George Wallace’s career as a national figure, Stand Up for Alabama provides a detailed, comprehensive, and analytical study of Wallace’s political life that emphasizes his activities and their impact within the state of Alabama. Frederick answers two fundamental questions: What was George Wallace’s impact on the state of Alabama? Why did Alabamians continue to embrace him over a twenty-five year period?

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Using a variety of sources to document the state’s performance in areas including mental health, education, conservation, prisons, and industrial development, Frederick answers question number one. He cites comparisons between Alabama and both peer states in the South and national averages. Wallace’s policies improved the state,

To answer the second question, Frederick uses the words of Alabamians themselves through oral history, correspondence, letters to the editor, and other sources. Alabamians, white and eventually black, supported Wallace because race was but one of his appeals. Stand Up for Alabama shows that Wallace connected to Alabamians at a visceral level, reminding them of their history and memory, championing their causes on the stump, and soothing their concerns about their place in the region and the nation.

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Frederick examines the development of policy during the Wallace administrations and documents relationships with his constituents in ways that go beyond racial politics. He also analyzes the connections between Wallace’s career and Alabamians’ understanding of their history, sense of morality, and class system. “Stand up for Alabama” was not only the governor’s campaign slogan it was what he did on a daily basis.

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